Sheila K. Gestring, M.B.A., became the 18th president of the University of South Dakota on June 22, 2018, after serving as chief financial officer since 2010 and a part of the USD finance staff since 2006. She is a South Dakota native, and the second USD graduate and woman to serve as president.
As an esteemed visionary and financial leader at USD, Gestring has played a pivotal role in stabilizing the university’s financial position while developing innovative financing plans for new facilities across campus. She was an instrumental leader in the University of South Dakota Foundation’s ‘Onward’ campaign, which surpassed over $250 million raised for student scholarships and development.
Gestring’s strong vision for the future of the university is coupled with operational expertise. She is a vigorous defender of public education, particularly the liberal arts, and has a reputation around the state as an inventive problem-solver. She not only understands the needs of USD and public higher education, but recognizes the economic and political impacts, both state-wide and nationally. Her advanced approach to solving complex budgetary issues provides students with access to life-changing research experiences, as well as scholarships that make higher education affordable for all.
Beyond her commitment to the university, Gestring has been a driving force in growing the city of Vermillion and creating a positive, symbiotic relationship between the community and university. As past chairperson of the Vermillion Chamber and Development Corporation, Gestring was a key visionary behind the historic renovation of McVicker Plaza, effectively linking the university and the VCDC in a meaningful way through a retail partnership with Charlie’s, USD’s fan shop. Under her tenure, Gestring helped the VCDC accomplish exceptional growth over the past four years, including achieving consecutive record growth for membership, doubling the amount of building permits secured and tripling the amount of annual construction investments made.
Gestring’s spouse, Keith, holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the School of Mines and Engineering–Montana Tech of the University of Montana. He recently retired after a long career with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They have two children, Dillon, 16, and Wyatt, 14, who are avid Coyote fans and very involved in school activities.
Gestring’s story is woven together by the unique pieces that make South Dakota a place so many are proud to call home. It is one that embodies a strong work ethic, Midwestern values and compassion for others. As USD continues to develop world-class facilities while providing its students with unlimited research and learning opportunities, President Gestring will lead the way and push USD forward as a premier, Division I institution.