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USD School of Law announces Joy Cunningham Scholarship Endowment for American Indians

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota School of Law has established the Joy Cunningham Scholarship Endowment that will be awarded annually to a current or incoming law student who “demonstrates financial need and enrollment in a federally-recognized Indian Tribe.” Supported by a generous pledge of $25,000, the endowment’s donor has also provided an initial contribution of $5,000 to be awarded for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“We initially found USD through its web presence, particularly in the area of American Indian art,” said Delight Cash, daughter of the late Joy Cunningham. “This led us to the law school and productive conversations with the USD Foundation, who we found to be receptive, eager and easy to work with as compared to other universities we had contacted.”

The Joy Cunningham Foundation, created in the memory of its namesake, had researched and interviewed other universities before deciding on the law program at USD. The creation of this scholarship endowment reflects Cunningham’s appreciation, respect and concern for the advancement of Indian peoples developed through her family’s personal experiences.

“The scholarship reflects my mother’s understanding of the needs of the Indian communities based upon her deeply held sense of a collective obligation to address past injustices and to empower native communities to meaningful address their present and future needs,” added Cash, who describes her mother as a true “global citizen” – one who traveled the world over to see how people truly lived.

The USD Law School, which has long maintained a strong program in American Indian Law, was pleased by the generosity of the Cunningham Foundation. Interim associate dean and diversity & inclusion officer John Glover noted that, according to an American Bar Association report in 2013, there were less than 2,500 native attorneys in the United States. This number is disproportionately small compared to other ethnic or cultural communities in the U.S.

“It’s critical that Indians not only be provided the opportunity and means to become part of the legal profession, it’s further imperative that greater time and attention is given to the myriad of Indian law matters impacting native and non-native citizens and communities in our state,” said Tom Geu, dean of the USD School of Law.

The scholarship will be awarded for the first time this summer. Interested applicants can contact the USD School of Law at or call (605) 677-5417.


USD’s Knudson School of Law prepares students for leadership in the administration of justice in South Dakota, including in rural areas where the demand is great, and for private practice, public service, business and other law-related endeavors anywhere. Its joint degree program allows students to also earn one of nine master’s degrees within the traditional three-year law curriculum, which includes course tracks in business, commercial, constitutional, criminal, employment, environmental, Indian, real estate and tax law as well as civil litigation and estate planning.


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 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson 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 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Hanna DeLange
USD News