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Slate board comes home to Kennedy Hall

January 11, 2021

John Ogden '76 graduate of DSU, comments on messages left on a slate board he donated recently. The board is from the original Kennedy Hall.
 John Ogden, a ’76 graduate of DSU, donated a slate board from the original Kennedy Hall.

The technology-focused College of Education now has a feature that is “old school,” a slate board from the original Kennedy Hall.

John Ogden was a Dakota State student in the winter of 1974. He took a temporary job helping with some demolition on Kennedy Hall, one of the original buildings on DSU’s campus.

In a dumpster, he found an old slate board framed in wood. He and his wife, Dauna, had a two-year old at home and he thought she might like to scribble on it. The young girl and her sister did write on it, but after a time the board was relegated to the family garage in Yankton. After Ogden retired, the board featured the To-Do-List, “Hunt. Fish. Boat.”

Several years ago, Ogden was asked to help with a building restoration project in Yankton, the Mead building. Built in 1909, the facility had once been the women’s ward of the Dakota Hospital for the Insane; the Mead building is now open as the Mead Cultural Education Center.

“It is ironic that I had been hired to wreck a historic building, and then I worked to restore one,” Ogden said.

It was then that he realized the significance of the slate board, and knew the artifact needed to go back to someone in the Kennedy family, or to the current Kennedy Center. The slate now hangs in the south entrance of Kennedy. On one side, students will be able to write messages; through the entryway glass, they can see writing that indicates the slate was shipped to C.B. Kennedy in Madison, Lake County, Dakota Territory.

Charles B. Kennedy was an early pioneer of the Madison area, and had secured the passage of a bill locating a territorial normal school in Madison during the territorial legislative session in 1880-1881. The bill was officially signed on March 5, 1881, now recognized as DSU’s Founders Day, and Dakota State University is celebrating 140 years in 2021. Kennedy later donated the 20 acres on which the main campus is located.

By seeing this piece of history, Ogden hopes teachers who come out of Dakota State recognize the influence teachers have had on generations.

“A slate board like this was a big deal at a country school,” said Dr. Crystal Pauli, Dean of the College of Education. This is a good example of the technology of the day, something today’s students won’t see in their classrooms. “It was a sign of the times, but times change.”

Ogden graduated from Dakota State in 1976 with a business administration degree. He served in the Air Force, then settled in Yankton and has been there ever since. Before retiring, he worked for a heavy equipment manufacturer in human resources, industry safety, and EPA requirements.

The 1904 Kennedy Hall (formerly called East Wing, but renamed Kennedy Hall in 1955) closed after lightning struck the building in 1983; renovation was expensive, so the current building was constructed and dedicated in October 1987.

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