David Anderson '67
David Anderson has been a member of Minnehaha Academy’s Board of Trustees since 2008 and its Chair since 2012—including on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017, the day of the explosion. Normally, the Board of Trustees meets five times a year. The year after the explosion, it met 15-20 times, starting on Saturday, August 5th. David states the Board was willing to meet whenever needed, because there were so many critically important issues to decide concerning the future of the School. The Board includes people with different and wide-ranging expertise and every member brought their individual experience and wisdom to the discussion. “Everyone on the Board pulled together in a remarkable way. I don’t recall any decision that was not unanimous even though there were many difficult things to think about and to act on,” David says.
There were several questions that the Board needed to consider and decide, including:
Should we move the entire School to a new location?
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, the Trustees decided that all options should be considered and that they should not rush headlong into rebuilding in the same spot “just because.” They realized that MA did not have all of the amenities a college prep school ideally would have, partly because the School does not own sufficient acreage. The Board explored moving the entire School and considered available buildings and vacant parcels of land. The Trustees concluded there was not enough time under the circumstances: holding school in a temporary location for more than a couple of years would present a potential existential crisis. Because of this time crunch only then currently available buildings and parcels could be considered. None of them fulfilled the Board’s requirements. In addition, it was not feasible to raise the necessary funds for such a project in the time available.
The Board also retained experts in real estate and construction for consultation. They advised that the demographic trend of migration to the core city would continue, making the current location advantageous. The Board, of course, felt the pull of the School’s history and was acutely aware that MA occupies some of the most beautiful acreage in the Twin Cities. So in the end, the Board decided to rebuild on the West River Parkway property.
Why not rebuild the same blueprint of the previous school?
David says, “The biggest factor was that the school was antiquated for 21st century learning.” Education is now delivered vastly differently than it was in 1913 when the School was built, or even 30 years ago. Classrooms were tiny and portions of the old building were mismatched. The Board wanted to build a leading edge 21st century facility instead of copying what was a century old. After the explosion, no part of the original school existed and the only parts of the second renovation still standing were the chapel and the gymnasium. “It didn’t make sense to rebuild an outmoded facility.” David says. “This new building is intentionally larger than the old one, it will accommodate a better learning environment, and fit a larger student body.”
Why raise more money if we are getting an insurance settlement?
“The measure of damages under the insurance policy is to rebuild the same thing that you lost,” David says. In other words, the amount of recovery was not sufficient to build a larger modern building, but only to recreate a replica of the original building. In addition, part of the insurance proceeds was earmarked for non-building expenses. “A fair portion of the settlement related to expenses associated with the immediate recovery from the explosion: the transition to the Mendota campus, the fitting out of the Mendota campus, the additional transportation costs that related to being at a place eight miles from MA, and all of the extras that went into getting a temporary replacement facility up and running. That, or course, meant those dollars were not available to fund the new permanent facility,” David says.
God uniquely positions people “for such a time as this.” He placed certain people in leadership on August 2nd. David was uniquely positioned as the Chair of the Board, an alumnus, and a long-term supporter of MA to lead the Board and our MA community forward through a very difficult time. He saw MA through the second of its hardest seasons in over 100 years. “During the Great Depression, enrollment declined to 35 students, which was another tough time,” David says.
To Fellow Alums
“We have reached an important halfway point in the first phase of the campaign, but we are still working to fulfill the mission. There is more to build. There is enrollment to enlarge. There is financial stability to achieve. There is Kingdom impact to enhance. This is not the end of the journey. It is an important waypoint, but there is much more to do.”