MYRA FOUNDATION PAST AND PRESENT
Myra Foundation History
The Myra Foundation was established in 1941 and was the first private charitable foundation of its kind in the State of North Dakota. It was organized according to the terms of the Last Will and Testament of the late John E. Myra who died in 1939. In his will, Myra stated that the bulk of his estate would be used to establish the Myra Foundation. The Foundation was to be incorporated and administered by three trustees who would distribute the money for "charitable, character building and educational purposes." Since its inception on April 28, 1941, it has awarded more than $12,252,500 in grants within Grand Forks County, ND.
John E. Myra
Born on June 13, 1857 in Linden, Wisconsin, Myra came to North Dakota in 1883 at the age of 26 seeking fortune in the Dakota Territory. He first settled in Arvilla, North Dakota where he worked loading coal into rail cars. Shortly thereafter, he established a general merchandise store. He later moved to Emerado and started a successful farm machinery and lumber business, and began acquiring land and lending to farmers. Through acquisitions, defaults, and foreclosures, he became one of the largest landowners in the Red River Valley after the depression.
He married Emma Feisel in 1889. They had two children, a girl who died as an infant, and a son, John Everett, who died of diphtheria at the age of 3. Emma died in 1918 and Myra died in 1939 at the age of 82, leaving the bulk of his estate (less family bequests) worth an estimated $400,000 at the time of his death to establish the Myra Foundation.
The Foundation Today
Historically the bulk of the assets held in the Foundation was comprised of Myra's Grand Forks County farmland. Over time (80 years), the revenue generated from the farmland did not keep pace with the accelerating land values. As a result, it became more challenging for the Foundation to sustain the 5% federal granting requirement. Out of necessity to sustain the viability of the Foundation, the difficult decision was made in 2019 to sell the farmland holdings and convert the land to investable assets in order to preserve the Foundation in perpetuity. The three trustees currently administering the Foundation are Emily Montgomery, Tracy Kennedy, and John Botsford, who also serves as President.