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BHSU Professor Gives $1 Million Dollars To Inspire Others To Give

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Amy Varland
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A long-time Black Hills State University professor is giving a million dollars to establish the School of Behavioral Sciences “Make A Difference” initiative. SDPB’s Amy Varland reports what inspired Dr. Jim Hess to give the money and how he hopes it will benefit students, the Spearfish community, and beyond.

Dr. Jim Hess is the Chair of BHSU’s Behavioral Science department and has been teaching at the university for thirty-two years.

Hess says his gift of a million dollars is for student scholarships. He says he was inspired to give early on.

“I grew up in an environment where my grandmother was frequently pushing that you have to give more than you take and my grandmother lived to be 94 and about fifteen or so years ago I established a scholarship in her name. She only had an eighth grade education and I was the first in my family to be sent to a university to go to school and I just wanted to be able to push her message further along. She’s been gone a long time now but I think she’d smile when she realized that her impact is still giving and I want that to happen long after I’m gone,” says Hess.

Hess says his “Make A Difference” initiative helps students take on community-based projects that they might not have been able to otherwise.

“I want students to make a difference in the lives of other people and so they will be given money for the scholarship but a matching amount of money to do a public service project with either themselves alone or with other students or whatever. Students in college don’t usually have the resources to help make that difference and so this enables them to do that. Therefore I’m hoping that when they graduate and go out there they will continue doing that in the lives of other people in the community or wherever they end up in the world,” says Hess.

Hess says he encourages others to give more than they take.

University officials say the million dollar gift is equivalent to nineteen years of Dr. Hess’ salary.

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