Montana Technological University announced today the most significant gift in the history of the university. Excitement filled the room of faculty, staff, students, friends, and community members when Chancellor Les Cook announced a $7M gift from Dave and Sherry Lesar. With approval from the Montana Board of Regents, the gift will be used to name the Nursing Department, the Sherry Lesar School of Nursing.
"Today is a great day for Montana Tech as we announce the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the university," noted Montana Tech Chancellor Les Cook. "We are thrilled by the generosity of Dave and Sherry Lesar and know the impact of their gift will be transformative for Montana Tech and healthcare education."
The donation will grow and sustain the nursing program's quality and impact the students, faculty and curriculum. Funds from the endowed gift will be used to provide student scholarships, professional development opportunities for faculty, leadership training, and advanced degrees including a plan to offer a master's degree in nursing education in the next five to seven years.
"Today is a historic day on our campus," exclaimed Joe McClafferty, the Montana Tech Foundation Chief Executive Officer. "We are so thankful for the Lesars’ belief in and passion for our university."
Montana Tech's nursing program is a leader in nursing education in the state of Montana. The department has 14 faculty members, 233 nursing students, and has the highest NCLEX pass rates in Montana. "This is a great day for nursing and an even better day for the patients in Montana," said Karen VanDaveer, Director of Nursing at Montana Tech. "This gift will allow us to sustain and expand as leaders in rural nursing education in Montana. In addition, this gift will provide nursing scholarships, investment in faculty, and support key positions in the Lesar Family Nursing Simulation Center. The goal—as always— is to improve the quality of nursing education, increase the number of graduates, and improve healthcare in our community, state, and beyond."
The donation from the Lesars will also support the operation of the Lesar Family Nursing Simulation Center on campus. The high-tech simulation center will significantly enhance the offerings in the nursing program when it opens in the spring of 2022. Within its 5,000 square feet located on the first floor of the Science and Engineering Building, the simulation center will offer four simulation suites with the ability to flex space to hospital, home, or office settings, debriefing rooms, and telehealth rooms. In addition, the center will include a nurse's station and medication room.
"You are the future," said Sherry Lesar as she looked out at the crowd with many Montana Tech nursing students in their green scrubs. "It is so great to see so many nursing students here today.”
Dave and Sherry have been great supporters of Montana Tech. They believe in the university’s philosophy, vision, and students. The Lesars' first donation to Montana Tech came in 2016 when they gifted $1 million to establish the Stan and Joyce Lesar Professorship. The gift, named after Dave Lesar's parents, is used to support programming and research designed to enhance Montana Tech’s ability to develop and responsibly use natural resources and ensure an environment that supports continued natural resource development.
The Lesars’ second donation to the university named the simulation center, the Lesar Family Nursing Simulation Center.
The Lesars’ third gift, announced today, will support nursing education in a number of ways. "Today, we begin the next step to take the nursing department to the next level," added Sherry Lesar. "The nursing program will now have the ability to attract more students. This will put Montana Tech on the map and will help good nurses become exceptional nurses. I look forward to seeing the nursing school become sustainable and become a beacon in the state of Montana."
Sherry Lesar attended the University of Wisconsin, where she met her husband, Dave, who is the President and Chief Executive Officer of CenterPoint Energy. Sherry completed her education degree at the University of Texas – Dallas. She has always had a desire to give back to those less fortunate. She is the founder of a farm and timber business called Stargazer Land and Cattle Company, which has agricultural operations in seven states and timber operations in three. She currently serves on the Whitefish Community Foundation. Sherry and Dave live in Houston and have a home in Whitefish. They have two children, John and Lisa, a daughter-in-law Katie and a granddaughter, Aubrey. The simulation infant in the nursing simulation center is named after their granddaughter.