YME receives $100K grant to build a greenhouse renewable classroom

The late Archibald Bush knew how to make money. And fortunately for others, he also had a gift for giving.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Bush Foundation, which Bush, a Granite Falls native, and his late wife, Edyth, established in 1953.

Since that time, nearly $1 billion in grant-making has been made possible through that foundation.

Recently, the Yellow Medicine East school district became a recipient of a Bush Foundation legacy grant, in the amount of $100,000, to construct a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) greenhouse renewable classroom.

“There’s never been a greenhouse on campus,” YME Superintendent Al Stoeckman said. “We’ve talked about it for several years, about creating an environmental center that students in kindergarten through 12th grade can experience on campus. It’s exciting now to dream and plan.”

Stoeckman said his vision was to bring the STEM concept to life, creating a place where students and even community members could go to have a hands-on learning experience with renewable energies.

“Educators have been promoting STEM for many years, so we’ve been trying to bring about something on campus,” he said. “This will get that started. It’s exciting.”

Stoeckman said that a Foundation representative contacted Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski back in October, asking if there were any projects in the area that would relate to education or medicine. The gesture was done in memory of A.G. Bush and the Foundation in celebration of the 60-year anniversary, he said.

“The mayor then contacted me to see if there was something at the school that we had a need or desire for, so I brought forward my vision of the STEM classroom, a greenhouse renewable classroom,” Stoeckman said. “There were four ideas that came from the community. So shortly thereafter, I was contacted by the Bush Foundation, asking for more information.”

Stoeckman said he sent a more detailed description of the potential project. A couple of weeks ago, he learned that YME would be the recipient of the grant.

“It’s exciting now to begin researching, planning and designing for next spring construction,” Stoeckman said. “We’ll start visiting greenhouses, looking for expertise on wind energy, bio mass, solar energy, exploring all those renewable energies.”

Stoeckman noted that the district does have a very small-scale greenhouse in the ag department. The grant will now provide countless opportunities throughout the district, he said.

“We can now bring our science, agriculture and carpentry departments on board to help with this project,” he said. “Then, during the school year, we can be growing vegetables we can use in the lunch room. It’s just bringing a lot of people together around this facility. We’d like a permanent classroom where there is the opportunity to have experiences with renewable energy for a long time.”

Along with the $100,000 grant, the school district will also be committing money to finish the anticipated project, Stoeckman said. That type of dedication and commitment is exactly what the Bush Foundation strives for. As it was with Archibald and Edyth Bush, the Foundation is known to “invest in great ideas and the people who power them.”

In 1909, young Archibald Bush started working as a bookkeeper at Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, the small Duluth sandpaper company that later became known as 3M. When he retired 40 years later, he was chairman of the executive committee and had amassed a personal fortune estimated at $300 million.

While Bush died from cancer in 1966, at the age of 78, followed by his wife, who died in 1972, their legacy lives on through the Foundation. Presidents Humphrey Doermann (1971-1997), Anita Pampusch (1997-2007), Peter Hutchinson (2007-2012) and Jennifer Ford Reedy (2012-present) have tried to continue on with the philanthropy mission established by the generous Bush couple.

In a special section commemorating the 60-year Foundation history, Ford Reedy, the current Foundation president, said that she has come to understand what type of person Archibald Bush was.

“Archibald was someone whose gift was understanding people, and a lot of his philanthropy was about making bets on people he thought could make a real difference,” she said. “I feel like Archie Bush would feel great about our work with the Bush fellows, in trying to find extraordinary people who we think, with a boost, can have an even greater impact on this region.”

Foundation assets are now in the $800 million range, which enables the organization to give away around $40 million a year, Ford Reedy said.

“It’s an amazing amount of money that allows us to do some extraordinary things,” she said. “But when you compare it to the level of need in our community, it starts looking not quite so large.”

The Foundation support has made enormous contributions in the past 60 years. Early on, the Foundation invested money to improve the quality of life for people in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. Education was also one of its first priorities.

Along with the establishment of Granville House, a St. Paul halfway house for women, the Foundation contributed significantly in the areas of early childhood, domestic violence prevention, immigrant and refugee support, Native nation self-reliance and the medical field.

Approximately 30 years ago, the Bush Foundation learned that the United States Department of Labor had predicted that by 2018, the three-state region would need more than 220,000 workers to fill jobs that require skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The organization was already alarmed about the gap between girls and boys in math and science fields, so they began a grant-making priority aimed at getting more girls and minorities to stick with those studies.

Thirty years later, educators still believe in the unlimited possibilities that STEM opportunities can create for students. And because of the Foundation, countless people have been given a boost and many more will continue to benefit in the future.

“I’m just humbled by the generosity of the Bush Foundation,” Stoeckman said. “I’m excited for our students and our community for the opportunity they now have on our campus.”