Founding – 1872
On June 5, 1872, pastors and delegates from nine Baptist churches in the Dakota Territory met in Vermillion for the first meeting of the Baptist Association. They adopted the following resolution: "Be it 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 to the consideration of this important subject and give our individual and associated influence to encourage a more general and complete education of our youth under distinctively Christian influence."
Modest Beginnings – 1883
Under the name Dakota Collegiate Institute, secondary and collegiate programs began on September 8, 1883, in the basement of First Baptist Church. The institution's name changed to Sioux Falls University in 1885, with the secondary program called the Academy and the collegiate department branded Sioux Falls College. Although the college grew, the Academy's enrollment declined, forcing it to close in 1925.
Colleges Acquired – 1930s
Between 1929 and 1931, Sioux Falls College acquired four Baptist schools that had ceased to operate: Des Moines University, Grand Island College, Cedar Valley Seminary and Parker College. With the 1931 merger of Grand Island College with what was still legally Sioux Falls University, the institution's official name became Sioux Falls College.
WII – The Lean Years
During the Second World War, the College lost its accreditation and offered 200 students, mainly women, two-year degrees. Enrollment surged when the veterans returned home, only to lapse to meager numbers two years later. Financially, the school was in dire straits. However, not unlike the young men and women who served our nation during WWII, ordinary people accomplished extraordinary things during those lean years to ensure the institution's survival.
President Jeschke – Years of Growth
Reuben P. Jeschke (1953-1970) helped regain full, regional accreditation in 1958, and under his leadership enrollment grew from 378 in 1958 to 1,006 in 1968 – a 166 percent increase. The institution's endowment, although modest, also grew, and what Jeschke described as a "near miracle" happened – a history of balanced budgets.
The most visible change during this time was the campus. Jeschke oversaw the building of Mears Library, Salsbury Student Union, Salsbury Science Center, Jeschke Fine Arts Center, and three residence halls. In fact, Time magazine featured the College's growth in 1967. The caption read: "Seven Buildings in Seven Years." The sub-title added: "But our stature comes from people." By the end of Jeschke's tenure, Sioux Falls College was well-positioned for the steady, academic success of the 70s and 80s.
Naming the Future – SFC to USF
The 90s ushered in a new era of excellence. In order to better reflect the Board of Trustees' desire to "name the future," one with growth in student body, expansion of academic programs, improvement in facilities and enhancement of the institution's reputation, Sioux Falls College became the University of Sioux Falls, effective January 1995.
President Benedetto – A USF for the 21st Century
Dr. Mark Benedetto, USF's longest-serving president, became the 22nd president in February 1997. Under his leadership, the University's enrollment in both the traditional and non-traditional programs has increased significantly, while the number of full-time faculty has more than doubled. Several academic programs have been added to the curriculum. Every building on campus has experienced some form of renovation, with the most notable expansion being the University's purchase of approximately 100 acres of land near 69th Street and Cliff Avenue. New campus construction projects have included the Cleveland Professional Development Center, Collier Baker Hall, Sullivan Faith and Living Center, McDonald Center, USF Sports Complex and new additions to the Stewart Center and Salsbury Science Center. Under Dr. Benedetto's leadership, the University has been successful in navigating through several institutional accreditation reviews, major fundraising campaigns and the transition of its athletic programs from the NAIA to the NCAA Division II and five-state, 16-team Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. During Dr. Benedetto's tenure, the institutional operations budget has more than tripled, and the University of Sioux Falls has been the recipient of more than $100 million in financial support. Due mainly to the record growth in its endowment, USF provides more academic and performance scholarships to students than ever before in the University's history.