T. Denny Sanford Bio


Denny Sanford was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Young Denny developed an early work ethic during his summers, working in his father’s clothing distribution company. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 4; and his father and an older brother both died of heart disease at a young age.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1958, Denny had a career in sales, marketing, and materials distribution. He then established Contech Inc, a Minneapolis-based national company, manufacturing sealants, coatings, and adhesives. The company employed 350 people, including a chemical laboratory with 13 chemists, developing products for large architectural buildings. In 1972, he took the company public and sold it in 1982. At that point, Denny took a different track and formed Threshold Ventures, a venture capital company.

In 1986, he purchased United National Corporation in Sioux Falls, SD the holding company for First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board. The success of these two companies have helped the economy and created more than 2,300 jobs within the state of South Dakota. Upon forming his foundation for charitable giving, Mr. Sanford’s initial focus was to help sick, disadvantaged, abused and/or neglected children. To that end, he has been a long-time supporter of the Children’s Home Society in South Dakota. He also donated money to build the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, as well as the T. Denny Sanford Mayo Clinic Pediatric Center in Rochester MN; and the T. Denny Sanford Pediatric Center at Florida Hospital for Children. He also donated funds to the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine for their new pediatric residency program.

Mr. Sanford’s attention subsequently turned to the fields of scientific and medical research. He pledged funds for the Homestake Mine Underground Laboratory Research Program in Lead, South Dakota and donated over $500 million to the Sioux Valley Health System in Sioux Falls (now Sanford Health), whose major initiatives include developing children’s clinics worldwide and whose research center focuses on finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Most recently, he also gave funds to establish the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research Center at Sanford Health. In California, he supports the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Salk Institute, UCSD, National University, the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Other major areas of funding around the country include support of his Alma Mater’s football program; Roundup River Ranch in Vail, Colorado; Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota; teacher education programs and gender harmony projects at Arizona State University. He has also made major contributions to the University of South Dakota’s Beacom School of Business, South Dakota State University and Dakota State University.

Mr. Sanford’s total giving to date is over one billion dollars.