On June 5, 1872, pastors and delegates of nine Baptist churches, in what was then called the Dakota Territory, gathered in Vermillion at the first meeting of the Baptist Association. They adopted the following resolution: “Resolved, that we take immediate steps for the establishment of an institution among us, and that we devote a suitable portion of time at each annual meeting, of the consideration of this important subject, and give an individual associated influence, to encourage a more general and complete education of our youth, under distinctly Christian influence.”
Under the name of Dakota Collegiate Institute, formal instruction began on September 8, 1883, in the basement of the First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls. In the fall of that year, a campus site was selected along the pioneer Old Yankton Trail, presently marked by a bronze tablet, at the edge of the Norman B. Mears Library. The foundation was laid for the first building, Meredith Hall, which was completed in 1885. That same year, the institution was reorganized as Sioux Falls University and graduated its first four-year class.
In 1929, Des Moines University closed and transferred its records to Sioux Falls University. Two years later, Grand Island College of Nebraska merged with Sioux Falls University, forming a new corporation called Sioux Falls College. Two years later, the American Baptist State Conventions of North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota passed a resolution officially recognizing the college as a denominationally affiliated institution.
During the 1960’s, eight major educational buildings were added: Salsbury Student Union, Mears Library, Jeschke Fine Arts Center, Salsbury Science Center, a home for the president and three residence halls: Kroske, Burgess and Grand Island.
Construction continued in the 1970’s with the addition of Patterson Hall, an apartment building for students, and the renovation of Glidden Hall, Jorden Hall and Pierce Gymnasium. This decade is also remembered for the establishment of cooperative educational programs, with Augustana College and North American Baptist Seminary.
In the 1980’s, enrollment grew to over 900, and the college continued to focus on curricular expansion and innovation. A pioneer in the adult learner market, the college provided valuable new educational resources to the Sioux Falls community by founding the Center for Women, the Center for Management, and inaugurating the Degree Completion Program. In 1988, the campus expanded with the addition of the Stewart Center, a wellness and athletic facility, which also serves the local community.
Changes in the last 10 years raised the stature of the college. Seeking to become a regionally recognized institution for higher learning, the college added graduate programs in business and education. Based upon these, and other advances, the Board of Trustees voted in 1994 to rename the college the University of Sioux Falls. Although the name of the school changed, the university’s commitment to celebrate its past, and pursue its original mission, remained intact.
Symbolic of its efforts to preserve its heritage, the university completely restored Jorden Hall in 1995. With plans to further expand the campus and enhance the curriculum, the university set forth to find and secure additional resources needed for the future. Subsequently, the Board of Trustees voted to establish the University of Sioux Falls Foundation. Incorporated in 1996, the foundation serves to provide the financial resources needed to grow and secure the University of Sioux Falls through the 21st century.
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