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Sanford Health Foundation : About us : History

About us


Lois Cottrell

The Sanford Health Foundation, as we know it today, was made possible by a generous gift from a woman named Lois Cottrell. Her donation was wisely placed into an endowment fund where the principle would be preserved for all time and the interest would be available for special projects or programs Sanford Health. Cottrell died in 1984 at the age of 90 in La Jolla, Calif. According to old land abstracts, her father, Charles Cottrell, acquired about 25 quarters of land mostly in Oliver County, North Dakota, between 1899 and 1914. His occupation was listed as manufacturing in
Minneapolis, where his wife, Cora, and his daughter, Lois, lived.

Speculation is that Charles was connected with the railroad expansion across North Dakota. For example, in 1909, he sold 40 acres of right-of-way for an unknown sum to the Missouri River Railway Company. Later, the Missouri River Railway sold 52.6 miles of right-of-way to Northern Pacific Railway Company for almost $5.4 million. Charles died in 1917, leaving his estate to his family who continued to rent the land to area farmers and ranchers. To collect the rent, Lois would spend two weeks in the fall in North Dakota, staying with Arthur and Rosa Daub, who rented some of the land. Their nephew, Warren Rockenbach, knew Lois when he was young and later rented farm and pasture land from her. "Lois Cottrell made quite an impression," Rockenbach says. She was so different from other folks. She loved coming to North Dakota because she loved the wide-open spaces. She would walk about five miles every day. Yet she didn't care for the dust and dirt here. Lois never worked, and traveled around the world, Rockenbach remembers. Well-read and intelligent, she also was independent. She didn't like to have her picture taken, she didn't drink alcohol, and she probably didn't drink coffee, Rockenbach says. For her excursions to North Dakota, she brought two dresses—usually the same two year after year. "She always had quality dresses. I can still see one dress in my mind because she wore it so many times. It was a brown seersucker dress," Rockenbach says, smiling a little. "My aunt and uncle had a movie camera and once took pictures of Lois. About three years later, Lois saw the movie and was surprised to see herself wearing the same dress as in the movie."

A conservative person, Lois nevertheless moved herself and her mother to La Jolla where her mother died in 1947. Lois continued her travels and returned to North Dakota every fall until 1970, when she had herself declared incompetent and placed in a nursing home. "She was aware that her mind was failing," Rockenbach says. "She wanted to make sure her affairs were in order while she could still make decisions." "She always said her renters took good care of her, so she would take good care of us. And when she died, we had an opportunity to buy the land we rented at appraised value rather than at an inflated price." An only child who never married or had children, Lois bequeathed her estate to surviving grandnephews and grandnieces, to the Salvation Army in San Diego, and to Bismarck Evangelical Hospital, now Sanford Health. It was her way of showing appreciation for North Dakota, Rockenbach believes.

Evan E. Lips: Tenacity, integrity and leadership for 20 years

Tromp, tromp, tromp! The foundation office staff, located in an upstairs office off campus at the corner of Fourth and Main in Bismarck, would recognize those footsteps. A door would open, and then slam shut, and just as quickly, Executive Director Yvonne Kroll would hear, "Hello! Hello! Anybody home?" She knew immediately that her Foundation Board of Trustees Chair, Evan E. Lips, was in the office. She also knew where she would find him—standing by the candy bowl at the receptionist's desk.

For 20 years, from the Foundation's inception in 1985 until his death in January, 2005, Evan E. Lips served as Chair of their Board of Trustees. Recruited to the infant organization by then President and CEO Terry Brosseau and founding Executive Director Yvonne Kroll, Evan visited the office nearly every day throughout his tenure.

Just about any CEO or President of any business in Bismarck-Mandan has a story to tell about Evan. His fundraising style was unlike anyone else. He would "tromp, tromp, tromp" into someone's office, often without an appointment, fumble in his shirt pocket, dig out a pledge form for one of the hundreds of campaigns he chaired at one time or another and say, "Let's see here. I have you down for $25,000. Are you OK with that?" The pledge form would be laid on the CEO's desk and Evan would impatiently wait for his/her signature before issuing his thanks and tromping back out the door. He was rarely turned down.