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Aug. 26, 2011

Donors have deep, longtime ties to university and Mitchell

Tom Lawrence • The Daily Republic

Paul and Donna Christen, Fredric and Glenda Corrigan, and Ron Gates Sr. all agree on one thing: DWU President Bob Duffett is an excellent salesman.

The Christens, the Corrigans and Gates, along with Gates’ late wife Arlene, were honored by the university Thursday for their donations to help build a health sciences center at DWU. The Christens and Corrigans each gave $5 million, the largest individual gifts in DWU history. The amount of the Gates’ gift was not disclosed.

During a press conference in DWU’s Wagner Chapel after the announcement in the Sherman Center, they said Duffett and his staff made strong cases why they should support the school.

Paul Christen said he was impressed by the “bold vision” of raising standards at DWU.

“Bob convinced me that, to do that, he needed this building,” Christen said.

Christen said the current science building, Hughes Science Hall, which marked its 100th anniversary this month, has served the school well but is past its prime.

“It’s old, it’s tired, it’s wore out,” Christen said.

Glenda Corrigan, a 1964 DWU graduate for whom the new center will be named, said the university’s students are “lucky to have Bob,” noting his “enthusiasm and love” for the school.

Fredric Corrigan said while he supports his alma mater, Dartmouth College, he feels he and his wife can have a greater impact at DWU.

He said he and his wife have worked hard, made good choices and been lucky, so they want to support the next generation with their donations.

“This is a great way to give back, we believe,” Corrigan said.

Gates said he appreciates DWU naming the Nursing Department for his wife.

“It’s great they’re honoring my wife, who dedicated her life to nursing,” he said.

Paul, Donna Christen

The Christens, of Huron, have been longtime supporters of DWU. Paul graduated from DWU in 1950, and Donna graduated in 1951. They met at DWU and married after her graduation.

The Christen Family Recreation/Wellness Center is named for their family. The university will rename one of its three colleges the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.

Donna Christen was instrumental in the establishment of the statewide Spirit of Dakota award. She served as an officer of the Methodist Hospital in Mitchell, and currently serves on the board of directors of the South Dakota Community Foundation.

She is the co-founder and chairwoman of the Christen Hohm Lusk Greater Huron Area Foundation and chairman of the James and Zelda Ruddy Nursing Scholarship Foundation.

Paul Christen serves as president and CEO of Christen Group LLC, and is an officer of CG Properties and Christen Company, all in Huron. He served 12 consecutive years on the Dakota Wesleyan University Board of Trustees and was chairman of the board for six years.

Aside from their professional lives, they have been involved in countless state and community organizations and won many awards.

Fritz, Glenda Corrigan

The Corrigans reside in Edina, Minn.

Glenda Corrigan was born in West Liberty, Iowa, and graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1964. Fritz was born in Minneapolis, Minn., and graduated from Dartmouth College in the same year. They met and married in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1969.

She taught high school and he worked for Cargill Inc. Glenda taught school for seven years and raised three children.

Fritz continued at Cargill for 38 years before retiring as its executive vice president in order to become the founding CEO and president of The Mosaic Company, a large global producer of phosphate and potash fertilizers.

“We worked hard for more than 40 years together building businesses for Cargill and jobs for thousands of people,” Fritz Corrigan said.

“America’s free enterprise system gave us that opportunity. Along the way, we saved enough to be able to give back now to the institutions that helped us get started.”

Ron, Arlene Gates

Ron Gates Sr. and his late wife, Arlene, who died earlier this year, have long been involved in health care in the area.

Arlene Gates was born in Parker and received her registered nurse degree in 1954 from the Sioux Valley School of Nursing.

She dedicated her life to nursing, working in Sioux Falls, Minnesota and Arizona, before returning to Mitchell in 1967. After her return, she worked at both the Methodist Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital.

After marrying in 1968, the couple purchased the Mitchell Retirement Home, where Arlene served as director of nursing. In 1984, they purchased Firesteel Healthcare Center, where Arlene worked until her retirement.

For more than 40 years, the Gates family offered clinical experience to hundreds of nursing students from Dakota Wesleyan University, and they also employed many DWU graduates.

To support and encourage the education and training of health-care professionals, they established the Ron and Arlene Gates Nursing Scholarship. The Arlene Gates Department of Nursing will be housed in the new health sciences center.

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Last updated: 8/29/11