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Retired USD Professor Named Friend of Missouri River

Image Larry Weiss and Howard Coker Larry Weiss, board president of the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition, presents retired USD professor Howard Coker with its "friend of the river" award.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition has recognized a retired University of South Dakota professor as a “friend of the river” for researching ways to alleviate sedimentation on the Missouri River.

Howard Coker, 81, grew up in northern California and received his undergraduate degree from University of California, Davis and his doctorate from Oregon State University. He spent more than 40 years at USD as professor of chemistry, director of the office of research, and then as half-time director of compliance. He was also an associated faculty member of the USD Missouri River Institute.

Coker began doing research on the sedimentation of Missouri reservoirs in the late 1990s. He has been an advocate of creating sustainable reservoirs through sediment reduction and transport, and has published two papers on the topic. More recently, a third paper has been submitted for publication.

“I am quite honored,” Coker said of the award that reads: “Your perseverance to find ways to move sediment downstream, past Gavins Point Dam, provides inspiration to tackle the problems of accumulating silt in the Missouri River Reservoirs including Lewis and Clark Lake. Not only does your enthusiasm and knowledge spark commitment for others to continue in this effort, but it also exemplifies the power of ideas in bringing entities together to confront public problems which at times are ignored.”

Since MSAC’s founding in 2001, it has called a handful of people and one organization “friends of the river,” including conservationist Tony Dean, Pierre photographer/videographer Patrick Callahan, founding MSAC executive director Howard Paul, Missouri River Energy Services and Knox County Nebraska resident Rayder Swanson.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


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 84 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.


Hanna DeLange
USD News