ORONO, Minnesota, December 10, 2021 — Today The Orono Foundation for Education (OFE) announced that it received an unprecedented $1,000,000 gift from anonymous donors. The gift is the largest in OFE’s 20-year history and is believed to be the largest single gift from an individual to a public school in Minnesota history. 

 The gift resulted in the creation of the Orono Educator Excellence Fund. The fund will provide resources for Orono educators to create new modes of delivering education and develop a deeper understanding of teaching excellence through professional development and other means. The input of Orono educators will be sought to determine how the funds are spent. 

 “Our intention with this gift is to transform the vision, resources and innovation in teaching excellence that dramatically improves the quality of education for every Orono student,” said the donors. “Enabling and motivating teachers and staff to innovate and develop a deeper understanding of teaching excellence which will have a direct impact on the education of thousands of students for decades.” 

The gift was made in honor of Dr. Karen Orcutt, who served as Orono’s Superintendent of schools for more than 17 years. “Dr. Orcutt was a big proponent of investing in the Orono staff,” said the donors. “We wanted to make this gift to mark Dr.Orcutt’s retirement and her tremendous contributions to Orono Schools while also ensuring that her commitment to teaching excellence lives on.” 

A deeply rooted belief that education improves lives has inspired the donors — who are long-time OFE supporters — to give their time, talent and treasure to the Foundation year after year. Their own passion for excellence was the most significant factor in their decision to allocate 100 percent of this gift toward the advancement of teaching excellence for the Orono Schools. 

The funds will be released over a 15-year period to ensure the Orono Schools have guaranteed dollars dedicated to enhancing educators’ knowledge and skills. State funding has not kept pace with inflation for decades and has been a contributor to budget shortfalls in the majority of public school districts throughout Minnesota. Schools are under pressure to bring innovation to challenges facing Minnesota, such as the widening achievement gap, accessibility of technology and reliable broadband, and the rising need for special education services to name a few. 

“OFE is honored and inspired to be chosen as stewards of such a transformational gift,” said OFE Chair Robin Caneff Gipson. “OFE hopes this gift will inspire others to give and support other shortfalls in school funding.”


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