Catholic Health Initiatives donating $10 million to University of Mary; school's largest gift

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Catholic Health Initiatives is donating $10 million to the University of Mary, which is the largest gift the private Bismarck school has received in its 55-year history.

The money will fund endowed scholarships supporting students enrolled in programs such as nursing and health care administration at Mary, where about 3,000 students are enrolled.

Bismarck-based St. Alexius Medical Center in September became an affiliate of CHI, a national nonprofit health system headquartered in Colorado with a division in Fargo. CHI and St. Alexius are forming a regional health system of hospitals and clinics in western and central North Dakota.

"We are keenly aware of the serious workforce and educational needs North Dakota is experiencing," Jeffrey Drop, senior vice president of CHI's Fargo Division, said in a statement Tuesday. "As we now expand our service into the Bismarck-Mandan community, the University of Mary's sterling reputation as a leader in health care and business education make the university a perfect partner for our growing health care system."

University President James Shea said the gift demonstrates CHI's commitment to health and wellness, strengthens an existing relationship between St. Alexius and the school "and dramatically increases educational opportunities for so many students who will come to us from our region and beyond."

Catholic Health Initiatives was formed in 1996 to strengthen the Catholic health ministry. It is one of the nation's largest health systems, with nearly 100 hospitals and other facilities in 18 states.

St. Alexius serves residents of central and western North Dakota, eastern Montana and northern South Dakota. It is associated with the Sisters of the Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck and retains a local board of directors.

CHI's donation is among the larger ones made to public and private universities in North Dakota in recent years.

In 2013, Valley City State received $2.5 million for scholarships from the estate of alumnus Marjorie Wright and her husband.

In 2012, Continental Resources Inc. and Chairman Harold Hamm donated $10 million to the University of North Dakota for a new geology school.

In 2010, Scheels All Sports donated $5 million and Sanford Health $10 million toward the renovation and expansion of the Bison Sports Arena on the North Dakota State University campus.

In 2006, former North Dakotan Frank Bain donated $2.3 million to NDSU for scholarships.

Last Vegas casino owner Ralph Engelstad in 1998 announced a $100 million gift for a new hockey arena at his alma mater, the University of North Dakota. He died in 2002, and his family in 2007 announced a $20 million gift for UND scholarships, athletics and endowments.


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