Archive photo of Old Main and East Hall

Our History

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