New foundation will benefit college students

New foundation will benefit college students

Olmsted, Monte

A new endowment started by Montana bankers should provide more and larger scholarships to the state’s college students studying finance and banking.

Beginning next year, funds from the Montana Bankers Education Foundation are expected to benefit high-GPA Montana high school graduates attending the state’s secondary schools.

“It’s a super deal, and it’s the best thing ever to happen to us. We’re going to build that dog-gone fund and award a lot of scholarships,” said Bob Sizemore, foundation president and also president of Western Bank of Chinook, N.A.

Because the foundation is an endowment fund, only interest income earned on the principal capital may be used for scholarships, said Cheri Burns, foundation secretary. As of early December, the endowment held $32,000 from six contributors, she said.

The foundation was established in June by the Montana Bankers 25/50 Year Club, a group that honors veteran and retired bankers. The club has awarded student scholarships since 1964. Burns said the permanent endowment will provide scholarships in addition to the seven $750 annual scholarships already given by the 25/50 Year Club.

According to Sizemore, the foundation was started with a $25,000 gift from John T. Vucurevich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of two multibank holding companies. Those companies are the $340 million Billingsbased Citizens Development Co., which operates six banks in Montana, and the $419 million United Bancorp. of Osseo, Wis., which has a bank in Montana, four in Wisconsin, two in South Dakota and one in Iowa.

Vucurevich is well-known for his generosity and has contributed to many charitable, scientific and educational organizations. In 1992, Vucurevich and his wife, Connie, were named South Dakota Philanthropists of the Year.

Connie Vucurevich described her media-shy husband as “very tenderhearted.”

“He’s a real wise businessman and wants very little for himself. He wants to help other people,” she said.

To become a foundation member, a banker must have at least 25 years experience in the industry, Sizemore said. Four types of memberships are available including one for which bankers pay $50 annual dues. Lifetime memberships also may be acquired with contributions of $500, $1,000 or $5,000.

More bankers are likely to contribute to the endowment because of recent tax breaks, Sizemore said. In 1997, the Montana legislature created a tax credit to stimulate greater giving to permanent endowments of state charities. The law provides a credit against Montana income taxes of 50 percent of the contribution, up to a maximum $10,000 credit per year.

For example, Sizemore noted that when a bank makes a $5,000 endowment contribution, the net cost is $1,750 after state and federal tax credits. The foundation’s goal is to have members from every one of Montana’s more than 90 banks.

“We’re going to do some big things with this,” said Sizemore. “We can get up to 30 annual scholarships. Hopefully, we can get to 50.”

Copyright NFR Communications Inc Dec 19, 1998

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