An investment in the future of philanthropy

June 26, 2018

Nearly 14 years ago, Darrell Schmith received a life-changing phone call.

The voice on the line introduced himself as Denny Sanford, the owner of First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard. He asked if Schmith had plans for lunch that day.

Darrell and Beth Schmith


An hour later, the two men, along with Dana Dykhouse, the bank’s president and CEO, met in person to discuss a future for Schmith at First PREMIER Bank.

“It was out of the blue,” remembers Schmith, who was working at another bank at the time. “He offered me an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Schmith fondly shares that story from his office at First PREMIER Bank, where he’s now the executive vice president and chief financial officer. He is still grateful to Mr. Sanford for the opportunity, and he has gained a profound respect for the businessman-turned-philanthropist.

“Denny could go off and do anything with his wealth,” said Schmith. “But he chooses to make an impact and invest in health care, kids and our communities — things with meaningful returns.”

Over the last decade, Mr. Sanford has given nearly $1 billion of his personal wealth to support causes close to his heart, including medical research and children’s health care. His $400 million gift to Sanford Health in 2007 remains the largest known gift to an American health care organization.

In 2016, when Sanford Health announced its vision to build the Sanford House, a permanent home to capture the spirit and history of its benefactor and namesake, the idea resonated with Schmith.

“If we can get people to fully understand how much has grown from Denny’s philanthropy, and encourage them to respond in their own way, whether here or somewhere else, that could be powerful,” said Schmith.

After hearing about the Sanford House, Schmith and his wife, Beth, made a significant gift to the project. They were joined by hundreds of others who helped bring the vision to life.

“What drove me to give is sheer respect for Denny and what he’s done for this community,” said Schmith.

“I hope the House will inspire future donors and show what can be done with philanthropy at all levels. Every gift can make an impact, regardless of size.  What is important is that we participate and are involved in philanthropy at a level that is comfortable for each of us.”

“We all have a responsibility to give back. That’s what I’ve learned, watching some fabulous examples on our senior leadership team here at  PREMIER,” said Schmith, gesturing to the offices surrounding his.

“It’s important to find your own way to benefit others, whether it’s time, money, talent, whatever you’ve got, because if you don’t, who will?”


The Sanford House opens

Supported by the private philanthropy of donors like the Schmiths, construction on the 18,000-square-foot Sanford House began in 2016 and finished in late 2017.

Today, visitors of all ages can explore dynamic displays and exhibits that illustrate the far-reaching impact of Mr. Sanford’s life and extraordinary philanthropy.

The House also includes office space for the Sanford Health Foundation and meeting space for the Sanford International Board and Sanford leadership. Additionally, it is frequently used as a venue for press and fundraising events as well as donor celebrations.

Visit sanfordhousesd.org to learn more or plan your visit today!