Giving all to improve the human condition
From rural communities across the Upper Midwest to remote villages in Ghana, Africa, in research labs, exam rooms and at patient bedsides, the transformative power of Denny Sanford’s generosity is immeasurable.
To date, the philanthropist has entrusted Sanford Health with more than $1 billion to care for people around the world and to develop the next generation of treatments and cures. He is a driving force in modern medicine, empowering researchers and clinicians to think big and pursue bold, innovative endeavors at a pace not otherwise possible.
Early life in St. Paul
Denny Sanford was born on December 23, 1935, to William B. and Edith Sanford. He was raised, along with his older brother, Byron, in a working-class neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn.
At just 4 years old, Mr. Sanford lost his mother to breast cancer, leaving a painful void in his life. By age 8, he was working at his father’s wholesale garment business. Every day after school, he caught a trolley downtown to spend afternoons sweeping floors and stocking shelves.
Following high school graduation, a brush with the law marked a turning point in Mr. Sanford’s life. A judge gave him an ultimatum to either attend college or serve a full sentence in juvenile detention.
Mr. Sanford wisely chose the latter and enrolled in the University of Minnesota.
While at college, tragedy again struck the Sanford family when Mr. Sanford’s father died of heart disease. Mr. Sanford took it upon himself to console his younger half-brother, Chuck, and became something of a father figure to the young man.
He managed to continue his studies and in 1958, Mr. Sanford graduated with a degree in psychology.