Danny Sanford arrives for the dedication of the Sanford Education Center. Photo by Chris Jennewein

National University on Thursday opened the Sanford Education Center, an ambitious new $10 million institution designed to train educators and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropist and businessman Denny Sanford, who funded the center, told National University representatives that they were turning “a dream of mine into a reality. You’re going to take it forward and change the world.”

Sanford thanked Arizona State University for the initial research and National University for implementing “three transformative programs that I conceived but I couldn’t complete.” The three programs are:

Denny Sanford, third from right, with Mayor Kevin Faulconer at the ribbon cutting for the center. Photo by Chris Jennewein

National University President Michael R. Cunningham said the university is seeking to collaborate with other institutions across the country in expanding these programs, with Long Island University on the East Coast as the first partner.

“Our goal is by the end of two-to-three years we’ll be in all of the major universities across the country,” he said.

Cunningham said about $1.5 trillion is raised for charitable causes annually, but National University hopes to train nonprofit leaders to do more.

“If we can increase that by just a few percentage points, think of the difference we can make in the world,” he said.

The center opens with high-profile leadership. Allyson Handley moved from the University of Maine to be executive director, and Bob Kelly, former president of the San Diego Foundation, was named executive in residence.

The center was established in January with a $1 million inaugural gift from Sanford and has since received an additional anonymous gift of $9.2 million.

Founded in 1971, National University is the second-largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California with 30,000 students and more than 140,000 alumni.

San Diego is also home to the University of San Diego’s Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research, which offers certificates, masters and doctorates in nonprofit management.

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