SD farmer, businesswoman leaves $12.3M to U of M

8:47 AM, Jun 6, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Who says there's no money in farming?

Certainly not the University of Minnesota (U of M), which will receive more than $12 million from the estate of Millicent Atkins, a successful farmer and businesswoman who owned prime farm land near Aberdeen, S.D.

The distribution will come in 2022 but until then the U of M, one of three beneficiaries of a trust created in Atkins' estate, will receive one-third of the trust's annual income.

Atkins' gift has been designated for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) by Atkins, but is otherwise unrestricted.

"Ms. Atkins has placed a great deal of trust in our college to use her gift as we think best," said Allen Levine, dean of the college. "We are concerned about the financial burden of getting an education and the impact it has on students and their families, so increasing support for undergraduate and graduate students is a priority for the college. Millicent Atkins' generosity will have a significant impact in helping students."

"It's a unique and remarkable gift that comes with no restrictions, allowing the dean to be responsive to immediate needs and strategic opportunities," said University President Eric Kaler. "The University of Minnesota is honored to play a part in Ms. Atkins' legacy, and we plan to make the most of her outstanding generosity and honor the spirit in which it was given."

Atkins was born in 1919 and lived most of her life near Columbia, a small town east of Aberdeen. She grew up on a farm settled by her grandparents and attended the University of Minnesota for one year, eventually obtaining a teaching degree at Northern State University in South Dakota.

She followed in the footsteps of her father, Fred Atkins, as a land owner and farm manager, eventually owning more than 4,100 acres of prime farmland in Brown County, S.D.

A woman in what is largely still a man's world, Atkins was known for being very smart about the value of the land she purchased. She worked closely with her tenants and kept up with farming practices through reading and talking to others in the business.

Atkins was an only child, never married and had no children or close relatives. The U of M learned of the gift after her death in July 2012 at age 93.

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