DICKINSON, N.D. - An alumna of Dickinson State University with familial ties to a global retail giant will join board for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation.
The board elected Melani Walton, a former academic and athletic All-American at DSU, as a trustee Thursday, June 14.
“The (board) has been working diligently to make the dream of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum a reality,” Bruce Pitts, the board’s chair, said in a news release issued by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. “Melani’s leadership, vision, hands-on work ethic and deep commitment to this effort will propel us closer to making that dream a reality.”
A well-known philanthropist and emeritus member of the DSU Foundation Board, Melani Walton was an academic and athletic All-American and remains an emeritus member of the DSU Foundation Board.
She is married to Rob Walton, whose father Sam is the founder of Walmart.
“I am honored to join this board and to be part of giving voice and place to President Roosevelt’s legacy,” Melani Walton said in the release. “We have the opportunity to help others appreciate and experience the raw magic of these lands, not only as a destination but as a way of life. Growing up with the Badlands as part of our family heritage, I had the chance to learn about TR’s life and know others will benefit from his history.”
Walton’s commitment to the region is grounded in her own family’s history in the western North Dakota area, which dates back more than three generations, according to the release. Further, she has a passion for conservation, sustainability, exploration and leadership - which align with those of the 26th president.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation formed in 2014 to build and operate a library and museum - including space, archive and research center - dedicated to the man who served as president from 1901 to 1909.
“We are deeply grateful for Melani’s dedication to honoring Theodore Roosevelt with a presidential library and museum worthy of his incredible life and legacy,” Burgum said in a statement. “Her strong educational and family ties to Dickinson and the region, her national perspective and her passion for philanthropy will help provide the momentum we need to realize the potential of this important project.”
The museum and library project has undergone numerous changes in plans.
In May, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation voted to keep the museum and library project at one site, reversing a March decision to divide it into two locations - a Medora-based museum and a Dickinson-based library.
Last year, the North Dakota Legislature approved $12.5 million to the project on the condition that construction began before the end of 2018. The city of Dickinson pledged $3 million to bolster the pledge.
“Dickinson’s money stays in Dickinson,” Mayor Scott Decker of Dickinson said after the foundation’s decision in May to combine the project at one site.
Two Dickinson lawmakers, Sen. Rich Wardner and Rep. Vicky Steiner, serve on the foundation and voted against combining the museum and library. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the decision, according to news accounts, with Wardner calling the vote “a hijacking” of Dickinson.
The Thursday news release states Melani and Rob Walton are supporters of the African Parks Foundation, which has re-established and invigorated parks throughout Africa, and the couple has made substantial contributions to Conservation International by participating extensively in its field operations globally.
They also created the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative at Arizona State University. Their philanthropic leadership focuses on research and innovation in the areas of education, arts and humanities, brain health, consciousness studies, and well-being, the release states.
“Theodore Roosevelt understood the deep importance of nature and sustainability of lands and developed our nation’s park system for the health of humanity and future generations,” she said in the release. “He was a visionary who left a lasting impact.”