Bold & Blue fundraising campaign brings in big numbers

Gracie Terrall, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The South Dakota State University Foundation has reached 85 percent of its $500 million goal, just 10 months into the public phase of the Bold and Blue fundraiser.

Since the campaign launched publicly in October 2021, almost $80 million has been raised, increasing the total to $429,839,946.

“We’re really ahead of where we thought we might be,” Steve Erpenbach, SDSU Foundation president said. “The response has been tremendous and we think there’s a lot of momentum and a genuine excitement about what these gifts are going to mean to the university, not just immediately, but long term.”

About 90 percent of the donations received have been from individuals and families, with 10 percent coming from companies and other foundations. Of the individual donors, Erpenbach said it’s split evenly between SDSU alumni and non-alumnus. 

The Bold and Blue’s campaign has four pillars: people, places, traditions and innovations. Erpenbach said all four areas have seen interaction, but people and places have garnered the most response. 

This is due in part to $53 million in private gifts raised for the First Bank & Trust remodel that began construction this summer, Erpenbach said. 

The other high response area is endowed faculty positions. An endowment for a professor, director or dean includes a fixed amount of money each year that the faculty member can spend on improvements or educational experiences for the department. Last October, SDSU had 13 endowed positions and set a goal to raise that number to 50 by the end of the campaign. Now, there are 47 created or granted endowed positions. 

Notably is the $5 million endowment for the new dean of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering, Sanjeev Kumar and the retention of Joseph Santos, the new endowed director of the NESS School of Management and Economics. 

Erpenbach said almost every academic college is benefiting from an endowed position. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences has at least three new endowed positions occupied by Joseph Cassady, SD corn endowed dean of CAFES; David Wright, department head of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science and soil professor David Clay. 

During a donor event put on by the Foundation in April last year, Laura Diddle was awarded the first endowed position in the School of Performing Arts. 

“It was a big surprise when they made the announcement,” she said. “This is such a team effort over here in the School of the Performing Arts … so when one person is singled out for an award it feels like ‘woah, wait a minute, this belongs to everybody.’ I want people to realize that this is a real gift to the entire school because it doesn’t just elevate the choral area, it elevates the whole school when you have an endowed position.”

The $1 million Paul and Doris Moriarty Endowment will grant Diddle, and whoever steps into the position after her retirement, about $40,000 a year for the next 25 years to go toward new development for the school.

The endowment money won’t be of use until fall 2023, but Diddle already has some plans for how she’s going to spend the money. She hopes to bring in internationally known guest conductors and commission an original piece of music in honor of the Moriarty’s.

“They’ll get to sing brand new music and they’ll get to work with professional artists that are recognized as the top of their craft across the world,” she said. “It allows me to think a little bigger.” 

On Sept. 29, the Foundation will be honoring Diddle and 12 other newly endowed faculty members at the new annual University Leadership Honors reception at 3:30 p.m. in the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center. 

With the contributions for First Bank and Trust Arena, endowed faculty positions and One Day for STATE, the Bold and Blue fundraiser is one step closer to its half-a-billion-dollar goal. Erpenbach expects the fundraiser to run another year and a half and into 2024, but they won’t cut off the fundraiser right when they reach their goal.

“If there’s still enthusiasm and momentum for people to want to support the campaign when we hit $500 million, whenever that is, we won’t stop the campaign at that point in time. We will continue if there continues to be interest,” Erpenbach said.