History – Engelstad Foundation

The Engelstad Family Foundation was created in 2002 by Ralph & Betty Engelstad for the purpose of partnering to create solutions in medical research, improving day to day living for people with disabilities and raising the possibilities for high risk individuals.

Ralph Engelstad’s first partnership has remained his best…

in 1953 he won the heart of his best friend. Soon he and Betty Stocker were wed and began their lives together in North Dakota. Five years later they welcomed their daughter Kris.

In 1962 Ralph moved his family and Engelstad Construction to Las Vegas where he invested in land. A smart move, of course. Ralph’s contracting background gave him the tools to make a name for himself as one of the largest single landholders in the United States.

“Never fall in love with a piece of dirt!”
As Ralph liked to say, “Never fall in love with a piece of dirt!” He purchased land, improved it, built on it and then sold it.

Ralph became the owner of the Thunderbird Airport in the 1960’s, eventually selling the facility and surrounding land to Howard Hughes. This hefty transaction with Hughes helped solidify Ralph’s real dream of building and operating a new kind of hotel & casino.

In 1979, the Imperial Palace opened its doors as one of the largest privately owned hotels in the world. Following the success of the IP, Ralph also opened a second location in Biloxi, Mississippi. Both Ralph & Betty worked hard, he at the office and her managing the home front, knowing that all that work was undoubtedly sprinkled with good luck.

But as they experienced greater and greater luck, they became more aware of those in the community who were down on their luck. It was at this time that the couple began giving hope in small ways.

Relatively unheard of at the time, Mr. Engelstad hired mentally disabled individuals to work at Imperial Palace. This also began the family’s involvement with Opportunity Village. The giving continued to grow as Ralph, an avid reader, began to learn about people in other states needing help. He would find ways to give it to them, even if it meant letting the person in need live with his family. Their daughter Kris was soon brought more into the fold, when her father began sending her out and about to meet with people whom her father had read about. Always as an incognito representative, Kris began to truly understand what her parents had been doing so quietly for so many years.

Their charitable giving has continued to grow. The family continues their involvement throughout the Las Vegas community as well as back in their home state of North Dakota.

In 2002 the Engelstad Family Foundation was formed. Ralph set the bar high and even though we lost him more than a decade ago, Betty and Kris continue to expand upon the work that he began.

In the past 13 years, Betty and Kris have grown the Engelstad Family Foundation’s presence by focusing on education, healthcare and childhood issues. Their contributions span the states of North Dakota, Mississippi, Utah and Nevada.