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Duluth native offers $100,000 match for Scottish Rite speech clinic

Jack A. McLeod

Investor Jack A. McLeod moved from Duluth 50 years ago, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

The Scottish Rite Clinic, dedicated to helping children overcome communication challenges out of a nondescript building on Second Street in Duluth, stands to benefit from McLeod’s loyalty — again.

Guests at the Scottish Rite Foundation’s annual banquet this evening at Northland Country Club will be challenged to match up to $100,000 McLeod is willing to donate to the clinic.

When McLeod offered the same challenge in 2006, donors eventually matched it with $200,000, he said on Wednesday in a phone interview from Reno, Nev. At 80, McLeod still runs an investment firm there.

He also gave $300,000 in 2003 to the YMCA’s Camp Miller. It was used to build a year-round cabin and meeting room known as the Jack McLeod Leadership Lodge.

He has a soft spot for children and for Duluth, said McLeod, who still visits the city several times a year. Both he and his wife, the former Susan Engman, are Denfeld High School graduates; he was a member of the class of 1951. They moved from Duluth to Portland, Ore., in 1964, the year they were married.

He admires the work of the Scottish Rite Clinic, McLeod said.

“They take care of kids that tend to fall through the cracks,” he noted.

Carol Roberts has directed the clinic since it was founded in 1990, originally occupying space at the University of Minnesota Duluth. It moved into the former Duluth Teachers Credit Union building at 28 W. Second St. in 1999.

Eighty-five children from throughout the Northland are enrolled in the program, Roberts said. Most are initially brought by their parents when they are 3 or 4 years old and remain for two years, visiting the clinic twice a week.

Although all of the children have difficulty communicating, that encompasses a wide variety of conditions, Roberts said. About a third of the children are autistic.

The clinic helps the children to reach their full potential, said Jim Proctor, board president of the Scottish Rite Foundation for the past 16 years.

He recalled a discussion with two parents when he attended a graduation ceremony for more than 20 of the children a week ago.

“Both of the parents said that their daughters weren’t able to speak a word when they came to the clinic,” Proctor said.

“From what I could tell, they seemed to be communicating perfectly fine now,” he added with a chuckle.

The money raised with McLeod’s matching grant will go to the clinic’s endowment fund, which stands at about $1.3 million, McLeod said. “The name of the game is to build up the endowment fund and then subsidize the school off the income from the endowment.”

The money will be used for operations, not for any construction, Proctor added.

Separately, though, construction is a possibility.

The foundation purchased the land just east of the clinic where a building formerly housed apartments, a pawn shop and a print shop, Roberts said. That building was torn down, and the hope is to eventually build a new structure on the site, at least two stories tall, that would provide twice as much space as the current clinic, she said.

The clinic’s main building is 2,100 square feet, Roberts said. A former storage building, now used to treat autistic children, adds another 800 square feet. With more space, the clinic could treat more children, she said. Currently, almost 50 children are on the clinic’s waiting list.

The project’s estimated cost is about $7 million.

“We’re in that wishful phase of attempting to see if it would be financially possible,” Roberts said.

In the meantime, McLeod’s gift will help the clinic continue to serve the region’s children. He has a humble explanation for the financial success that has allowed him to offer that gift.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I guess I bought more stocks that went up than went down.”

How to give

Although the main fundraising effort to match Jack McLeod’s gift will be at the banquet this evening, the campaign will continue. To learn more, call the Scottish Rite Clinic at (218) 720-3911 or Jim Proctor at (218) 728-8402. Note: The clinic will be closed until the day after Labor Day.

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