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Kelly Smith, Published October 16 2009

Foundation unsure of impact on donations

As North Dakota State University’s leader for the last 11 years, Joseph Chapman inspired major donors to support the school.

With his resignation, the NDSU Development Foundation Board of Trustees and a major donor are concerned and uncertain if Chapman’s departure will affect donations.

“In the face of a resignation, it’s jarring news to our donor community, so of course we’re concerned,” said Ryn Pitts, vice president of the NDSU Development Foundation Board of Trustees. “We’re going to do everything we can to restore their confidence and ease their anxieties if they so exist.”

Local entrepreneur and Stop-N-Go President Shelly Ellig has been a longtime supporter of NDSU because “they had the need, and I’m trying to give back to the community,” he said.

Now that Chapman has resigned, “it’s sort of a ticklish situation,” said the businessman. NDSU’s sports complex is named after Ellig. “It’s hard to say (whether it will impact donations).”

Other major supporters – former Microsoft Corp. Senior Vice President Doug Burgum and Scheel’s President Steve M. Scheel – declined to comment.

Development Foundation Executive Director Jim Miller said it’s too early to say what effect Chapman’s departure will have on donations.

“I think the potential for some impact is there,” Miller said. “But to try to figure out what or how much is impossible. It’s too early.”

Trustees, though, aren’t taking any chances they could lose donors’ trust.

Pitts said they’ve had frequent teleconferences discussing how to restore donors’ trust since news broke last week that the new $2 million president’s house cost double what was budgeted.

Then, news followed that Chapman spent more than $22,000 in NDSU donations to take his family to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January – money covered by the Development Foundation.

The foundation will more closely monitor the expense account of the NDSU president, “so we have a much better sense of how this money is spent,” Pitts said.

“The whole situation of this unfortunate sequence of events will raise concern among our donor base,” Pitts said. “And we understand that. It’s our job to assure them that it’s a new day and transparency is more important than ever.”

Trustee John Q. Paulsen, a former Development Foundation president, said Chapman’s popularity as a president “has created remarkable progress and growth” for NDSU.

“So his departure obviously will be a loss,” he said. “But … I believe that our friends and alumni will continue to be loyal supporters of the university.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515