14:24 PM

Armstrong McDonald Foundation: Focusing on Student Learning

By Bill Wax

The support of thousands of individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations has helped make Bellevue University Nebraska’s largest private college or university. As the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at a few of the key individuals and organizations whose financial support helped make it happen. For nearly three decades, The Armstrong McDonald Foundation has helped to build a quality learning environment for the University’s students.

Armstrong McDonald Foundation: Focusing on Student Learning

Since 1989, the Tucson, Arizona-based Armstrong McDonald Foundation has been a stalwart supporter of education innovation at Bellevue University, including gifts for science lab equipment, library and computer technology, the campus Writing Center, and classroom equipment and furnishings.

Mike and Laurie BouchardNamed for the late J.M. and Josephine (Armstrong) McDonald, Armstrong McDonald is a “family” foundation in the truest sense. The Foundation’s current President, Laurie Bouchard, is J.M and Josephine’s granddaughter. Laurie’s husband, Michael “Mike” Bouchard, is Secretary-Treasurer of the Foundation. Other family members, great grandchildren, continue to serve as Foundation Trustees and Officers.

James M. “J.M.” McDonald Sr., was a Missouri native and a successful retailer and entrepreneur. After retiring as a vice president at J.C. Penney in 1929, he purchased the 13 store Brown company which became the Hastings, Nebraska-based J.M. McDonald Company, department store chain under the leadership and management of J.M. McDonald, Jr.. In 1952, Mr. McDonald started the J.M. McDonald Foundation funding it with a million dollars of company stock. The J.M. McDonald Company was acquired by another retail firm in 1968, and J.M. McDonald-branded department stores continued to operate in Midwestern and western states until 1982.

The Armstrong McDonald Foundation was incorporated in the State of Nebraska in 1986 after assets of the original J.M. McDonald Foundation (now based in New York) were divided. Armstrong McDonald awards approximately $1 million in grants annually, with programs and projects at non-profit educational institutions receiving about half the grant funds. The Foundation supports public and private institutions of higher learning and special projects related to education. Additionally, support goes to non-traditional providers of education for at-risk kids and after-school mentoring programs. The Armstrong McDonald Foundation also makes program and project grants for several other initiatives, including medical, children and youth, animal welfare, relief and social, and special needs.

Although it is now headquartered in Arizona, the Armstrong McDonald Foundation continues to remember its Midwestern roots and supports a number of non-profit organizations there, including Bellevue University. In 2009, Laurie and Mike Bouchard accepted on behalf of the foundation the University’s Mallory Kountze Award. The Mallory Kountze Award is presented periodically to individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations that have provided substantial long-term support for the University and its educational mission.