Her Legacy Continues
Fund honoring Ruth Edevold, our founding executive director, is reinvested in NMF general endowment
New approaches. New ideas. Original thinker. People skills.
As the board of the Northwest Minnesota Initiative Fund sought its first executive director in 1986, these were the attributes they sought in a successful candidate – and ultimately found in Ruth Edevold.
For more than 13 years, Ruth led the organization with passion and purpose.
“She very much was a visionary,” said Jeanne Edevold Larson, Ruth’s daughter, an executive director herself, at the Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji. “(She) could really see invisible connections between things, that the historical society is just as important as a health center is, just as important as a strong school system is, just as important as a homeless shelter is, that all of those things interact in a way that creates interesting people, places that are good to live and raise a family, that quality of life.”
Jeanne recalled rehearsing with Ruth in advance of her interview with the initiative fund’s board of directors.
“She really wanted it,” she remembered. “She could imagine it.”
Bishop Victor H. Balke, a founding board member of the Northwest Minnesota Initiative Fund, recalled Ruth as a very “gentle leader.”
“Board members had high confidence in her ability to obtain consensus among us,” he wrote in an email to NMF. “All in all, she was a lovely person and a very capable director.”
One of the first things Ruth did as the director of the initiative fund was to develop a staff of professionals who shared her commitment to excellence.
“(Ruth) took a deep, personal interest in the applications we received,” Bishop Balke wrote in his email. “She treated each applicant with great respect.”
Over a dozen years, the fledgling organization grew to become a regional asset, and much can be credited to Ruth’s vision and her capacity to build consensus, leverage partnerships, and nurture a quality team.
In October 1999, at age 60, Ruth died unexpectedly. Her family used memorials and donations to start a donor-advised fund within the Foundation. “We were humbled by the level of generosity and sympathy expressed by so many who mourned her death,” Jeanne said. “We hoped it could help keep her legacy alive.”
After 22 years, the family is pleased to return the funds to the Foundation’s core endowment. The donor-advised fund was closed in September, as NMF accepted the donation of $84,728.
“We’re grateful for the Board and staff and their commitment to Ruth’s vision; after all these years, we are so proud to see her work live on,” Jeanne concluded. “So much more can be accomplished if we pool our resources; it makes sense to invest in what she loved doing.”
Note: The Northwest Minnesota Foundation renamed its Awards of Excellence in Ruth’s honor. The fund that administers these awards — the Ruth Edevold Awards of Excellence — will continue, as efforts will long last to celebrate and recognize leaders, nonprofits, business, and agencies throughout the Northwest Minnesota region.