On April 21, 1862, Dakota Territory Governor William Jayne signed legislation declaring the founding of a university in the town of Vermillion.
One hundred fifty five years later, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard proclaimed April 21, 2017 “USD Day.”
During USD’s birthday party held in the Muenster University Center pit lounge, USD President James Abbott, SGA President Teagan McNary and Daugaard gave speeches celebrating the 155th anniversary of the founding of USD. The event even featured a cake shaped like Old Main.
Daugaard, a USD alumnus, focused on the history of USD and what the world was like when it was founded.
“(USD was founded) 30 years before South Dakota even became a state,” Daugaard said in his speech. “Twenty-five years before Paris erected the Eiffel Tower. Thirty years before George Ferris thought of the Ferris Wheel. Twenty years before those North Dakota Bison even thought of having a university. Eleven years before the city of Vermillion was incorporated.”
Alissa Matt, associate director of alumni engagement for the USD Foundation, helped organize the Friday’s activities.
“(Founders’ Day) is a celebration of the history of USD, as well as an opportunity to look forward to all that is to come on campus,” Matt said.
After the event, Daugaard talked more about the importance of USD’s founding.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think about how long ago USD was founded,” he said. “Long before South Dakota was a state, when both Dakotas were known as Dakota Territory. The Civil War was still ongoing. Yet, the people here had the foresight to begin what has become the flagship university for our state.”
If it weren’t for USD’s founders, Daugaard said USD wouldn’t be the same.
“We should celebrate the vision of those founders back then who probably could never have foreseen what the ‘U’ has become, but because of their beginnings, we have what we have today,” Daugaard said.
Abbott echoed Daugaard’s words. He said USD’s humble beginnings are important to remember.
“I think our students have a wonderful appreciation for everything that led up to USD being what it is today,” Abbott said. “I know we all have our minor complaints, we would like this or that, but by and large our students are very supportive, and so is the faculty and staff, of our mission.”
The proclamation recognized the university’s alumni for becoming “leaders, healers, innovators, heroes, researchers and nationally recognized scholars.”
While the proclamation only recognizes April 21, 2017 as USD Day, Matt said she hopes this will give a bigger push to have more activities in the coming years.
“We’re hopeful that we can repeat Founder’s Day activities in years to come,” she said.