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Empowering Futures: Ty and Michelle Orton Scholarship

Updated: Jul 8

As Executive Director of the DSU Heritage Foundation, Ty Orton is the face of the Foundation; the person most responsible for bringing the scholarship fundraising arm of the University back from the precipice in eight short years.

But Ty and his wife, Michelle, are more than that. They are also benefactors of the Ty and Michelle Orton Endowed Scholarship at Dickinson State University. They have a soft spot for junior college basketball players.

“Our scholarship is dedicated to basketball players – men or women – going into physical education, and they must be junior college transfers,” Orton said. “We had several endowments in other places, but for everything DSU has done for us, giving us a chance to coach and other opportunities, we wanted to do something to help students. That’s why we started the endowment."

Ty and Michelle both played junior college basketball and went on to four-year institutions. Ty played at Eastern Wyoming Junior College and then at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Education in 1998 and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from Adams State (Colo.) University in 2003. Michelle played at Otero Junior College and then went on to Southwestern College in Kansas where she competed in basketball and track. She completed her Bachelor's Degree in Education, a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology at Adams State, and is two classes away from completing her MBA at Dickinson State University.

"We continue to donate to build the endowment, “Orton noted. “We have a goal. When it’s time for me to move on, we can leave a significant scholarship for future basketball players.”

Ty began his fundraising career in 2002 at McCook (Neb.) Community College where he was head men's basketball coach. In 2007, Ty was named men’s basketball coach at DSU and continued to invest in relationships while coaching and fundraising for Dickinson State University athletics. Before his appointment to the DSU Heritage Foundation in 2014, he was the major gifts officer at Sanford Health.

Eight years ago, Orton was given the critical job of reestablishing the community’s faith in the Foundation.

“We’re in year eight of the new Foundation. When I would go out and talk to people about the Foundation the first two or three years, donors stepped up and said we need the Foundation and our University to keep Dickinson a thriving community. Even at a time when they could have said no, people believed in Dickinson State University.”

Orton helped guide the Foundation through a rough patch to emerge stronger than ever. That, he said, is a tribute to DSU and its relationship with the community.

"Dickinson is a unique place because of its widespread support for education," Orton said. "The community supports the University, Trinity Schools, and Dickinson Public Schools, among many other areas. For everyone to continue to thrive, this support is crucial. It truly illustrates what a generous community we live in."

By: Scooter Pursley, DSU Heritage Foundation Communication Specialist

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