Thomas Denny Sanford, 80, is a successful businessman and entrepreneur whose legendary philanthropy places him among the world’s leading health care philanthropists. Through his amazing generosity, Mr. Sanford is helping Sanford Health improve the human condition around the world.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1958 and was hired by Armstrong Cork Co. Two years later, Mr. Sanford formed his own company promoting technical construction products through architects and engineers and later added a distribution arm. In 1971, he acquired the Contech chemical company from Sears, Roebuck and Co and organized the initial public offering at $5 per share. Ten years later, he sold the company for $35 per share. In 1986, Mr. Sanford purchased a bank in Sioux Falls, S.D. which today is known as First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard with 15 branch locations and more than 3,000 employees.
Mr. Sanford’s primary philanthropic interest is helping sick and disadvantaged children. His initial gift of $16 million to build a state-of-the art children’s hospital in Sioux Falls led the successful campaign, and the Sanford Children’s “Castle of Care” opened in 2009.
Mr. Sanford’s greatest visionary act of philanthropy was his February 3, 2007 commitment of $400 million to Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System, now Sanford Health. This transformational gift launched several landmark initiatives, including The Sanford Project to discover a cure for type 1 diabetes; Sanford Children’s Health Research Center to identify and develop treatments for rare childhood diseases; Sanford International Clinics providing primary care to children and adults in underserved areas around the globe; support for medical education and more.
Following his largest-ever gift to a health care institution in the U.S., Mr. Sanford continues to support the following initiatives at Sanford Health:
• Edith Sanford Breast Cancer – Impacting care and curative therapies through focused research, clinical care, facility development, fundraising and marketing.
• Sanford Imagenetics – Revolutionizing primary care by integrating advanced clinical genomics and genetic counseling into the practice of Internal Medicine.
• Sanford fit – Developing and distributing childhood nutrition and fitness initiatives to combat obesity and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes.
Additional gifts supporting health research include those to the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (renamed the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine) and the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
Additional gifts supporting children and children’s health include a new pediatric outpatient facility at Mayo Clinic, the Sanford Burnham/Sanford Children’s Health Research Center in collaboration with Sanford Research; and Children’s Home Society, a South Dakota home for abused children.
To date, Mr. Sanford has generously donated more than $1 billion for the care of children and the development of advanced treatment options and cures.
Mr. Sanford continues to support organizations in South Dakota where his business success is centered. He has given more than $100 million to the Sanford School of Medicine and the Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota, the Sanford Underground Research Facility and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Mr. Sanford’s other philanthropic activity include significant gifts fostering education and childhood development to the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, the Sanford College of Education at National University, athletic facilities at the University of Minnesota, and the Roundup River Ranch in Colorado among many others.
In 2012, he was named Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He was fourteenth on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of top donors for 2005, forty-ninth on BusinessWeek’s “50 Most Generous Philanthropists” in 2006, third on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Philanthropy 50” in 2007, and fifteenth on BusinessWeek’s “Top 50 American Philanthropists” in 2008.
Aside from business and philanthropy, Mr. Sanford’s personal interests include golf, sailing and traveling around the world.