Divine Zheng gives the student address during the 2018 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony in O'Shaughnessy Stadium on May 18, 2018 in St. Paul.

Gift of $6.5 Million Supports DFC Students' Path to Bachelor's Degrees

Honoring its donors’ philanthropic legacy, a new $6.5 million scholarship will support Dougherty Family College graduates who want to complete their bachelor’s degrees at St. Thomas.

"The Martin Ryan and Richard Sterbenz Scholarship, named for the founders of Dalson Foods and Richmar Industries, "will transform the lives of some very talented, resilient graduates of Dougherty Family College as they continue their pathway to a four-year St. Thomas degree,” according to President Julie Sullivan.

Despite their humble beginnings and lack of formal education, Ryan and Sterbenz were very accomplished entrepreneurs and business owners for 40 years. They established Dalson Foods, a global meat-trading business, and Richmar Industries; they also owned and operated other businesses and various real estate developments.

“They were fun to be around, very astute business people, tough negotiators, very driven and involved in the community,” said Bill Degnan ’80, financial adviser and trustee of both the Ryan and Sterbenz estates for 30 years, and a friend of both Ryan and Sterbenz. “Through lots of hard work and God-given talent, Marty and Rich were able to help lots of people throughout their lifetimes – generously and quietly.”

Ryan barely graduated from high school and Sterbenz never did, so they learned things another way.

“They hired tutors and other business people to help them run multiple businesses in multiple states,” Degnan said. Their experiences and financial success led them to imagine a way to provide educational opportunities.

Karen Hansen, Ryan and Sterbenz’ estate attorney, and Degnan looked at several options and decided on a partnership with St. Thomas.

“We believe strongly that this is the perfect place to really add to the mission of what Dougherty Family College is doing, by providing a bridge to a four-year education at St. Thomas,” Degnan said.

Sullivan is “grateful for the foresight of Martin Ryan and Richard Sterbenz, who wanted to provide opportunity for young people from underrepresented communities. This vision is what Dougherty Family College is about at its core. The DFC students have overcome many obstacles to succeed so far, and I have no doubt they will embrace this opportunity.”

Dougherty Family College offers an associate degree, specially designed for students who ultimately aspire to a four-year college degree.

Funding for the Martin Ryan and Richard Sterbenz Scholarship was provided by the Sterbenz-Ryan Education Foundation of the Hudson Community Foundation, an affiliate of the St. Croix Valley Foundation.