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T. Denny Sanford

T. Denny Sanford, who's given almost $1 billion to namesake Sanford Health, holds a photograph of his mother, Edith, who died when he was 4 years old and inspired him to donate to fight breast cancer. 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — T. Denny Sanford, the billionaire credit card mogul whose philanthropy fueled the rise of Sanford Health, now has a university named after him as well.

National University in La Jolla, Calif., announced this week it would rename itself Sanford National University, with a formal launch of the new moniker set for July 1. Sanford recently committed a $350 million donation to the university, which it said will be used to grow its student body and substantially reduce the cost of tuition.

“We are so grateful for all that Denny has done for National University over the years and are deeply honored to rename the university in recognition of the many contributions he has made to education and our society at large,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the National University System, which includes National University, in a news release.

Sanford, the namesake and chief patron of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, has committed to "die broke." Sanford has a net worth of $2.4 billion at last count according to Forbes, which maintains a list of global billionaires, and is arguably no closer to his goal than he was when he first began his philanthropy, due to large dividends from his businesses.

But his donations have totaled nearly $2 billion over the decades, including nearly $1 billion to Sanford Health alone. Sanford, who splits time among his various homes including one in La Jolla, has has been a regular patron of National University. In 2018, National University said his gifts had totaled $170 million.

Sanford also recently donated a reported $100 million to the nearby University of California San Diego to found the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion.

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National University, a private, non-profit institution, was launched in 1971 and offers programs for adult learners both online and on campuses in California and Nevada. The National University System is home to the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, which trains non-profit fundraisers, and Sanford Harmony, a Pre-K-6 social emotional learning program designed to help children develop healthy relationships into their adult lives and reduce divorce rates. The university named its College of Education after Sanford in 2015.

“I am thrilled to be associated with such a world-class organization and am honored and humbled to have my name alongside National University," Sanford said in a news release. "I look forward to the positive impact Sanford National University will have on students and society at large and for the inspiration it will provide future generations to make a difference for their families, communities, and our nation."

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