$2.5M gift endows NDSU chair

FARGO, N.D. -- CHS Foundation has given a $2.5 million grant to help fund a permanent professorship at North Dakota State University to promote teaching and research in commodities trading and risk management.William Wilson, a distinguished profe...

Dan Mack (right) a native of Harvey, N.D., and CHS Inc. vice president for transportation and terminal operations, and Rick Dusek, a Grafton, N.D., native and CHS vice president for agronomy, on March 23 speak to a class at NDSU as part of events celebrating their company's $2.5 million gift to the NDSU's Risk and Trade Management endowed professorship, held by William Wilson. Both graduated from NDSU in 1988 and took classes from Wilson. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

FARGO, N.D. - CHS Foundation has given a $2.5 million grant to help fund a permanent professorship at North Dakota State University to promote teaching and research in commodities trading and risk management.
William Wilson, a distinguished professor in the NDSU Department of Agribusiness and applied economist, will be the first director of the endowed CHS chair in Risk Management and Trading. The position is a “companion” to the fundraising for the high-tech program, which includes a physical commodity trading room education facility. The overall center goal was $10 million for a project that includes trading room operations, the endowed chair and an associated scholarship program.
The umbrella project is funded through the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association. The endowed chair is seeking a $1.25 million match through the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund, which would bring the endowment to $3.75 million and the overall project to $11.25 million, says Jarred C. Miller, major gifts officer for the NDSU Foundation.
Stepping up
“This is a phenomenal impact,” Miller says of the CHS gift. He says it is one of the largest endowment programs at NDSU, supporting an individual program. “They stepped up to the plate considerably,” Miller says.
Many of CHS’s senior leadership are former students. “Our goal is more students, better training and better technology,” Wilson says. Fundraising for the endowment has been ongoing for about two years.
Based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., CHS is owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives. It is a Fortune 100 company, supplying energy, crop nutrients, grain marketing services, animal feed, food and food ingredients, insurance, financial and risk management.
Linda Tank, CHS senior vice president for Communications and Public Affairs, says the gift is the largest to-date for CHS Foundation. The company donates with three pillars of agriculture in mind - building ag leaders, strengthening rural communities and safety - and in 2015, donated $15.5 million to organizations. CHS has a long history of supporting NDSU projects, including the Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives and student scholarships.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani says CHS was one of the earliest partners on the quest to get an endowed professorship to “better the industry, and better the economy.” Bresciani says the program prepares students for a place in the industry.
Ready to roll
“Having our students come out prepared, the day after graduation, to enter the field, with an experience-based education that makes them experts in one of the hottest fields in the industry - commodity trading and risk management, is a coup for CHS, a coup for the people CHS serves, and it’s a coup for NDSU,” Bresciani says.
Dan Mack, originally from Harvey, N.D., and a graduate of NDSU in agricultural economics in 1988, is CHS vice president for transportation and terminal operations. “We, as a grain, fertilizer and energy industry, really look forward to the students that come out of these programs and see this as a big advantage for students going to NDSU, having this opportunity,” Mack says.
Mack and Rick Dusek, CHS vice president for agronomy, used an example of shipping grain to China to talk about the risks - logistical, market, political, contractual and others. They talked about the costs the industry absorbed when China refused shipment of U.S. corn, ostensibly to keep out a genetic modification they had not finished an approval process for.
Dusek, a native of Grafton, N.D., has been with CHS for 28 years, including 17 years as a trader, later as a manager for the risk and grain marketing group, and now head of agronomy. He says he’s seen remarkable growth in agriculture and in his company, and CHS’ gift to NDSU helps a new generation develop important skills.
“It’s exciting to see these kids because they have a bright future in front of them,” Dusek says. The grant shows the support that the industry wants to give to increase the “level of risk to manage and the technical aspect of it are only going to get more complicated,” he says. “To see a university like NDSU supporting that, listening and engaging the industry is really great.”
Many at the event cheered the gift.
Brian Schaetz, who graduated from NDSU in December 2015, is in the CHS Leadership Development Program, and working at Kindred, N.D. He is learning about energy, grain merchandising and agronomy. “It speaks volumes for the NDSU and CHS” relationship, Schaetz says.

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