Honoring visionary support

The Story of John Sargent Pillsbury

Since 1900, a bronze statue of John Sargent Pillsbury has stood on Pillsbury Drive in the heart of the University's Twin Cities campus. The statue honors Pillsbury’s leadership and generosity as the University’s first major donor, credited with saving the University in its early years.  

Pillsbury began his business life as a hardware merchant and was appointed as a University Regent in 1863, before going on to become Minnesota’s senator and governor in the 1870s. He is recognized by many as "the Father of the University of Minnesota" largely for his efforts to rescue the institution from debt and ensure its status as a land-grant university. In 1889 he donated $150,000 to construct a science hall, beginning a long tradition of private support for the University.

Today, Presidents Club members who have made gifts or pledges of $10 million or more are honored as members of the John Sargent Pillsbury Society.

The oldest piece of public art at the University, the statue of John Sargent Pillsbury is the work of renowned American sculptor Daniel Chester French. Some years later, French sculpted the famous seated Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“There is no spot on earth I more prefer to be remembered than on this campus… there is no factor that can do more for the state and the nation than the University, with its wide open doors ever welcoming all to enter.” -- John Sargent Pillsbury, 1900