Heart to heart

Alumni Association & Foundation amasses nearly $30,000 in student scholarship gifts on Giving Hearts Day

Giving Hearts Day 2

Abbie Sheehy, a freshman from Waysata, Minn., hold up her oversized prize check with UND Alumni Association & Foundation CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink. Sheehy was one of the first students to have her name drawn by random for a Giving Hearts Day scholarship. Image courtesy of Milo Smith/AA&F.

Last February, on what appeared to be just another ordinary school day, Jace Dukart received a phone call that reshaped his future.

Shortly after a management class, the accounting senior at UND learned he had won a $5,000 scholarship through the “Giving Hearts Day” campaign.

A year later, Dukart wrote UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F), which coordinates the University’s giving efforts, that the money relieved a financial strain to allow him to pursue what mattered most – passing the Certified Public Accountant exam.

“Given the intensity of the exam, hundreds of hours of studying are required,” Dukart said in an email. “I am beyond grateful for all the generous donors that made Giving Hearts Day possible, I cannot say thank you enough!”

Dukart was one of eight UND students who accepted monetary awards in February 2018, during the University’s inaugural engagement with Giving Hearts Day — North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota’s largest philanthropy dash.

This Valentine’s Day, UND is continuing to make a difference through the charitable occasion, spearheaded by the Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF), the Alex Stern Family Foundation as well as the Impact Foundation.

“Just hearing the stories of how these scholarships actually impact students really motivated us to keep doing it and to try to give out even more scholarships, so even more students can have those positive results,” said Lauren Vetter, UND 2018 alum and AA&F content & social media coordinator, who oversees the special giving day at UND.

Jace Dukart and Shelby Stoltz

In 2018, UND students Jace Dukart (left) and Shelby Stoltz (right) were two of three $5,000 scholarship recipients announced on Giving Hearts Day. Image courtesy of Sam Melquist/UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Movement of giving back

In 2019, the 12th installment of Giving Hearts Day, over 450 organizations are partaking in the 24-hour giving spree, including higher-education institutions across the state.

“What we want to do is create a movement for giving back to our universities,” said Pat Traynor, president of DMF, executive director of the Impact Foundation and a UND alum. “We want to create that enthusiasm for giving back.”

At UND, three of this year’s scholarship recipients got the good news in the early afternoon of Feb. 14, when AA&F had amassed nearly $30,000 in donations that day alone to add up to a total of over $113,000.

Lauren Vetter

Lauren Vetter

From her office, Vetter called the lucky students to congratulate them. After she left voicemails for several of them, Ty Klein, a biology major, picked up.

“Did you apply for a Giving Hearts Day scholarship this morning,” she asked. “You have been chosen as one of the winners.”

After a pause, a startled “What” came from the other end.

Scott Fahrendorf, a law student and another scholarship winner, had a similar reaction when he heard from Vetter. “Oh my God, really!? Awesome!”

By the time Vetter put down the phone, another $1,000 had streamed into the trove of Giving Hearts Day donations.

Later that day, Klein and Fahrendorf are to grip oversize $2,500 checks at the Memorial Union, where AA&F is to distribute several of the scholarships. The rest – over 45 of them – are to be presented during Spirit Week at the end of the month.

Paying it forward

Unlike last year, this year’s donors – who numbered over 350 by mid-day on Feb. 14 – could select the College to benefit from their benevolence. It is an option that Vetter hoped to appeal to alumni, ardent for the programs that launched their professional successes.

“Our alumni choose to give because that is what UND alumni do – they give back to their community,” Vetter said.

Traynor, who obtained a bachelor’s diploma and a law degree at UND, aspires to grow the ranks of giving graduates by imparting to current students the value – and virtue – of paying it forward.

“We think that these Giving Hearts scholarships from each College of the University will be a spark that begins to ignite the flames of feeling a part of the UND family and [of building] a life-long relationship with the University,” Traynor said.

UND’s Colleges and Schools contributed to the worthwhile drive too. The College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines, for instance, has observed Giving Hearts Day for approximately a decade – longer than any other at UND. In the past, instead of scholarships, the raised sums sustained student field experiences.

“The event is so important for local organizations and we are grateful for the matching dollars that support our students and encourage others to donate to the college,” said Tracy Backstrom, manager of the College Dean’s office.

Giving Hearts Day 3

The first six students to receive Giving Hearts Day scholarships pose with their oversized prize checks. Front row (left to right): Sarah Miller, Abbie Sheehy, and Kay Glenn. Back row (l-r): Scott Fahrendorf, Olivia Chumley, and Ty Klein. Image courtesy of Milo Smith/AA&F.

Free Scholarship

While Colleges and AA&F fervently worked, for weeks, to gather funds, students had a single day – Feb. 14 – to enter the scholarship lottery online. No academic standing or grade average mattered.

“It is a free scholarship for students,” Vetter said, adding that students had to only answer three philanthropy questions in order to be added to the drawing pot.

Some 1,800 UND students had done so by noon today. Others – graduates and undergraduates, incoming freshmen and seniors, alike – have until midnight to apply and share in the love.