Sioux Falls, SD

The richest person in Sioux Falls wants to give it all away

Ash Jurberg
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

I write many stories about entrepreneurs, business leaders, and billionaires.

But very rarely do I see a billionaire say they "want to die broke." However, that is what Sioux Falls billionaire T. Denny Sanford has said. Sanford is worth $3.4 billion and wants to give it all away.

Let's take a look at his story.

The richest person in Sioux Falls wants to give it all away

Thomas Denny Sanford was born in Minnesota in 1935, during the Great Depression.

His mother died of breast cancer when he was four, and he started work at just eight years old in his father's store. His father died when Sanford was 20.

Sanford graduated in Psychology from the University of Minnesota and worked in several jobs before starting the First Premier Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The bank has 17 branches and is one of the biggest issuers of Mastercards in the United States.

The success of First Premier Bank has made Sanford a multi-billionaire. And he wants to give it all away.


In 1998, Sanford made his first big gift- $2 million to the Children's Home Society of South Dakota. Since then, he has gifted another $15 million.

Since then, Sanford has donated $2.25 billion to various organizations. The most significant these have to the Sioux Falls-based health system Sanford Health.

His first donation to the Sioux Valley Health System was a $400 million donation in 2007, and his donations now total nearly $1.5 billion. His philanthropy rocketed the one-time Sioux Valley Health System to regional and national prominence.

In addition to healthcare, Sanford has donated millions of dollars to educational institutions.

"Denny Sanford's commitment to higher education and helping young men and women achieve success is storied in American philanthropy," Matthew Rose, president, Horatio Alger Association

Sanford has been instrumental in transforming Sioux Falls into a growing regional powerhouse known for health care and banking.

There have been some recent controversies, but there is no denying that Sanford is one of America's most generous philanthropists and remained determined to give his billion-dollar fortune away before he dies.

Readers, what do you think of Sanford's story? Are you proud to see what he has given back to Sioux Falls? Do you have ideas on how he can give away his fortune?

Please leave your comments below.

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