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Looyengas give gift of $1 million to MSU

University to offer leadership certificate, leadership concentration

Andrea Johnson/MDN Roger and Ann Looyenga gave $1 million to Minot State University to establish the Roger and Ann Looyenga Leadership Center.

Roger and Ann Looyenga have given $1 million to Minot State University to establish the Roger and Ann Looyenga Leadership Center.

A press conference was held on Wednesday at Minot State to announce the gift.

According to MSU, the gift will enable the university to develop leadership courses. Roger Looyenga said the program is slated to begin in the fall of 2020 and will include a leadership certificate, with nine total credits, or a leadership concentration, requiring 12 total credits.

Roger Looyenga, a graduate of Minot State College and a Mandan native, had a nearly 40-year career with Auto-Owners Insurance Company, a Fortune 500 company, working his way up through a variety of positions, ultimately becoming CEO in 2004 and Chairman of the Board in 2006, according to a press release from MSU. He retired from the CEO position in 2008 and as Chairman of the Board in 2009.

Roger Looyenga has written three books, “Take the Stairs,” “100 Years of Service and Success,” and “Something Said.” The Looyengas have two grown sons, and divide their time between homes in Michigan and Arizona.

They have also been deeply invested in MSU. In 2010, the couple donated funding to establish the Roger Looyenga Leadership College of Business Endowment, to begin a program in business leadership. Over the years, subsequent gifts have increased the endowment fund to nearly $500,000.

“I became particularly interested in leadership when I saw how just one person could influence the outcome of an organization — either positively or negatively,” Roger Looyenga said in a prepared statement. “That organization, as an example, could be a sales territory, company, sports team, or even a country. We all have the ability to be leaders, however leadership skills need to be developed and honed. Ann and I are supporting the initiative at Minot State University because students can develop these skills earlier in their life and career.”

Looyenga said he can envision a day when the leadership program at MSU could grow to include a major, a minor and even a master’s of business administration with a focus in leadership.

Looyenga said he returns to the university about once a year and interacts with students and has been impressed by how grounded in their studies they are as well as by their maturity.

Looyenga recalled that he had a mentor who discussed the meaning of leadership during business meetings in the early days of his career, at a time when “management” was the focus, and he realized the impact that a single person can have on changing an entire family or organization. A positive attitude can trickle down from management to employees. Looyenga said a leader can also have a negative impact on an entire organization. He believes in encouraging the importance of honesty, integrity, hard work and building relationships in an organization.

Ann Looyenga said her husband also focused on developing those leadership qualities in himself, through the Dale Carnegie Program or Toastmasters and reading a lot of books on leadership.

She said a focus on leadership will help college students begin to develop those qualities and at a faster pace than people who learn to lead during the course of their careers. It’s not too early for college students to begin to develop leadership, she said.

“I’m just happy that we are in a position to offer this program to the university,” said Roger Looyenga.

MSU officials also expressed gratitude toward the Looyengas on Wednesday.

“Roger and Ann are passionate about the area of leadership and they are committed to ensuring current and future Minot State students have educational opportunities in this important area. The new leadership initiatives we will be establishing, thanks to the incredible generosity and vision of Roger and Ann, will be a tremendous benefit for our students. The Looyengas are great friends of MSU, and we are excited about the positive impact this gift will have on our students,” said Minot State President Steven Shirley, in the press release.

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