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Wed, Oct. 23

Western Newspapers chairman of board named philanthropopist of the year

The Southern Arizona Chapter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives has named Western Newspapers Inc. Board Chairman Donald N. Soldwedel as its "philanthropist of the year."

The regional group will present the award to Soldwedel at a luncheon in Tucson on Nov. 16.

The fact that the group chose to honor him with such an award both surprised and flattered Soldwedel.

"You don't give time to projects because you expect to get something for it," he said. "It seems strange to get an award ... there are probably other people who deserve it a lot more than I do."

While he has helped lead fund-raising efforts for a number of charitable programs and nonprofit groups, Soldwedel has been particularly involved in helping the state's institutions of higher learning.

He served for 14 years as a charter member on the original board of directors for Arizona Western College in Yuma; he has served as chairman of the University of Arizona Foundation; and he has led fundraising efforts for Northern Arizona University's Yuma campus.

He also spent six years on the governing board of the Foundation for the National Presbyterian Church (USA), where he helped in a nationwide campaign to raise $150 million.

"You just help in any way that you can," Soldwedel explained. "Most charitable organizations today need a lot of help - and they generally get it ... but I wish more people would step up and offer to help."

Soldwedel moved to Yuma from Pekin, Ill., in 1953 to become general manager of The Sun. He soon became the newspaper's publisher, a position which he held until Cox Newspapers bought The Sun in 1984.

He started Western Newspapers in 1958 when he bought The Prescott Courier.

The Yuma-based company now owns 17 Arizona newspapers as well as a number of commercial printing plants.

Soldwedel's son, Joe, now runs the company's day-to-day operations as president and CEO.

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