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150 Years Of Legacy At USD

September 26, 2012, 10:12 PM by Brady Mallory

150 Years Of Legacy At USD
VERMILLION, SD -

It is a bronze bust of the familiar University of South Dakota mascot. It sits just outside of the Muenster University Center. All you have to do is touch the coyote.

"We're looking to start some new traditions, rubbing the coyote statue before a big test," Student Government Association President Alissa Van Meeteren said.

Rubbing the coyote could be considered a 'luck' thing for students who are hoping and praying for an 'A' on a test.  However, this statue really is not about luck.  When you put your hand on it, you are touching 150 years of students, 150 years of educators and 150 years of legacy.  It is only fitting that 'Legacy' is the coyote's name.

"I'm part of something and I'm part of this family that is older than I can even comprehend," Van Meeteren said.

USD celebrated its sesquicentennial back in April, when Governor Dennis Daugaard declared it USD Day.  Founded in 1862, USD is not only the state's oldest university, it is older than the state.  The University was established when South Dakota was still part of the Dakota Territory

Cut to present day, and USD is still making progress. It is easy to understand why Van Meeteren is not just thinking about her classes for her political science major.  With homecoming a week and a half away, a tangible amount of energy geared toward this year's Dakota Days on October 6 can be found in students all over campus.  Add in the excitement over reaching 150 Years and you have Dakota Days on steroids.

"Basically 150 years of alumni, alumni friends and alumni parents coming back to this school and participating in all of the events and basically showing all of the pride they have for the school.  For us as students, to see that and share it. That is so powerful,'" Van Meeteren said.

You will still recognize D-Days; the parade, the football game and thousands of alumni are all there.

"What's really fun is when alumni come back to campus. If they haven't been here for a while, they're excited to retrace their steps," Alumni Association Executive Director Kersten Johnson said.

Retracing steps can be a bit tricky since the campus never quite looks the same.  It has changed constantly over the last few years, let alone the last century and a half. 

For example, crews are in the process of adding 30,000 square feet to the Muenster University Center to create even more space to handle an ever-growing student population. 

You do not have to look far to find a piece of history, though.  A few buildings, including one called Old Main, has been standing strong since the beginning. It has had a few neighbors like Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building and Beacom School of Business pop up over the years, but buildings are not what the last 150 years are about.

More than a century's worth of growth can be found in the 132 undergraduate programs and 65 graduate programs.  Beyond the medical and law schools, health sciences is a largely growing major.  Nursing, business and psychology degrees are among the most popular.

Johnson, a USD graduate herself, said even with all of this change, you can find a constant throughout the years if you look through a recently released pictorial history book called, "Pride, Persistence and Progress."

"This is the place where you come with your dreams and get the guidance and the education that can help launch those dreams and be the place to launch lifelong friendships and that's going to last throughout our history," Johnson said.

This university has launched several doctors, lawyers, senators and ten South Dakota governors.  Success like this will not change any time soon because Van Meeteren pointed out the school is already focused on the next group of students, next educators, next traditions; the next 150 years

"This is legacy," Van Meeteren said.

If you are lucky enough, that legacy might even touch you.

"Graduation will be sad. You know, you spend four years making yourself here. That's it, then you leave.  But knowing you have a place to come home to; that's important," Van Meeteren said.

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