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Nilsestuen endowment to benefit UW-River Falls

Submitted photo.

A permanent endowment from the Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Fund will enhance the learning mission at the UW-River Falls. The $50,000 gift will create the Rod Nilsestuen Visiting Scholar Program.

The Nilsestuen Visiting Scholar will interact with students, faculty, alumni and friends of the university, and will present a public lecture. The endowment is expected to grow over time under the leadership of UW-River Falls and future contributors.

"Rod Nilsestuen was one of our university's most accomplished alumni and was widely known as a visionary leader who had a major impact on Wisconsin and beyond," says UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen. "The University is deeply grateful to the Nilsestuen family and the Ralph K. Morris Foundation for establishing the Rod Nilsestuen Visiting Scholar Program at UW-River Falls."

Nilsestuen, a longtime cooperative leader and former secretary of agriculture in Wisconsin, was a UW-River Falls alumnus. He died in a drowning accident in Lake Superior in July 2010.

The gift was announced Friday at the Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event, a daylong conference at the university that explored agriculture and conservation themes. The conference, endowment and other activities are supported by the Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Fund, which was established by family, friends and colleagues after his death.

"Dad would be happy to know this endowment will create new opportunities for students and faculty at his alma mater for many years to come," said Joel Nilsestuen, Rod's son. "The people and organizations that gave so generously to the Legacy Fund will see tangible and positive outcomes as a result of this endowment and many other activities. The announcement of this endowment is just the beginning." Joel is a member of the board of directors of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, which was selected to oversee the Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Fund.

Morris and Nilsestuen were longtime associates in the cooperative movement. The Ralph K. Morris Foundation, established after Ralph's death in 2000, seeks to perpetuate Ralph's vision by investing its resources in the people of rural America.

With a similar goal of perpetuating Nilsestuen's legacy, the Foundation recently expanded its mission to include Rod's concepts and interests, including farmland preservation, land stewardship and sustainability. More information about the Ralph K. Morris Foundation and Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Fund can be found at the foundation's website at

"As UWRF looks toward initiating a new strategic plan, the resources and foci that are embedded within endowment provide added energy and important support to our efforts," says UWRF Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Fernando Delgado. "The Visiting Scholar program, in particular, allows the university to reinforce our partnering role in formulating and sharing information and knowledge that is valuable to communities within and beyond the physical boundaries of our campus."

For more information, contact Chris Mueller, executive director of University Advancement and president of the UW-River Falls Foundation at 715-425-3545 or