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Great news at the Gala: BSU fundraising campaign already at the $25 million mark

(From left) Dave Sorenson, Imagine Tomorrow campaign chair), BSU President Richard Hanson and Rob Bollinger, executive director of the BSU Foundation, share a toast at the BSU Honors Gala on Friday night at the Sanford Center. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Bemidji State University held its annual Honors Gala on Friday night at the Sanford Center. The approximately 450 people heard how the university already has received $25.4 million toward its goal of $35 million in the Imagine Tomorrow campaign. Submitted photo2 / 2

BEMIDJI — Bemidji State University alumni leaders and university officials announced Friday night that $25.4 million has been given or pledged over the past 18 months in leadership gifts during what is known as the "quiet phase" of BSU’s first-ever comprehensive campaign, called "Imagine Tomorrow."

Earlier Friday, BSU announced the $35 million fundraising goal, and at the BSU annual Honors Gala on Friday night at the Sanford Center, officials informed the crowd of 450 about the progress of the campaign to date.

The money will toward a tripling of current scholarship support, enhancing the excellence of academic programs and helping meet a variety of other needs, including technology, learning resources and athletics, according to a press release from BSU.

The five-year fundraising effort now enters its public phase, as campaign organizers reach out for financial support from alumni across the country, university employees and the people of northern Minnesota.

"We still have a long way to go, but with your help we have a plan to get there," Dave Sorenson, a 1972 BSU graduate and retired General Mills executive from Minneapolis who is serving as campaign chair for Imagine Tomorrow, told the crowd at the Honors Gala, according to a release.

National Steering Committee chair Mike Roberge, a 1990 graduate who is now president of MFS Investment Management in Boston, cited his own life story of receiving help to attend BSU as a spur to his involvement, including a $1 million gift.

"My goal is for students to be able to live the dream that I have lived," Roberge said.

The gala also included recognition of six annual alumni award recipients and the university’s most generous donors, whose lifetime giving to BSU has ranged from $10,000 to more than $2.5 million.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, who leads the 430,000-student Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, was a guest of honor with his wife, Maria Antonia Calvo.

In his remarks, Rosenstone congratulated the alumni honorees, thanked those who have contributed to Bemidji State, and praised the Imagine Tomorrow campaign as vital to BSU’s continued success.

"These private funds are absolutely essential to Bemidji State University remaining a place of hope and opportunity for generations of students," he said.

BSU President Richard Hanson spoke of the campaign’s overarching goals, not only in financial terms but also in establishing a network of ongoing support for the university among its many stakeholders.

"It’s about creating a culture of philanthropy — a culture that understands philanthropy as second nature," Hanson said, "that understands that giving back is the highest order in human existence."