The University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Science (CFANS) will receive more than $12 million from the estate of a successful farmer and businesswoman who owned prime farmland near Aberdeen, S.D.
The gift comes from the estate of Millicent Atkins and is the single largest gift ever designated for CFANS, which has about 1,800 undergraduates studying 14 major degree areas and 25 minors, including minors in food systems, sustainable agriculture, and sustainability studies.
“Ms. Atkins has placed a great deal of trust in our college to use her gift as we think best,” Allen Levine, dean of the college, said in a University of Minnesota news release on Thursday. “We are concerned about the financial burden of getting an education and the impact it has on students and their families, so increasing support for undergraduate and graduate students is a priority for the college. Millicent Atkins’ generosity will have a significant impact in helping students.”
The news release said the gift came as a surprise. Atkins attended the School of Agriculture, which was then a high school associated with the University, in 1937-1938, but she did not graduate and did not keep in touch with the school, according to the U of M. Her mother, Blossom (Gibson) Atkins, graduated from the School of Agriculture in 1905. “It is truly heartening to know that she held our college in such great esteem through all these years,” Levine said in the announcement.
According to the college, Atkins, born in 1919, lived most of her life near Columbia, a small town east of Aberdeen. She grew up on a farm settled by her grandparents and, after attending the University of Minnesota for one year and obtaining a teaching degree at Northern State University in South Dakota, followed in the footsteps of her father, Fred Atkins, as a land owner and farm manager. She eventually owned more than 4,100 acres of farmland in Brown County, S.D., and farmed the land through a crop share arrangement with about a dozen tenant farmers.