Fifty years ago, Winona State University (then Winona State College) was the intended recipient of two real estate bequests. Because the college was prohibited from being the legal beneficiary of the gifts, the WSU Foundation was created as a steward of the institution.
In its first year, the Foundation received gifts totaling $1,065. One of these gifts was used to establish a loan fund designed to meet short-term needs of the College. Foundation assets totaled $29,378 in 1968. In 1972, the Foundation awarded $1,260 for ten scholarships.
The WSU Foundation has grown significantly from its humble beginnings 50 years ago. At the end of the last fiscal year, its assets were $36 million. Last year, the Foundation awarded $1 million in scholarships to more than 900 deserving students. In addition, the Foundation provided another $1 million to support programs, equipment, student housing, and other needs. Your generous support has made all of this possible.
Your contributions and the Foundation’s role are becoming increasingly important. Just 15 years ago, funding from the State of Minnesota covered more than 60-percent of the university’s operating expenses, with the balance covered by tuition and fees. Today, the state supports only 18-percent of Winona State’s operating expenses.
The Foundation has been able to offset a portion of that drastic decline in state support through its careful and responsible management of the resources provided through your generosity. Support for students, student housing, and academic programs has greatly increased, and the Foundation has been instrumental in raising funds for capital improvements such as the East Lake Apartments and the Integrated Wellness Complex, a true campus showpiece.
I recently attended the Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gala held in Lourdes Hall on West Campus. The following morning, I joined more than 1,100 students, family members, faculty and staff, benefactors, Foundation trustees, and friends of the university for the annual Scholarship Breakfast. In my many conversations at these two wonderful events, I was once again reminded of the connection we all share with Winona State and with one another. There is a strong feeling of community and caring, along with much pride in the university.
As we celebrate the Foundation’s 50th anniversary, we can proudly reflect on our accomplishments and be optimistic about our strong attributes – attributes that have withstood the test of time. WSU has become the university of choice for students in the region. A Winona State education is perceived to be a good value, one reason that our enrollments continue to increase as others decline. While more than 40-percent of our students will be the first college graduates in their families, our incoming first year students have the highest ACT scores of any university in the system!
Our students are very impressive. With your support, we can ensure that they have sufficient housing, equipment to engage in undergraduate research, programs that address today’s needs, and scholarship funding for those who need it. With your support, we can maintain the affordability of Winona State and continue to make a WSU education a good value.
Last year, many of you participated in a survey conducted by the Foundation. We learned that you share a love for Winona State and maintain a strong connection with the university, its faculty, its athletics, its academic programs, and its students. We also learned that you have a strong desire to see how your gifts are being used and the impact they have. The Board of Trustees understands the need to better communicate how the WSU Foundation is protecting, managing, and utilizing the resources entrusted to its care.
On behalf of the Foundation Board, I thank you for your generous gifts and continued support. We have accomplished much in our 50 years, but the needs are ever increasing. A new generation of students is depending on us to maintain the value of a Winona State education and to ensure that WSU remains a special place. As lifelong Warriors, I know we can accomplish our objective.
Dan Mortensen ’79
Chair, WSU Foundation