20 Years of Progress Under President Abbott

Image James W. Abbott James W. Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- As part of its 2016 Dakota Days homecoming week events, the University of South Dakota will on Friday evening recognize the accomplishments of President James W. Abbott over his nearly 20 years of leadership.

Abbott, the 17th president since USD’s founding in 1862, received two degrees from South Dakota's flagship university (B.A. 1970 and J.D. 1974) and is the first alumnus to be named president.

Among his achievements:

  • Since he became president in 1997, USD enrollment has grown from 7,000 students to 10,000.
  • USD students have successfully competed for dozens of national scholarships, including the Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman, Udall, National Science Foundation, U.S. State Department and NCAA.
  • Every year since 2000, the Princeton Review has cited USD as one of nation's best colleges. Forbes regularly lists USD among the top colleges. And U.S. News & World Report ranks USD as one of the best national universities.
  • New buildings include the Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center, Beacom School of Business, Coyote Village, Wellness Center and the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center, also being dedicated Friday.
  • Significant renovations have been made to the Belbas Center, Al Neuharth Media Center, Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building, DakotaDome, Aalfs Auditorium and Churchill-Haines and Pardee science labs.
  • The USD Foundation set new records in fundraising. Campaign South Dakota raised over $133 million for scholarships, undergraduate and faculty research, building renovations and many other projects. The Onward campaign has raised more than $214 million toward a seven-year $250 million goal for scholarships; student and faculty enrichment through research, conferences and travel abroad; endowments for professors and department chairs; and facilities enhancements for athletics and health sciences, the National Music Museum, and the schools of law and fine arts.
  • In 2006, President Abbott announced the transition of its athletic programs from NCAA Division II to Division I. The move brought a higher level of competition and exposure to USD, including the Coyote women’s basketball team capturing the 2016 WNIT championship.

Details of Dakota Days events:

  • Friday, Oct. 7 -- 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at MUC faculty lounge, alumni welcome table; 3 p.m. at First Bank & Trust Soccer Complex, soccer vs. North Dakota State; 4:30 p.m. at Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts, marching band reunion; 5 p.m. outside the DakotaDome, pep rally; 5 p.m. at the DakotaDome, swim meet vs. Minnesota State; 5:30 p.m. at SCSC, volleyball vs. IUPUI (tickets are free) and formal dedication of the SCSC and honoring of major contributors; 6:30 p.m. at SCSC, Alumni Association University Celebration; 6:30 p.m. at the Wellness Center, zumba party; 7:30 p.m. at Wayne S. Knutson Theatre, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” play;
  • Saturday, Oct. 8 -- 9 a.m. on Main Street, Dakota Days parade; 10 a.m. at DakotaDome, tailgating; 2 p.m. at DakotaDome, Coyote football vs. UNI; coronation of Miss and Mr. Dakota at halftime; 6 p.m. at SCSC, volleyball vs. Fort Wayne (admission free with football ticket); 7:30 p.m. at Wayne S. Knutson Theatre, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” play;
  • Sunday, Oct. 9 -- 2 p.m. at Aalfs Auditorium, USD Chamber Singers.

See the full schedule for students.

View the full schedule and registration details for alumni.

Buy tickets and see details of the athletic events.

Download a photo: James W. Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News