T. Denny Sanford is a highly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. He grew up in St. Paul graduating from Central High School in 1954 and the University of Minnesota in 1958 with a B.A. in Psychology.
As A Businessman – Entrepreneur
He began his career in sales with The Armstrong Cork Company. After one year, he established his own firm Contech Inc., representing manufacturers of construction materials. In 1972, Contech went public. Ten years later with 350 employees and $35 million in sales, Milwaukee conglomerate Roxnard bought the company for $28 million. Sanford’s take away was $20 million.
After dabbling in venture capital, in 1986 he helped a friend out who needed to sell his ten-branch Sioux Falls Bank for $5 million. Sanford renamed the bank First PREMIER Bank. He started a credit card company – PREMIER Bank Card.
He made his fortune as owner of PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bank Card.
As A Philanthropist
He has said he wants to die broke. He has signed a pledge to give most of his wealth to Philanthropy. His beneficiaries of over one billion dollars have included universities, including the University of Minnesota, medical research institutions, the Sioux Valley Health Care System (now Sanford Health), and the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.
His recent focus has been funding the Sanford Harmony program, a Pre-K through Grade 6 social-emotional learning program that helps teachers cultivate strong classroom relations between all students. He believes the program will change the world one classroom at a time. The program, available to schools at no cost, has been developed by National University and is in the process of reaching over 100,000 students.
He recently was a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award for his perseverance, excellence, and integrity in spite of facing personal and professional obstacles.
Sanford lives in Arizona. He is an accomplished golfer, skier, and sailor, and has two grown sons.
He has challenged others and will challenge us “To Aspire to Inspire Before we Expire.”