MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

January 23, 2016 

Million-dollar gift is changing lives


In November of 2011, Mayville State received a gift of $1,000,000. Designated for the purpose of providing student scholarships, the gift is the largest single monetary charitable contribution ever received by Mayville State University. The donor of the gift has chosen to remain anonymous.

The million-dollar donation was used to establish the Nelson Family Endowed Scholarship Fund. Each year, a percentage of the endowed fund is used to provide scholarships that help non-traditional students achieve their goals. The first scholarship allotment of more than $40,000 was awarded to students for the 2012-2013 academic year. The scholarship is geared especially toward those individuals who may be changing their paths in life or those pursuing changes in careers. A special emphasis of the scholarship is to promote the concept of volunteerism, leadership development, and out-of-classroom experiences for the scholarship recipients.

Recipients of full-year scholarships this year are Jacob Allam, Renton, Wash., and Rhonda Hodges, Mayville, N.D. Katherine Gray, Devils Lake, N.D., and Chrystal Nelson, Big Lake, Minn., received the scholarship during the fall semester.

Nelson Family Scholarship recipient Jacob Allam will finish up his degree at the conclusion of the current spring semester. He is now in Southampton, Va., student teaching in fifth grade and high school social science. His student teaching supervisor is Will Melbye, principal at Riverdale Elementary School in Courtland, Va. Melbye is a 2002 Mayville State University graduate. (Incidentally, Courtland is one of the stops on the upcoming CORE spring break trip. Learn more about the trip at

Many members of the Mayville-Portland community have gotten to know Jacob through his extensive work as a co-founder and member of the Cometeers student volunteer organization at Mayville State University. Jacob, who has donated more than 200 hours of community hours personally, and others have been extremely active in their work with Common Time at May-Port CG Middle School, the Rainbow Garden, Summerfest, after-prom parties, and much, much more.  Many have also gotten to know Jacob as an employee of the Pizza Shop.

In his letter of thanks as a recipient of the Nelson Family Scholarship, Jacob expressed his sincere appreciation. He said the Nelson Family Scholarship helped him to make the decision to leave his home in the state of Washington to pursue his dream of becoming an educator. The scholarship covered a large portion of his tuition, which, in part, made it possible to pursue the dream.

Jacob says that when he first visited Mayville State a few years ago, he could see the dedication of the faculty and knew that this was the place for him. He enrolled as a student shortly thereafter, and the feelings of respect and commitment have continued to grow throughout his tenure at Mayville State University.

He said, “Volunteering has changed my life permanently, as has this town and university. The endearing attitude of the members of the community have made a difference for me, and I look to spread that around and make a positive difference for others.”

The Nelson Family Endowed Scholarship provides up to $4,000 per student a year, which is almost 80% of a full-time student’s tuition. The scholarship is intended for non-traditional aged students, 25 years of age and older. The recipients must be full time, degree-seeking students who are pursuing courses in residence at the Mayville State campus or in an online program like the RN to BSN nursing program. Eligible students must demonstrate a need for funds as evidenced by information submitted through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The scholarship may be awarded to those in pursuit of associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Preference is given to females, but both males and females are considered. The scholarship is renewable to students who maintain a 2.0 grade point average or greater. With each term, there is an expectation of improvement and an expectation that the student will pursue volunteer activity in their community.

As the new year begins and we look to the future with renewed optimism and excitement, we see opportunities such as the Nelson Family Scholarship as rays of hope. Mayville State’s historic million-dollar gift has made a positive mark, and through the donor’s generosity, lives are being changed for the better. To learn more about the scholarship, contact the office of financial aid at Mayville State, 701-788-4893.

To find out how you could change lives through your gift to Mayville State University, contact MSU Foundation Executive Director John J. Klocke at 701-788-4787 or All gifts made to scholarship funds are being matched at 50% by the state of North Dakota. In addition, North Dakota residents can make their gifts to a permanent endowment and qualify for a 40% North Dakota tax credit, as well as a federal tax deduction on gifts of $5,000 or more. All donors can make tax-free distributions from IRAs for this type of gift. Contact Klocke to learn more.