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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Banker T. Denny Sanford, who already has given millions away for health, welfare and children's causes in California and the Upper Midwest, was the 15th largest donor to nonprofit organizations in 2014, according a newspaper that tracks such contributions.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy on Sunday released its annual list of top 50 givers of the previous year. Bill and Melinda Gates donated $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock to their own foundation and topped the list, which included more young entrepreneurs from the technology industry, three of whom gave more than $500 million.
Sanford, who gave another $125 million to the health system bearing his name, also donated $25 million toward a partnership with the state of South Dakota that will offer scholarships to students entering high-need workforce programs at in-state technical institutes.
"We don't see that a lot," Maria Di Mento, a staff writer for the Washington newspaper, said of the agreement that included $25 million in matching money from the state.
Sanford's estimated $1 billion in donations to what is now Dakotas-based Sanford Health have helped it grow into a network of hospitals and clinics that employs 26,000 people. It has operations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, California and Oregon, and children's clinics open or planned in Ghana, China and Mexico.
"He does these really big health projects, which is not completely unusual. But I think it's interesting he's so committed to that," Di Mento said.
Health is a major issue for the 79-year-old Sanford, largely because he lost his mother to breast cancer when he was 4 years old and his father to heart disease when he was 21.
"If I were to depict myself, I would call myself someone who lives for purposes and thrives on trying to spread solutions to problems, if you will," Sanford said last fall in a telephone interview from his San Diego home.
He alone decides which of those problems receive his philanthropy, most of which focuses on health, welfare and children's causes.
"I shave my foundation every morning. I am the foundation. I don't need a staff of people," he said.
Sanford, who owns First Premier Bank and Premier Bankcard in Sioux Falls, could not be reached for comment about his place on the philanthropy list.
The $125 million he gave last year went toward establishing Sanford Imagenetics, a program that aims to provide patients with genetic testing and counseling and to give internal-medicine doctors genetic information on their patients to improve care.
His other 2014 donations included $500,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and $10,000 each to Fresh Start Surgical Gifts and Ronald McDonald House Charities-San Diego, according to the Chronicle.
"Mr. Sanford's iconic image (not unlike John Hopkins, the Mayo Brothers, and others) has a life of its own now," Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health, said in an email. "History will include him as the catalyst for great accomplishments in health and I don't think anyone who pauses to consider his impact today and place it on the timeline of the next century would argue his place in history."
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