James W. Abbott became the 17th president of the University of South Dakota on July 1, 1997. He received two degrees from USD (B.A. '70 and J.D. '74) and is the first alumnus to be named president. Prior to becoming president of USD, he practiced law and was involved in the management of various businesses. He represented Yankton County in the South Dakota State Legislature from 1991 to 1993, served as the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota in 1994, and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2002.
During President Abbott's tenure, USD students have successfully competed for many national scholarships including 19 Fulbrights, 10 Goldwaters, 11 Trumans, six Udalls, and 22 NCAA Post-Graduate scholarships.
Campus infrastructure has improved significantly in the past 12 years. The Belbas Center, Al Neuharth Media Center, Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building, DakotaDome, Slagle Auditorium, and the Churchill-Haines and Pardee science labs have been renovated. New buildings include the Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center, the School of Business Building, Coyote Village, the USD Wellness Center and the Sports Performance Enhancement Complex currently under construction.
The USD Foundation set new records in fundraising. Campaign South Dakota, the most successful fundraising campaign in South Dakota history, raised over $133 million to support USD in the areas of scholarships, undergraduate and faculty research, building renovations and many other projects.
In 2006, President Abbott announced the transition of its athletic programs from NCAA Division II to Division I. The move is a milestone for the university and will bring a higher level of competition and exposure to USD.
President Abbott reserves time to meet with students, faculty and staff on a regular basis.
James W. Abbott