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Dacotah Prairie Museum Foundation Receives Major Gift From Karl O. Lee Estate

Philanthropist’s Legacy Continues to Benefit Community

Aberdeen, S.D. — The Dacotah Prairie Museum Foundation announced today the final installment on a $1,775,000 gift from the estate of Karl O. Lee, of Aberdeen S.D.  Lee passed away on Nov. 11, 2019.  He was a champion and supporter of many institutions in Aberdeen including the Dacotah Prairie Museum.  

The gift, the largest the institution has ever received, will ensure that exhibits, workshops, camps, traveling exhibits, art shows, educational programs, collections management, and building improvements will be well-funded for the foreseeable future. Many projects that would have been a decade or more in the future are possible sooner; exhibit renovations and state-of-the-art technology plans will be expedited. 

 “The museum’s foundation is now able to fund a robust exhibit renovation and building upgrade plan, including bringing in major traveling exhibits from across the country,” according to Patricia Kendall, Museum Director. “The staff, board members, and volunteers are excited to see how the Dacotah Prairie Museum will grow with this generous gift and continue to be the community asset it has been for over 50 years. The next 5 years will be a whirlwind of projects,” continued Kendall.

Lee’s family is well-known for the K.O. Lee Company, a manufacturer of machine tools and grinder parts, as well as, their combined generosity in the community:  C.C. Lee Tennis Courts, K.O. Lee Public Library, previous donations to the Dacotah Prairie Museum’s Foundation for exhibit projects, and many others. 

“We are immensely grateful to the Karl O. Lee estate and family for this transformational gift,” said Dr. Jason Pettigrew, Foundation President. “Karl’s commitment to improving his community will live on and have an enduring impact on our institution. It will help us fulfill our purpose of telling the stories of the Dakota prairie and its inhabitants for many years to come.”

In addition to funding various programs and projects, the foundation board will be creating an endowment with this gift for the betterment of the museum in Lee’s name. This will ensure that his legacy of giving will be ongoing well into the museum’s next half-century. 

About the Museum: The Dacotah Prairie Museum celebrates over 50 years as Brown County’s premier history museum. The Museum is housed in the historic Northwestern Bank building built in 1889 on Aberdeen’s Main Street. Gallery & Museum Store Hours: Tues.-Fri. 10am-5pm and Sat. 10am-4pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays, and major holidays. Free admission, donations are appreciated. Check out the latest exhibits and events at

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Patricia Kendall at 605.626.7117, or email