When the first Legislature of the Dakota Territory met in 1862, it
authorized the establishment of the University at Vermillion, making it
the oldest postsecondary institution in the Dakotas. The authorization
was unfunded, however, and classes did not begin until 20 years later
under the auspices of the privately incorporated University of Dakota,
created with great support from the citizens of Clay County. Ephraim
Epstein served as the first president and primary faculty member in the
institution that opened in loaned space in downtown Vermillion. Before
1883 ended, the university had moved into Old Main, and the first public
board was appointed to govern the fledgling institution.
Enrollment increased to 69 students by the end of the 1883, and, by
the time South Dakota became the 40th state in 1889, USD boasted an
enrollment of 500 students. USD's first academic unit, the College of
Arts & Sciences, was established in 1883.
The School of Law began offering classes in 1901; the School of
Medicine in 1907; Continuing Education in 1916; the Graduate School in
1927; and the College of Fine Arts in 1931.
Today, USD is one of six public institutions governed by the South Dakota Board of Regents, a nine-member board appointed by the Governor.
Past USD Presidents
Old Main -- At the heart of the USD campus, historic Old Main is the University's oldest building. Originally built in 1883 as University Hall, Old Main was destroyed by fire in 1893 and was immediately rebuilt. An assortment of materials and adornments from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair were used in the rebuilding, but not necessarily the iconic spires as often suggested by folklore.The building was completely renovated from 1993 to 1997 and now serves as the home to classrooms, USD's honors program, the Center for Academic Engagement, Farber Hall and the Oscar Howe Gallery.
Dakota Days -- South Dakota's annual homecoming celebration, Dakota Days - or D-Days - attracts spirited alumni back to campus while allowing current students to display their creativity in planning and promoting the week-long festivities. The celebration dates back to 1914 when President Robert. L. Slagle encouraged an event to "promote campus spirit and harmony." The result was "South Dakota Day" (later shortened to "Dakota Day" and now the week-long celebration "Dakota Days") as students elected royalty, built floats, paraded through the streets of Vermillion and cheered on the University's football team - in much the same way they do today.
Coyotes -- It's only fitting that the official animal of the state of South Dakota is also the mascot of the state's flagship university. However, long before the Coyote (always pronounced "Ki-YOTE") was honored by the state in 1949, it became a symbol for the University's athletic teams. Intercollegiate athletics began at USD in 1889, and when the school's first yearbook was published in 1902, the editors had already dubbed the teams "the Coyotes." The name stuck, and USD has since been represented by a variety of versions of the coyote from real, live coyotes to today's costumed mascot, "Charlie Coyote." The rallying cry, "Go 'Yotes" can be heard whenever South Dakota's red-clad alumni, friends and fans get together.
The DakotaDome - The Coyotes stay warm, dry and virtually unbeatable inside one of the region's most recognizable structures - the DakotaDome. Opened in 1979, the Dome provides an electric atmosphere for students and an unparalleled home-field advantage for the Coyote Athletic teams. The storied structure also plays a key role in the matriculation of students as the venue for both the welcoming Convocation Ceremony and the degree-completing Commencement Exercises.
Doc Farber Statue -- USD professor emeritus of political science, mentor to students and stalwart of South Dakota political history William O. "Doc" Farber passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. But the iconic USD professor's legacy and spirit lives on under the watchful eye and insightful expression of the Doc Farber statue located in front of Dakota Hall. Good grades are said to "rub off" on those who stop to wish Doc's statue well.
USD Fight Song -If fight songs are the embodiment of school spirit, USD students and alumni are overflowing with fervor for their alma mater. South Dakota has not just one, but three fight songs - South Dakota Victory, Hail South Dakota and Get Along Coyotes - used to rally and unite the Coyotes on the playing field or anywhere alumni gather.
Generally, South Dakota Victory and Hail South Dakota are played back to back as the "official" fight song, with Get Along Coyote played at any time to inspire the crowd.