Press Room – Engelstad Foundation


A $1.9 million grant from the Engelstad Foundation has been awarded to Communities in Schools of Nevada to help at-risk students stay on track for graduation and fight chronic absenteeism of younger students.

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Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health has been selected to receive a $500,000 donation from The Engelstad Foundation to support its Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program.

This is the second gift The Engelstad Foundation has made to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s GME program, marking a total contribution of $1 million. The funds will be used to support training for eight post-graduate neurology and neuropsychology fellows.

“Given that 70% of physicians practice medicine within the community where they completed their GME, we believe the most efficient way to bring top-tier talent to southern Nevada is to offer high-demand medical education programs,” said Dylan Wint, M.D., NV Energy Chair for Brain Health Education at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “I am grateful for this generous gift from The Engelstad Foundation as it allows us to do just that. It is wonderful to have a community partner that shares a passion for expanding health education opportunities, and is committed to increasing the medical talent in the Las Vegas community.”


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In the News

Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 25, 2020: 

CSN reaches $6M target to fund health sciences building

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nov. 26, 2019: 

Private donors will fund new home for UNLV medical school.

Grand Forks Herald, Sept. 23, 2019: 

North County Food Bank received $200,000 grant.

 Nevada Business Magazine, Aug. 1, 2019: 

2019 Women to Watch.

Improving education in Nevada will require systematic changes

By Kris Engelstad

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 | 2 a.m.

Education Week recently came out with its latest Quality Counts report card, ranking states by their public education systems. For the first time in four years, Nevada was not ranked last. Instead, the Silver State is now next-to-last (sorry there, New Mexico).

Some are celebrating this uptick, while rankings and studies galore — like U.S. News and World Report ranking our education system 45th in the nation — continue to position us at or near the bottom.

While there are certainly victories stemming from our hardworking teachers, administrators, community leaders, select politicians, parents and kids, there is a crossover component — spanning K-12 and higher education — that continues to fail us all.

That crossover is that our bureaucratic systems simply don’t work. At all.

At its core, the educational landscape in the Silver State is dominated by antiquated administrative structures that lack in production and can certainly be a lot better. And until these are either wiped clean or drastically refreshed, we’ll continue to get graded with F’s and low rankings, no matter how hard we collectively try.

On the higher education front, we’re finalizing an amendment to the state Constitution to change the structure of Nevada’s regents and how they interact with the universities. That change is emerging through a legislative path and a new chapter is on the horizon.

Our K-12 schools are a different systematic concern. Look at the Clark County School District, for example, which is the fifth-largest school district in the U.S., with more than 300,000 enrolled students.

As a starter, we need to explore how people are elected to its school board. Right now, anyone can run for office — which doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to read a balance sheet or have a background in the educational space whatsoever. The result of this structure is that schools aren’t getting the tools they need and the bureaucracy is too big.

Jesus Jara, superintendent of CCSD, is one of the best things to happen to the district in a very long time. He can only do so much, though, and can only work within the confines or system that has been in place for far too long.

We owe the children a quality education — one that, at a minimum, prepares them for a profession or to attend a university and be able to perform. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “Are we in business for our students or something else?”

I, and so many others, want to see a measurable change — true graduation rates, true proficiency rates and seeing kids come out of here better prepared and hopefully staying here.

Until there is this systematic change, we need to hold folks accountable. I’m in the business of philanthropy and there’s a concentrated, genuine effort to try to improve what we see as deficiencies. If we can do something, we’re ready to help.

Some of my proudest philanthropic accomplishments have been right here in Las Vegas. We’re up to 80-plus students graduating from our Engelstad Scholars program at UNLV. I met with our most recent class a few weeks ago, and so many of them are the first in their family to attend college. Many of them say it’s important for them to earn a living so they can take care of their parents and family. These are the kids who are making a full effort and conscious choice to change their future.

I also see nonprofits like Spread the Word Nevada growing an organization from a small space into a massive operation, putting books in the hands of thousands of kids. And there are so many stories of folks in the educational space wanting and producing good things.

With a fundamental shift in Nevada’s archaic educational systems, we can see these results amplified.

Kris Engelstad is trustee of the Engelstad Foundation.

Resolution thanks Engelstad family for ‘their generosity’

The North Dakota Legislature is extending a “thank you” to Engelstad family for “their generosity on behalf of all North Dakotans.”

House Concurrent Resolution 3042 recognizes the donation by the late Ralph Engelstad that made the Ralph Engelstad Arena possible. The resolution calls The Ralph the “finest facility of its kind in the world.”

The resolution also recognizes the donation made by Ralph Engelstad’s daughter, Kris Engelstad and the Engelstad Foundation “for a state-of-the-art video display,” which will be placed in the Ralph next season.

“The Ralph Engelstad Arena and its related facility, the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, benefit all North Dakotans,” the resolution states.

The resolution has sponsors of Grand Forks legislators Jake Blum, Emily O’Brien, Ray Holmberg, Scott Meyer, Mark Owens, Mark Sanford, JoNell Bakke, Corey Mock and Curt Kreun. Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo is also sponsoring the bill.

“The Sixty-sixth Legislative Assembly extends a ‘thank you’ and a deep appreciation from all North Dakota citizens to Kris Engelstad and her mother, Betty Engelstad,” the resolution reads.

Engelstad Scholars Give Back to the Community

In her first semester at UNLV, Krizel Sagun enrolled in the New Scholar Course for incoming Engelstad Scholars and gained an entirely new way of thinking. “It was so eye-opening; it changed the way I think about the world around me,” she says.

Now in her last semester, she’s helping to teach those same lessons in social change to incoming scholars.

“You start with this course and go on to do community service. It gives you broader perspective. That’s what this program is all about: Helping you to look outside of yourself,” said Sagun, who plans to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a minor in neuroscience.

Giving back is at the heart of the Engelstad Scholars Program. Established by the Engelstad Foundation in 2009 through a gift to UNLV of $12.6 million, the program helps students in need — and asks that they help others. Scholars are required to contribute 100 hours a year to local nonprofit agencies. Since the program’s inception, scholars have logged more than 32,000 hours of community service.

The program is making a huge impact not only in the lives of the 170-plus UNLV students who have received its support so far, but also to thousands of people touched by its growing network of non-profit partners. The program originated with just four nonprofit placement sites for its scholars. Today, 24 local organizations and their clients will benefit from partnerships with the Engelstad Scholars Program.

For Sagun, an Honors College student who plans to become a pediatrician in Las Vegas, volunteering with elementary school students at Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus was profound.

“I worked with kids in need to help them believe that they can go to college one day. It’s an option some of them didn’t know they have.

“When I started in the program, I was super shy and anxious in social situations,” Sagan said. “Being an Engelstad Scholar taught me to come out of my shell and look for opportunities to help others.”

Simon Keith Foundation’s with annual golf tournament and dinner.

Simon Keith, the first athlete in the world to play a professional sport (soccer) after receiving a heart transplant, hosted his fifth annual golf tournament and dinner on Friday, Oct. 5. The event benefits children who have undergone life-saving organ transplants and to increase organ donor awareness.

The Simon Keith Foundation organized the event at the Revere Golf Club in Henderson, with a grant from the Engelstad Family Foundation for the tournament.

The Foundation honors an organ transplant recipient each year: Osker Gamboa received a heart transplant on April 30, 2017, and continued his studies at Somerset Academy in North Las Vegas.

An entourage made up of Keith, family, friends, and school/board staff surprised Gamboa at an assembly. Las Vega Mayor Carolyn Goodman proclaimed Friday, Oct 5, 2018, as Osker Gamboa Day.

Changing the Trajectory of Lives

Photo of Kris Engelstad McGarry

Kris Engelstad and the Engelstad Family Foundation are helping make the dreams of dozens of UNLV School of Medicine students come true.

People | Oct 10, 2018 | By UNLV School of Medicine

How do you thank someone who plays a major role in helping you achieve one of your life’s dreams?

You say, “Thank you.”

That’s what 57 UNLV School of Medicine students did recently when they met the woman who is paying for their medical school education.

Kris Engelstad and the Engelstad Family Foundation funded a $100,000 scholarship for each student because she believes in the school’s mission of increasing the number of doctors and improving health care in Southern Nevada.

Walking into the room and seeing them sitting there, Kris Engelstad says, “made me feel hopeful and encouraged. Too often I get caught up in politics and governance, and while that matters, meeting these young people face-to-face was a reminder that it’s really all about the students.”
Profound Gratitude

For the students, many of whom wouldn’t be able to afford medical school if it weren’t for the scholarships, this was an opportunity to express their deep gratitude to the person who’s helping change the trajectory of their lives.

Enes Djesevic, one of six students chosen to speak at the event, was sitting in the front of the room about 10 feet from Kris Engelstad, when he abruptly stopped his presentation and said, “You know, I would really just like to give you a hug!”

The room erupted into applause as the noted philanthropist embraced Djesevic, who would later make it clear “I’m not normally a hugger.”

First-generation college students don’t “normally” go to medical school either. But dozens of them are enrolled in the UNLV School of Medicine, thanks to generous donors like Engelstad. To her, the scholarships represent an open door that allows high achievers from economically disadvantaged families to walk through, competing on a more level playing field — eventually becoming doctors, and "changing their family trees," as Engelstad said.

“Everybody in medical school is smart. It takes a special kind of person to succeed despite being told ‘no’ your entire life.”
Student Stories

Students Robert Vargas and Kathie Velez told Kris Engelstad that medical school would have been “completely out of the question” if it weren’t for the scholarships. Velez, who has worked year-round since she was 16 to help support her family, became emotional explaining what the scholarship means to her. This time, Engelstad was the one who initiated a hug.

Second-year student Lauren Hollifield presented Engelstad with a collage featuring photos of the students. Later, Engelstad would realize that the Hollifield sisters — Lauren, class of 2021 and Carmen, class of 2022 — went to high school with her son. So, the mixer succeeded in making fundamental connections between Engelstad scholarship recipients and the woman herself.

“Robert Vargas was adorable during his presentation,”Engelstad said. “He was an Engelstad Scholar as an undergrad at UNLV and now he’s an Engelstad Scholar at the medical school. He’s first generation. He’s a good example of what we’re trying to do — help good kids to great things.”

The scholarships not only help attract the best and the brightest, but they also protect students from feeling the crushing weight of student loans. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median medical school debt is $180,000. After interest, total repayment can reach upward of $400,000. Heavy debt often causes students to select higher paying specialties, which contributes to the lack of primary care physicians.
Serving Others

At UNLV School of Medicine, students spend their first six weeks speaking to residents and learning about medical needs in some of the more distressed neighborhoods of Las Vegas.

“They’re doing community service because they have to,” Engelstad said. “But the hope is they will continue their work in these neighborhoods because knowing the challenges people face will help them become better doctors.” The UNLV School of Medicine is one of the only medical schools in the country where community service is required all four years.

Engelstad joked that she hopes the students will remember her as she gets older and may need medical attention. That brought another rise out of the students, who seemed quite eager to put in the necessary work so they can get busy returning the favor.

Ralph Engelstad Arena Distributes $1 Million to The University of North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (August 27, 2018) – Ralph Engelstad Arena (REA) announced today its annual distribution to the University of North Dakota (UND) in the amount of $1 million.

“This significant figure marks our continued commitment to UND and the surrounding community,” said Kris Engelstad of the Engelstad Foundation. “This commitment has lasted for 60-plus years, stemming from my parents’ passion for UND and extending well into our present-day efforts to support and enhance all that the university has to offer.”

The distribution – an amount that may vary or fluctuate annually – is part of a continued usage agreement between REA and UND running through June 30, 2020.

About Engelstad Foundation

The Engelstad 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. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided more than $300 million in grants to organizations focused on animal compassion, at-risk individuals, education, historical preservation, medical research and support, people with disabilities and veterans. 

For Engelstad Foundation

The Firm Public Relations & Marketing – 702-739-9933

Jasen Woehrle – ext. 234,

Jesse Scott – ext. 228,

The University of North Dakota and Ralph Engelstad Arena Announce Usage Agreement through June 2020

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (June 20, 2018) – The University of North Dakota (UND) and Ralph Engelstad Arena announced today that they have agreed to terms on a new three-year usage agreement, which runs retroactively from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.

“My staff and I will continue working with UND to maximize the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Engelstad’s gift for the benefit of UND’s student-athletes, coaches, and fans,” said Jody Hodgson, General Manager at Ralph Engelstad Arena. “The terms and conditions in the Usage Agreement provide the platform for a mutually beneficial relationship and we’re focused on making the most of the opportunity for all involved.”

“We’re committed to a positive and productive relationship with UND,” added Kris Engelstad of the Engelstad Foundation. “The staff at Ralph Engelstad Arena will continue their good work in maximizing the opportunity provided by my parents for UND, its students, student-athletes, coaches, the community of Grand Forks and citizens of the broader region.”

This usage agreement serves as the operating agreement that outlines the relationship between UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena, relative to UND’s use of the Ralph Engelstad Arena Sports Complex for UND Athletics events and activities. The new usage agreement includes some minor administrative and operational changes, but the material terms and conditions are similar to those in the prior agreement, which expired on June 30, 2017.

“It is an honor to be a member of the Ralph Engelstad Arena Board of Directors and to engage in an enterprise which benefits UND Athletics programs, its student-athletes, our community and our state,” said Jed Shivers, UND VP Finance and Operations / COO. “I plan to be fully engaged in a being a thoughtful and responsible member of the Board. Even as a newcomer, I am grateful for the support that the Engelstad family and the Engelstad Foundation have shown in the past and look forward to collaborating productively. The new Usage Agreement is a good example of that.”
The new usage agreement will see UND pay Ralph Engelstad Arena an annual amount to use the Sports Complex based on splits of ticket revenue and sponsorship revenue. The revenue retained by Ralph Engelstad Arena from ticket sales and sponsorship sales is the money that Ralph Engelstad Arena receives from UND in exchange for the access, services, and labor that Ralph Engelstad Arena provides to UND each year.

At the end of each year, Ralph Engelstad Arena funds a capital reserve fund for extraordinary repairs, maintenance, and building enhancements as well as an operating reserve fund to cover unanticipated operating expenses, and then allocates the balance of its annual net income to UND Athletics.

About Ralph Engelstad Arena
Ralph Engelstad Arena is home to the University of North Dakota’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and soccer programs. The arena is named after Mr. Ralph Engelstad, an alumnus of the school that privately funded the construction of the facility. Since its opening in 2001, over 7 million fans have come through the doors to sporting events, family shows, and concerts at Ralph Engelstad Arena. For additional information, visit

About Engelstad Foundation
The Engelstad 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. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided more than $300 million in grants to organizations focused on animal compassion, at-risk individuals, education, historical preservation, medical research and support, people with disabilities and veterans. For additional information, visit

About University of North Dakota
The oldest and largest institution of higher learning in the state, the University of North Dakota is the chief opportunity engine for North Dakota and our students. UND’s mission is to provide transformative learning, discovery and community engagement opportunities for developing tomorrow’s leaders. Rated one of the top 25 most innovative universities in the nation, UND continues toward its vision of becoming the premier flagship university in the northern plains.


Media Contacts:

Ralph Engelstad Arena

Jody Hodgson – 701-777-6633,


For Engelstad Foundation

The Firm Public Relations & Marketing – 702-739-9933

Jasen Woehrle – ext. 234,

Jesse Scott – ext. 228,