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USD Law School Receives Historic Gift, Honors David Knudson with Renaming

Knudson School of Law Seal USD Knudson School of Law's official seal

VERMILLION, S.D. – To honor the legacy of Sioux Falls lawyer, businessman and public servant David Knudson, the University of South Dakota’s law school will take on the name of the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law, as announced today.

The naming of the USD Knudson School of Law is the result of a $12.5 million gift from Knudson’s friend and colleague, T. Denny Sanford. The gift will ensure the law school remains a national leader in excellence, service and leadership.

"It's quite meaningful to see an investment of this size and to see the vision Mr. Sanford and Mr. Knudson have for securing the future of law in the state of South Dakota," said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. "The USD Knudson School of Law is the only law school in the state, and most of our graduates practice in the state and regionally. This gift is very important to continuing law in South Dakota."

"This gift is tremendous because it more than doubles the size of our current endowment at the law school, and it will fund up to 10 full-tuition student scholarships for every incoming class," said Neil Fulton, dean of the law school. "It literally changes the lives of 10 students every year, and it gives us the opportunity to help 10 students begin their careers right here in South Dakota."

Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, Knudson has served the state in many capacities. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University (1972) and a juris doctor degree from New York University (1975), Knudson returned to his home state to practice law. He started working for Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP, and in 1978, he became a partner. It is at the firm where Knudson began representing Sanford, beginning a collaboration that has lasted decades. Through their working relationship, the two formed a lifelong friendship that has in major ways transformed South Dakota.

In 1981, Knudson received his M.B.A. from the University of South Dakota. He went on to serve as chief of staff for South Dakota Gov. William J. Janklow in both 1995 and 1999 and as chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Managed Care in 1995 and chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Physician Recruitment in 1996. He was chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Trust Law Reform and Administration, a position he held for 15 years. Knudson was on the City of Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission from 1998-2000, and he continues to serve the city through philanthropy today. He is on the Washington Pavilion Board of Trustees, the chair of the Stewardship Committee at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and is co-chair of the Great Plains Zoo Fundraising Campaign.

Knudson served the state as a South Dakota senator from 2003-2011 and a Senate majority leader from 2007-2011. He was vice-chair for the education committee and the legislative procedure. Knudson is a member of the South Dakota Bar Association.

Knudson worked at Sanford Health as a senior vice president from 2010-2013, and he is now senior vice president at United National Corporation. Knudson resides in Sioux Falls with his wife De, a USD alumnus. They married in 1976 and have two sons, one in which – Michael – is also a USD alumnus.

"Dave chose to come back to South Dakota because he cares about his home," said Fulton. "Dave is a perfect example of what a lawyer can do here in South Dakota, and for the students of the law school to walk in the front door every day and see 'USD Knudson School of Law,' it’s transformative."


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 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