Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford Donates $100 Million to the National University System to Promote and Advance the Sanford Harmony Social Emotional Learning Program Worldwide

Donation represents an unprecedented recognition of social emotional learning and its capacity to address underlying issues contributing to bullying, school violence and poor gender relations; Goal is for every school child in the nation to have access to Sanford Harmony research-based relationship-building strategies

Washington, D.C., – In support of the well-being of future generations, South Dakotan and entrepreneur T. Denny Sanford, one of the country’s most generous philanthropists, is donating an unprecedented $100 million to the private, nonprofit National University System to make social emotional learning available to every child nationwide in the PreK-6 grades. The funding allows the System to dramatically expand the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program, which is based on the vision of Mr. Sanford and offers a comprehensive toolkit of life-transforming lessons and strategies emphasizing diversity and inclusion; empathy and critical thinking; communication; problem-solving; and peer relationships. As announced today, the gift allows for the program, which is currently reaching more than 1 million students, to impact up to 30 million students nationally and around the world, ensuring access to research-based strategies that are demonstrated to increase academic achievement and empathy and decrease stereotyping, bullying and aggression.

Through its focus on relationship-building skills, Sanford Harmony aims to address some of the underlying issues that are challenging society and schools, and it extends support of social emotional learning in new, innovative ways. The program has been recognized as a quality SELect program by CASEL, the nation’s premier organization that evaluates social emotional learning programs, and has also been evaluated for its ease of implementation by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Research and Reform in Education, expanding on the initial research that indicated reductions in stereotyping and classroom aggression and increases in pro-social behavior.

"Denny Sanford is a truly remarkable individual who believes strongly in the power of supportive, collaborative relationships to strengthen families, communities and society at large,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the National University System, a network of nonprofit education institutions that serves lifelong learners from PreK to doctoral level “Denny’s vision of creating a better world starts with addressing these issues at the youngest ages, and it could not come at a more crucial time when the nation faces increasing challenges in our schools, homes and in the workplace.”

This is the largest gift to the National University System, which since 2014, has been the base of Sanford Harmony, and two other fully developed programs inspired by the vision of Mr. Sanford – Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. The recent gift, which will go primarily to Sanford Harmony expansion, launches a new era and integrated approach to supporting social emotional learning: “The long-term goals of the program are to ultimately reduce divorce, abuse and bullying and increase cooperation, collaboration, respect and inclusion among all children,” said Mr. Sanford. “The response and acceptance from teachers nationwide is overwhelming, and it gives me great confidence knowing that these young children will grow up to have stronger and healthier relationships into their adult lives.”

Through the gift, the Sanford Harmony Research Institute will be created with an inaugural class of fellows from leading research institutions, and deliver annual research projects and findings with the potential to impact millions of lives. In addition, the gift includes elements that bridge the values and mission of the other two Sanford programs, in particular Sanford Inspire, with its focus on helping teachers create inspiring classroom experiences through access to research-based online modules and lessons. Through the new gift, scholarships and awards will be provided to help teachers further their education while specializing in social emotional learning, and to recognize excellent teachers.

Already reaching schools in all 50 states in the country, the gift will make the program available to every public school and nonprofit organization that serves PreK-6 children. It will also make the program accessible through new, innovative approaches such as online learning and game-based apps. It supports expanding Sanford Harmony globally by adding, in addition to the current Spanish language edition, editions in Vietnamese, Mandarin and Portuguese. The program will expand its alignment with after school programs, day care facilities and developing parent-specific tools to reinforce the lessons, as a result of increased demand from student families.

The donation from Mr. Sanford brings total funding to date for the programs, since being affiliated with National University System, to approximately $170 million, which comes through a combination of donations from Mr. Sanford, Dr. Cunningham, anonymous donors and matching funds from National University itself.

The Sanford Harmony program, which is based on eight years of research at Arizona State University’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, is based on Mr. Sanford’s desire to improve relationships among children into adulthood, the program is being adopted by public and private schools, Boys and Girls Clubs and Magnet Schools of America. It is also being expanded in three of the five largest school districts in the country: New York City, where in partnership with Long Island University the program is in the process of reaching more than 200,000 students; as well as in Los Angeles and Clark County, Nevada. The National University System is leading the nationwide expansion of the programs through collaborations with more than a dozen other universities and numerous school districts around the country.

About the National University System
The National University System is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions serving higher education and K-12 students that includes National University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle, and the Division of Pre-College Programs. Established in 2001 to meet the emerging challenges and demands of education in the 21st Century, the network’s complementary universities offer pathways for students to attain professional and terminal degrees through quality and innovative programs delivered in a format that is flexible to the needs of adult learners. The anchor institution, National University, was founded in in 1971 and is among the largest private, nonprofit institutions of higher education in California with more than 150,000 alumni. For more information on the National University System:

About the Sanford Education Center and Sanford College of Education at National University
The Sanford Education Center at National University was established in 2014 through the generous support of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to provide innovative programs in the nonprofit and PreK-12 sectors. The Center, in coordination with universities around the country, is leading the national expansion of three initiatives: Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. The Center’s initiatives are supported by the National University System, National University, and the University’s Sanford College of Education, which is named after Mr. Sanford in recognition of his role in developing and supporting programs that promote prosocial behavior among children. The College is among the Top Ten largest schools of education in the country and prepares more teachers than any other university in the state of California. Learn more: