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Certain students at MSU will be sharing $1.1 million in scholarships thanks to a donation by a 1979 alum, announced Wednesday by retiring MSU President Richard Davenport

MANKATO — A Glenwood man who credits the encouragement from Minnesota State University professors for his business success is donating $1.1 million for scholarships to current and future MSU students.

The announcement of the donation by Steve Klick and his wife, Mary, was set to coincide with the final day in office of retiring MSU President Richard Davenport.

Klick said news about Davenport’s June 30 retirement prompted memories of how former College of Business professors C. Richard Paulson and Alfred W. Schoennauer encouraged him as an MSU graduate student to use his creativity and entrepreneurial skills. Those recollections inspired him to give a gift to the university in honor of those who supported his journey, according to the announcement by MSU.

Steve Klick received an MBA degree from Minnesota State in 1979 and then started a software company that he owned for 26 years before selling it in 2007.

The $1.1 million donation will support students seeking graduate degrees in business, nursing and engineering as well as undergraduates in MSU’s aviation program and other undergraduates through Presidential Scholar awards.

Klick said he hopes the students who benefit from the scholarship funds “will return to rural America and create a renaissance.”

Priority consideration will be given to applicants who are current or former military members and to applicants from towns of less than 10,000 people that are within a 125-mile radius of Glenwood. Glenwood is a Pope County community about 15 miles south of Alexandria.

Fifty percent of the Klicks’ gift is targeted toward graduate scholarships in the three specified programs. Another 25 percent will go to undergraduate aviation scholarships, and 25 percent will support Presidential Scholar awards in accounting, education, engineering and nursing.

Steve Klick said he is grateful to MSU and the professors in the university’s MBA program who believed in him and helped him graduate after he transferred into the program. Following his departure from MSU, Klick became an entrepreneur and — with his family’s support — started Dairyland Computer and Consulting Company, which sold software to rural hospitals. The business grew to employ 500 people under Klick’s ownership.

The business was in trouble in its early days, saved only when Klick’s mother came to the rescue, according to the Klick Family Foundation webpage.

“During March of 1981, Mr. Klick’s young business was in danger of going out of business,” according to the webpage. “After she realized that an emergency existed, Steve’s mother invited him to his hometown and while he was there, she gave him her entire life savings to help his business move forward.”

Klick was able to pay his mother back in full three years later on her 70th birthday: “... However, when he tried to pay the interest on the note, his mother would not hear of it and was actually offended. She said, ‘You don’t understand one thing you hear in church on Sunday. There is not interest between family members since it was a gift from God that I had the money to lend in the first place.’”

The Klick Foundation was created in 2007 in memory of his mother’s generosity, with Klick setting aside assets of $12.5 million to provide grants to a variety of causes over the ensuing 25 years. The grants have been targeted at economic development in Pope County, scholarships and summer STEM camps for youth.

“I was taken aback and moved by the personal story of Steve’s life,” said Davenport as he ended a 19-year run as president — the third-longest tenure of any president in MSU’s history. “The Klicks are very humble and caring people wanting to give back in ways that will help many students. We are extremely thankful to Steve and Mary Klick for this financial gift.”

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