ALUMNI ASSOCIATION HISTORY
In 1889, before statehood had been achieved in South Dakota, 16 members of the class of 1889 met following commencement exercises, they formed the Dakota Agricultural College Alumni Association.
Those early graduates of what would become the state’s largest university came together “for the purpose of preserving a feeling of unity and fellowship between the several graduates and for the purpose of cementing more closely the bonds existing between the alumni and their Alma Mater.”
The first effort to keep the graduates in touch with the association occurred in 1908-09 under chairperson Prof. B.T. Whitehead. In that year, two letters were sent out to graduates by the association. In 1910, the Alumnus was started with Hubert B. Mathews as editor. The Alumnus would lay the ground work for the Alumni Associations current publication STATE Magazine. Another major role the Alumni Association in the early years was the establishment and support of Hobo Day activities in 1912.
One of the major tasks undertaken by the association began in 1962 when the SDSC Alumni Association passed a resolution advocating the change of South Dakota State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts to South Dakota State University. “The success of the name change movement was largely due to the activities of the Alumni Association and its members,” said Art Sogn ’47, past chairperson of the Alumni Association. The idea of a permanent, separate headquarters for the Alumni Association was discussed in the early 1970s. During a nine-year period, the association had been located in five different offices. At an Alumni Council meeting June 23, 1973, with new chairperson Deane Antoine presiding, Keith Jensen, Alumni Association President & CEO, presented a proposal for an Alumni Center. Dedication of the Tompkins Alumni Center was held at the Alumni Days summer reunion June 12, 1976.
In June 1980, the SDSU Alumni Board of Directors, decided to explore the cost of building a patio area originally planned with Tompkins Alumni Center. It was suggested by Chad Kono, the Association’s President & CEO, that the patio be designed to include a clock tower that would house the Old North Clock donated to the University by the classes of 1922 and 1923. Later the bell from Old Central, which had been removed from Coughlin Campanile, was added.
In 1992 the Alumni Association became an independent 501 c (3) Non-profit corporation. V.J. Smith became the Alumni Association's President & CEO in 1997 and began a major fundraising effort, called the Return to Glory campaign. This campaign raised funds to restore our prairie icon, the Coughlin Campanile. After the restoration work was complete, the rededication of the Campanile took place on September 22, 2001. In 2006 the Association got “on line” with a web site and electronic news letter.
In 2008 a legislative advocacy group, the Jackrabbit Advocates, was formed to allow dedicated alumni to represent the independent voice of the Alumni Association in a strong collaborative partnership with South Dakota State University as they work with elected officials for the betterment of public higher education.
In 2010 a renovation of Tompkins Alumni Center was completed including the Paul Freeburg ’33 Archives Room located in the lower level of the center. Alumni are encouraged to visit their alumni home when they return to campus.
With over 77,000 members the South Dakota State University Alumni Association is Where Loyalty Lives!