Naples couple Lee and Penny Anderson have financially supported the Naples Winter Wine Festival since 2002, one year after it was created. Now they’ve made history for the largest ever donation to a university in Minnesota, one neither of them attended.
Your $75 million gift to the private Catholic University of St. Thomas will help build a new hockey and basketball arena.
The Andersons are from Minnesota, but have retired to Naples. Although they did not attend St. Thomas, they both grew up in the nearby Twin Cities community college. Lee says the school has “a wonderful purpose and mission.”
Lee and Penny have donated $140 million to the school since 1993. After the new stadium is completed in the fall of 2025, there will be four Anderson-named buildings on campus.
“The thing about the Andersons is that while they have helped make incredibly beautiful buildings possible, for them it is never about the buildings,” said Rob Vischer, president of the University. “This is about the students, and they know that having a campus that is beautiful, welcoming and comfortable is key to being a place where students grow and build relationships and find a home and develop both personally and professionally.”
Vischer says the new arena will allow St. Thomas to elevate its Division 1 athletics and make a national name for its hockey and basketball teams.
But Lee didn’t donate his millions because he has a vested interest in sports. He says that he wanted to give the school what they needed the most.
“When they went to Division 1, the requirement is to have much better facilities,” Lee said. “They’ve been hard at work building the stadium, so it wasn’t the fact that it was a sport, it was just what they’re building today. Penny and I have enjoyed the association with that school and felt like we’d like to do something more with them.”
Vischer has known the Andersons for 18 years. In that time, he says, they have become the largest donors in the university’s 138-year history.
“They are the best kind of benefactors because they care deeply about our mission,” Vischer said.
The Andersons continually donate to the Naples Winter Wine Festival, as Lee says it’s his favorite cause in Naples. Proceeds from the festival go directly to the Naples Children and Education Foundation. The Andersons have worked with festival organizers for more than 20 years.
“Lee and Penny are wonderful,” said NCEF Executive Director María Jiménez-Lara. “They are great philanthropists in the many communities in which they live. I think they are the example of what it really means to make a difference in life. of a child and in the betterment of the community”.
Lee plans to expand into another cause soon: NCH’s new Heart, Vascular and Stroke Institute.
“Most of our charitable giving has been in Minnesota, although we are also interested in medical science,” Lee said. “We are very interested in the Naples hospital project. We’ll probably end up giving into that too. I know we will.