Campus building and landscape with daffodils in the foreground.

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The story of DSU

Dakota State University was founded in 1881 as a school for teacher education in the Dakota Territory. Our strong programs, Trojan pride, and innovative ways have allowed us to become one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the Midwest. From the very first graduating class to the latest, our Trojans graduate knowing that their degree comes from a university with a rich past and promising future.


Old photograph of the Dakota State Normal School in the 1800's
Photograph of the Dakota State Normal School back in the 1800's.
  • 1881 – Dakota State University is located in the ancestral territory of the Oceti Sakowin, an alliance made up of the Isanti, Ihanktunwan, and Titunwan. Today, these peoples are represented by the nine federally recognized tribes of South Dakota: The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Dakota State Normal School (Madison State Normal) at Madison, Dakota Territory, was authorized by Territorial Legislature on March 5. Known officially as Madison State Normal School, it utilized 20 acres of land donated by Mr. C.B. Kennedy. The deed stipulated if the land were ever used for anything but its original intent (a teacher’s preparation institution) or discontinued, the site would be returned to the Kennedy estate

  • 1883 – started with 11 enrolled on December 5, with Professor Charles S. Richardson, first President (1883-1887). Classes were held in local buildings
  • 1884 – Appropriations secured, and construction begins on first college building – 50 x 70 feet, three stories, wood-frame structure. Enrollment was up to 70
  • 1885 – School moved into a new wooden building with 107 students. The Normal School’s first graduating class had 2 students. Model School was established for teacher’s education one of the first laboratory schools in the nation. West Hall Dormitory was built, it was 36 x 86 feet and housed 70 students
  • 1887 – William F. Gorrie, President (1887-1889), second President
  • 1889 – South Dakota gained statehood in February. All state institutions are placed under the Board of Regents (BOR). General William Henry Harrison Beadle became the third President (1889-1905). 191 Student enrollment in Normal Dept


  • 1892 – “The Oyaka” was the first college paper (September 1892). The name was derived from the Dakota Indians, meaning, “messenger of herald”
  • 1895 – Three-year elementary course was extended to four years and the first-year elementary courses were extended to one and a half years of attendance


President Beadle
General William Henry Harrison Beadle became the third President (1889-1905).

  • 1901 – President Beadle went on year’s sick leave to regain his health. Professor William W. Girton selected as Acting President (1901-1902)
  • 1902 – President Beadle returns as President. First graduating class to wear cap and gowns. Name changes to Madison State Normal School
  • 1905 – The first year the “Anemone” (college yearbook) was published. President Beadle retires as president, but stays on as a professor of history, until 1912 when he retired. John W. Heston, President (1905-1920)


  • 1910 – Erection of Science Hall (gymnasium, later called Women’s Gym and Performing Art Center), now called Performing Arts Center
  • 1912 – First year of inter-collegiate athletic competition
  • 1917 – Campus Laboratory School built. It was a one-story brick building with a basement. It was an excellent teacher-in-training laboratory facility


  • 1920 – Bela M. Lawrence was appointed as Acting President (February to July 1921). Edgar C. Higbee (1920-1931) was selected as President in 1920 but didn’t take office until the fall of 1921. Madison Community Hospital (Heston Hall) was opened to the public on August 1, 1920
  • 1921 - Edgar C. Higbee (1920-1931) took office in fall of 1921. Name of Eastern State Normal School officially adopted. State of South Dakota acquires house and lot to be used for dormitory purposes (overflow from East Hall). It was named “Girton House” after W.W. Girton, whom began his work here in 1896 as a secretary and instructor, and later as Professor William W. Girton, was selected as Acting President (1901-1902)
  • 1922 – Pioneer Day inaugurated (homecoming day). Kappa Sigma Iota was organized. A student health service was organized with R.S. Westaby as first school doctor. He was also one of the hospital administrators
  • 1923 – Pioneer Day changed to Eastern Frontier Day
  • 1925 – Eastern Frontier Day changed to Eastern Day
  • 1927 – Name changed to Eastern State Teacher’s College. The first football game was played on the campus athletic field


  • 1931 – E.A. Bixler, Acting President (1931-1933). Eastern State Normal School dropped back to two-year college
  • 1933 – V.A. Lowry, President (1933-1962)
  • 1937 – Statue of General W.H.H. Beadle erected on Campus – contribution from alumni, faculty, and friends
  • 1937 & 1938 – Beadle Centennial Celebration, sponsored by the South Dakota Education Association


  • 1946 – Eastern State Normal School returned to a four-year degree program
  • 1947 – Name changed to General Beadle State Teachers College


Kennedy Hall
Kennedy Hall is now the Kennedy Center.

  • 1955 – East Wing renamed Kennedy Hall in honor of C.B. Kennedy, the donor of the original 20-acre college site. “Kennedy Hall” sign donated as a memorial to Mr. Ernie MacDonald, who served as East Hall steward for many years. Eastern Day was renamed Tutor Day
  • 1957 – 24.81 acres of additional land was purchased for expansion of the college, three blocks north of present campus


The General Beadle memorial statue
The General Beadle memorial statue, located in the heart of campus.

  • 1961 – Lake County Historical Museum built on campus and donated to the State of SD by George G. Smith and Lillian Zimmerman - $75,000 initial donation; $16,000 additional
  • 1962 – Dr. Laurence Samuel Flaum, President (1962-1967)
  • 1963 – Campus School (Beadle High School) destroyed by fire in January, leaving 350 students without a school
  • 1964 – Name of College changed to General Beadle State College. Zimmermann Hall built
  • 1965 – Trojan Center and Higbee Hall were built
  • 1967 – Dr. Harry Pitkin Bowes, President (1967-1971)
  • 1969 – Name changed to Dakota State College. Karl E. Mundt Library dedicated in June, with President Richard Nixon here for dedication


  • 1970 – Richardson Hall built
  • 1971 & 1972 – Dr. Allen R. Miller, Interim President
  • 1972 – Ruth C. Habeger Science Center built
  • 1972 to 1974 – Dr. Francis Gordon, Foster President (1972-1974)
    Dr. Richard Bowen, President (1974-1978)
    Dr. Carrol Krause, Provost
  • 1977 – Dr. Charles Lein, President
  • 1978 to 1983 – Dr. Carleton M. Opgaard, President


  • 1984 – Dr. Richard J. Gowen, President (1984-1987)
  • 1987 – Dr. Jerald A. Tunheim, President (1987-2004)
  • 1989 – Name changed to Dakota State University


  • 1998 – Dr. David Cook resigned as Academic Vice President. Cecelia Wittmeyer took on duties as interim Academic Vice President. YAHOO magazine recognized DSU as 12th in the nation for being wired
  • 1998 – Dr. G. Donald Montgomery donated money to DSU to construct a parking lot between Heston Hall and the President’s home named, “The Marian James Montgomery Memorial Plaza,” “The Donald James Montgomery Memorial,” and “The Montgomery Lounge”


Student profile photo who was eligible for the Champion Scholarship
New high school students applying to Dakota State University may be eligible for the Champion or DSU Rising academic scholarships automatically, as part of the application process.

  • 2000 – YAHOO magazine recognized DSU as 9th in the nation for being wired
  • 2001 – Eight-Plex housing built north of campus
  • 2003 – DSU Champion Scholarships are started. The original idea was a $1,000 scholarship, awarded based on an incoming freshman’s ACT and high school GPA and renewable for four years if he/she maintained a certain GPA in college
  • 2004 – Dr. Jerald Tunheim retires after 17 years as President and is succeeded by Dr. Doug Knowlton
  • 2004 – DSU goes completely wireless across campus. Incoming freshman and full-time sophomore students receive Gateway M275 tablet PC computers
  • 2005 – DSU installs the Walk of Honor on the west edge of campus to honor donors
  • 2005 – Doctors of Science degree in information systems approved by Board of Regents (BOR)
  • 2006 – DSU celebrates its 125th year with a series of celebrations throughout the year that bring alumni back to campus. The university also published a commemorative book
  • 2006 – DSU ranked #1 public baccalaureate college in the Midwest in the annual US News & World Report survey
  • 2009 – The Tunheim Classroom Building is dedicated in September. Named for Jerald Tunheim, DSU’s 20th president who served from 1987-2004
  • 2009 – DSU established the Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology (CAHIT)


Rendering of DSU Trojan Athletic Complex and Events Center
First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, along with Miles and Lisa Beacom, made a lead gift of $10 million towards the Trojans Unite capital campaign.

  • 2010 – DSU’s Doug Knowlton becomes the first president of a public university in South Dakota to have an active Twitter account
  • 2012 – Dr. Knowlton leaves and is replaced by Dr. David Borofsky (2012-2014)
  • 2013 – DSU receives a $5 million gift from Miles Beacom and T. Denny Sanford. At the time, the gift was intended to help renovate the current Madison Community Hospital into what was going to be the Beacom Institute of Technology building. It was the largest private gift in the school’s history
  • 2014 – Dr. Maryz Rames becomes interim president (2014-2015)
  • 2014 – DSU receives a $5 million gift from Miles Beacom and T. Denny Sanford. The money was used to establish the Beacom Institute of Technology. This was the largest private gift in the school’s history
  • 2015 – Dr. José-Marie Griffiths becomes the 23rd DSU President
  • 2017 – Trojan Center, LEC remodel; Beacom Institute of Technology building opens
  • 2017 – DSU hosts a celebration to mark the opening of the Beacom Institute of Technology, featuring country music star Jake Owen
  • 2017 – Miles and Lisa Beacom and T. Denny Sanford announce a $30 million gift to Dakota State that will be used to construct MadLabs, provide for scholarships, develop programs and for faculty and staff development
  • 2018 – Lowry Hall is demolished to make room for the new Madison Cyber Labs construction
  • 2018 – The statue of General Beadle is moved from its location near Lowry hall, where it has been since 1933. The move is in preparation for the demolition of Lowry Hall. The statue was temporarily placed in storage, along with the WWII memorial. Both will be relocated
  • 2019 – Campus Watch was created to increase a campus security presence during the evening hours and provide safety chaperons to students, staff, and faculty members. Each shift includes two employees who carry a cellphone and flashlight and also wear identifiable shirts and coats
  • 2019 – Dakota State joins the collegiate world of Esports. Esports is a non-seasonal sport in which video games are played. There is a junior varsity and varsity team. Tryouts are required and scholarships are available
  • 2019 – March 22, 2019 – DSU carries out their first “DSU Giving Day.” This day was a 24-hour giving campaign that inspires alumni, students, friends, faculty and staff, and supporters to Rise UP together, show pride in their alma mater, and provide essential funding to support current and future students
  • 2019 – Dr. Clyde Brashier becomes the first inductee into the DSU Academic Hall of Fame
  • 2019 – The South Dakota Advantage is a tuition program that state public universities offer new freshman and new transfer students from Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Colorado. They can now get a tuition rate equivalent to the resident undergraduate rate
  • 2019 – Dakota State introduces two new telepresence robots, Dewey and Cosmo. These robots allow students, faculty, or staff to remotely attend meetings or classes
  • 2019 – First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, along with Miles and Lisa Beacom, made a lead gift of $10 million towards the Trojans Unite capital campaign. This gift launched the $42 million Phase I portion of the campaign, which will feature a new two-story concourse and outdoor facilities
  • 2019 – The Karl Mundt Library celebrates the 50th anniversary of its dedication
  • 2019 – The General Beadle statue is placed in its permanent home near the Tunheim Classroom building and the WWII Memorial is placed just south of the campus rose garden
  • 2019 – The Madison Cyber Labs (MadLabs) is formally dedicated on October 2, 2019. MadLabs will provide faculty, students, and researchers with the space, technology, and infrastructure to support exploration in cyber-related areas