A South Dakota billionaire banker has pledged a
$5 million matching grant to the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, the
largest ever in the mountain carving’s nearly 60 year history.
T. Denny Sanford of Sioux Falls, a longtime supporter of the project that
honors American Indians, initially wanted to remain anonymous but allowed
his name to be released if it would help the fundraising effort, said Ruth
Ziolkowski, president and CEO.
Her husband, the late Korczak Ziolkowski, started the project in 1948 and
she has led the project since his death in 1982.
“Last year he (Sanford) said, ‘I really want to see this finished as soon
as possible,'” she said.
Korczak’s last words were, ‘Go slowly so you do it right.’
Well 25 years later we’ve learned a lot of things from working on the face. You still
have to do it right but with the finances, we can go a little faster and
still do it right.”
The previous largest gift was $1.7 million from Illinois businessman Gerald
The Sanford money will match other donations dollar-for-dollar. The first
$1 million has been raised and there is a deadline of Oct. 1, 2011 to raise
the remaining $4 million, according to Crazy Horse officials.
Sanford doesn’t want anything named after him but did encourage Ziolkowski
to paint a white outline of the horse that the Lakota warrior is riding –
something Korczak did of the entire project in its infancy, though the
lines have faded, Ziolkowski said.
“People will appreciate much better what you’re working on if they can see
it,” she said of Sanford’s suggestion.
Sanford, 71, is the chief executive of United National, a holding company
that’s the parent of First Premier Bank and Premier Bankcard.
He has pledged $400 million to turn the former Sioux Valley health system
into Sanford Health in Sioux Falls; $70 million to the underground science
lab at the old Homestake mine in Lead; $20 million to a California-based
research institution Sanford Health will partner with for pediatric
research; $16 million to build the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux
Falls; $14 million to Children’s Home Society in Sioux Falls; and $5
million to South Dakota State University’s new student-athlete center.
Sanford is No. 17 in Business Week magazine’s latest annual list of “most
He is one of 16 of the top 50 philanthropists who have given
or pledged more than $100 million between 2003 and 2007, according to the
He ranked higher on the list than some more famous philanthropists, such as
Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey.
Business Week said Sanford has given or pledged $559 million to various
causes in his lifetime, or about 20 percent of his estimated total net
worth of $2.8 billion.