Legacies At Work

The In Our Hands Legacy Challenge offered immediate matching funds in support of NDSU for those who documented estate gifts, which inspired others to give back by planning ahead. In the end, more than 116 NDSU funds were impacted.

By Nicole Thom-Arens | January 24, 2022

In Our Hands Legacy Challenge | North Dakota State University

Michael Strand, director of NDSU’s School of Design, Architecture, and Art (SoDAA), has known for a long time he’d create a memorial fund in honor of his mother to support community initiatives that have an impact on the community. He didn’t, however, anticipate he would document an estate gift at age 52 to do so.

“I was thinking of how to build my retirement, not thinking about giving some of it away,” Michael said about his surprise that he could participate in the In Our Hands Legacy Challenge this far from retirement. “This was an opportunity for me to honor my mom’s work in the community. I knew I always wanted to do that; I just didn’t know it would be this early.”

Michael Strand
Michael Strand, director of NDSU’s School of Design, Architecture, and Art, recently documented an estate gift to fund the Donna Strand Community Goodness Endowment.
Robert and Sheila Challey provide more than $1 million in matching funds to inspire others to document estate gifts for the benefit of NDSU.

Robert ’67 and Sheila Challey made $1 million available in matching funds to benefactors like Michael who documented their estate gift with the NDSU Foundation for the benefit of North Dakota State University. Those matching In Our Hands Legacy Challenge funds were available immediately for donors to designate to any NDSU fund of their choice.

"I'm really interested in how the money I give can empower ideas. We're going to be doing the kinds of things that a land-grant university should be doing to impact our communities."

Michael Strand

Director of NDSU's SoDAA

The challenge ended Dec. 31, 2021. Ultimately, Robert and Sheila ended up matching more than $1,090,000; more than 100 individual estate gifts were documented between July 2020 through December 2021 totaling nearly $50 million. The matching funds provided by Robert and Sheila support 116 different funds at NDSU ranging from scholarships; to athletics; to program support like the Student Emergency Fund, the Northern Plains Ethics Institute, the Ekre Grassland Preserve, the NDSU Press, the Germans from Russia Fund, and the NDSU Food Security Fund; and to facilities like the Peltier Complex and the NDSU Wallman Wellness Center. Every college at the university benefited from the matching funds, making this a widespread initiative to enhance every corner of campus.

“It’s our number one obligation at the NDSU Foundation to align donor desires with organizational needs,” Curtis Cox, NDSU Foundation senior director of gift planning, said. “Documenting a planned gift gives benefactors the peace of mind in knowing that when the time comes, their money will be used as directed.”

As a longtime faculty member and director of SoDAA, Michael knows how philanthropy can enhance the NDSU experience. When he started visiting with Viet Nguyen, associate director of development for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, he shifted from being a faculty member to being a donor.

“My experience with Viet was really, really great. He found a way to shift me from being Michael the director of a school into Michael the son of a wonderful woman he wanted to honor with a lifelong gift,” Michael said. “This allowed me to have that imagination to think for the future. Between now and the time it is realized as a fund, I’m committed, and I love that feeling.”

Michael worked with Viet to establish the Donna Strand Community Goodness Endowment. Donna was a woman with substantial grit. She was originally hired by the Fargo-Moorhead YMCA Childcare Services in 1990 — first as a teacher and later as director of several YMCA childcare centers. She worked hard to build a healthy culture for the employees and her work as a community organizer through the YMCA impacted countless families in the Fargo-Moorhead area. This work was cut short when she was lost to pancreatic cancer in 2006. Michael’s purpose for the fund is that Donna’s work continues through students studying design. His intent is that students and faculty in the department will bring community projects to life in and around Fargo-Moorhead in perpetuity.

“I’m really interested in how the money I give can empower ideas,” Michael said. “We’re going to be doing the kinds of things that a land-grant university should be doing to impact our communities.”

David and Aileen Clough invested in a charitable remainder unitrust to fund multiple scholarships in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and the College of Human Sciences and Education at NDSU.

For David ’68 and Aileen (Askegard) ’69 Clough, the timing of the challenge aligned perfectly for them to invest in a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) at the NDSU Foundation for the benefit of NDSU. They had just retired from farming near Fessenden and held an online auction sale. David and Aileen have been longtime supporters of NDSU — investing in their respective colleges, the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and the College of Human Sciences and Education, and the Jack Dalrymple Agricultural Research Complex. The money from the auction allowed them the opportunity to focus their investment.

“We decided to put that into this CRUT so we’ll have six future scholarships that will be provided to students in both the College of Ag and in the College of HSE,” David said.

It was important to David and Aileen that the scholarships they created are not restricted based on need.

“There are a lot of students with parents who have their money tied up in businesses or in farming so funds aren’t always available, but on paper, it looks like you’ve got x-amount of dollars, so you should be able to get this help from your parents,” Aileen, who has been an NDSU Foundation Trustee since 2018, said. “But, that money may not be there. Our scholarships may help some students who really need support.”

David and Aileen designated the matching funds to a facility project they felt it was important to support — the Peltier Complex, which will be a hub for agricultural innovation, product development, and advancing research and education at NDSU.

“The Peltier Complex is going to be a gamechanger for NDSU and for students,” David, who served as North Dakota’s Wheat Commissioner for 12 years, said.

“By giving to NDSU, you’re investing in the future of these young minds to be exposed to quality research, quality faculty, using developing and changing techniques. It is a wise and very good investment,” Aileen added. “We may not realize how many things will be touched in our life by donating dollars to NDSU.”

Aileen also had a personal connection to the In Our Hands Legacy Challenge. During her time as a student at NDSU, she did work study for the Food and Nutrition Department and worked with Mrs. Myrtle Challey, a faculty member at the University and Robert’s mom. Aileen remembers seeing Robert occasionally as he would stop into the Food and Nutrition Department to see Myrtle.

“To hear, years later, about the wonderful Legacy Challenge that Robert and Sheila put forward was another inspiring reason to invest,” Aileen said.

For David and Aileen, NDSU instilled the value of education. David grew up in Emrick, North Dakota, and for the first eight years of schooling, he was the only student in his grade. He finished high school in Fessenden, but still only had about 25 students in his class.

“In coming down here to NDSU, it opened up my eyes. I learned a lot of things, got involved in a lot of organizations, and this is where the two of us met,” David said. “It was a very good experience and I learned to keep on learning. At NDSU, with Agriculture and Extension, you can just keep learning all of the time.”

Still today, Aileen is impressed by how her degree in home economics and her work study experiences prepared her to meet new opportunities in business and teaching throughout her career. She not only ran the family farming business with David, but they also operated an equipment business for 35 years. Aileen also taught home economics on and off while their children were growing up, and she wrote the first curriculum for bachelor living in North Dakota in the early ’70s, a course that would eventually become independent living taught at high schools around the state.

“I still have former students who say that was the best class they ever took because they learned so much practical knowledge of how to take care of doing laundry, buying equipment, buying a home, and cooking,” Aileen said.

The In Our Hands Legacy Challenge inspired David and Aileen and Michael to establish their legacies for the future, but each has also been inspired to invest in those funds now.

“These scholarships from the CRUT won’t be available until after we are deceased, but we decided we want to meet some of the students we’ll be helping, so right now we’re funding two scholarships in Ag and two in HSE,” David said.

“I’ve given more to the university because of this fund,” Michael said. “This giving is for a completely different reason than in the past. I want to continue doing good things for our community and want there to be a place to continue doing things like that in the School of Design, Architecture, and Art.”

The idea of planning for the future with an estate gift and experiencing the joys of giving while still living is exactly what inspired Robert and Sheila to invest in the challenge.