Three Valley City Individuals Honored on National Philanthropy Day in Fargo


FARGO, N.D. ( – Three Valley City individuals with close ties to Valley City State University were honored by the Northern Plains Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the organization’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon held November 16 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo.

Alumni Audrey (Dohman) ’66 and George Gaukler ’62 were named Philanthropists of the Year and Dean Pedersen was one of two individuals receiving the Outstanding Volunteer award.

Larry Robinson, VCSU executive director of university advancement, presented the awards to the Gauklers and Pedersen. The honorees were accompanied at the luncheon by their families and a group of VCSU supporters, staff and foundation board members.

The Gauklers were recognized for their long history of philanthropy in Valley City and across North Dakota. Their personal giving to Valley City State University alone exceeds $1 million. Additionally, they have contributed to the university from several business interests they have in the community. They have also supported the Abused Persons Outreach Center, day-care programs, Valley City Public Schools, and a host of other charitable causes in the local community.

The Gauklers have also established their own family foundation. The foundation supports areas causes including support for the Valley City Public School System. In addition, George worked to put in place the Sheyenne Valley Community Foundation two years ago. The foundation works to support a host of entities in the greater Sheyenne Valley area.

Honorees Audrey & George Gaukler.

George also led the charge to establish a community foundation in Williston, N.D., where George has a significant real estate investment. The foundation was established to respond to a host of community needs.

Most recently George and Audrey were major contributors to the new community wellness center in Valley City, which bears their name. Here again the Gauklers led the charge, working with the  Valley City Park District, the City of Valley City and Valley City State University to make the Gaukler Family Wellness Health and Education Center a reality. In addition to their significant financial commitment to the project, George guaranteed the operating costs for an extended period of time and served as the lead project manager throughout the construction of the facility.

George has served 21 years as a member of the VCSU Foundation Board of Directors, and the Gauklers have also given countless hours of their time to charitable causes within the community. It is difficult to identify any fundraising efforts or community improvement efforts and initiatives that the Gauklers have not been key players.

George has been a long-term member of the Valley City–Barnes County Development Corporation. Through his leadership and commitment to the greater Valley City/Barnes County region has resulted in significant and long-lasting enhancements to the quality of life for the residents of Valley City and all of Barnes County.

Audrey and George’s family includes daughter Tracy Smith and sons Michael Smith ’84 and Geoffrey Gaukler.

And the third honoree was Dean Pedersen. He has served on the VCSU Foundations V-500 Scholarship Program Board of Directors for the last 14 years, serving 5 years as board president. In that position, he led the fundraising effort each and every year and is personally responsible for raising in excess of 0,000 in scholarship support. He has been recognized as the Board Member of the Year by the V-500 Program multiple times.

Dean, is a disabled American veteran, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. During his service, he was severely wounded and lost his sight. Following his honorable discharge, Dean has proven to be an active and positive member of society. He is a lifetime member of all veterans’ organizations and has held numerous offices and received a host of awards from these organizations.

Dean and his wife, Betty, are active members of United Congregational Church of Christ in Valley City, where Dean serves on the Board of Trustees.

Honoree Dean Pedersen.

Dean has also been recognized by a number of organizations and has served on a long list of committees. He served on the Mayor’s Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped. He has served on the Governor’s Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped and the North Dakota Private Sector Job Council. He was named the North Dakota Outstanding Vietnam Veteran, Valley City Outstanding Handicapped Citizen, and North Dakota Outstanding Handicapped Citizen. He served as chair to host the Vietnam Moving Wall in Valley City and received the President’s Outstanding Community Achievement as a Vietnam Veteran, the This Old House Reader Remodel Moxie Award, the Valley City Education Association Friend of Education Award, the VCSU Alumni Service Award, and the VCSU V-500 Scholarship Program Volunteer of the Year Award.

Betty and Dean Pedersen live in Valley City, as do their children, Matthew Pedersen (and wife Jen), and Sarah (Pedersen) Lerud ’00 (she and husband Mike have a son (Jack). Matt Pedersen also serves as vice chair of the VCSU Foundation Board of Directors.

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