University Leadership Honors: A Celebration of Excellence

The University Leadership Honors ceremony is a way of celebrating today what will live on forever.

At their core, endowments are essentially a celebration of our people: the people guiding and instructing the next generation of Jackrabbits, the people who invest in our premier standard of education, and the people who will be touched by transformational funding today, tomorrow, and generations into the future.

On September 29, 2022, South Dakota State University introduced a new way of recognizing our people by hosting the inaugural University Leadership Honors event, a collective investiture ceremony honoring the holders of endowed faculty positions at SDSU.

Defined as gifts invested to support a university’s growth, endowments are perpetually funded financial resources that serve to advance knowledge and fuel innovation. The prestige of endowed faculty positions lends credibility with national peers, heightening appeal for high-caliber faculty from around the globe. They also help to bolster research efforts, allowing SDSU to capitalize on opportunities as they emerge and foster educational experiences that might otherwise not be possible.

“These positions matter. They enable us to recruit and retain talent. They provide an annual flow of resources. They provide stature. They recognize excellence,” explained President Barry Dunn at the ceremony in the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center.

Endowments also represent a critical element of fundraising campaigns, like Bold & Blue: The Campaign for South Dakota State University. When the campaign was first conceptualized in 2017, State was home to 13 endowed faculty positions. While Bold & Blue has an overall goal to raise $500 million for SDSU, it also aims to bolster endowed positions by reaching the landmark of 50 by the conclusion of the campaign.

As of September 29, SDSU had commitments in place for 48 endowed positions.

To speak to the impact of both endowments and campaigns, Dean Bresciani, former President of North Dakota State University, was invited to speak at the University Leadership Honors ceremony. While it might seem unusual for a leadership figure from a rival university to speak at such an event, President Barry Dunn acknowledged the value of both collaboration and competition between the two institutions.

Bresciani spoke to the importance of mutual encouragement, friendly competition, and unfailing respect between SDSU and NDSU.

“We are competitors, but more often, we are collaborators,” said Bresciani. “North Dakota State and South Dakota State push each other to be better – and that’s a great thing, for both universities, for our states, for our region.”

In addition to being key factors of campaigns, endowments are the result of philanthropic funding from donors who believe in SDSU’s limitless capacity for innovation, progress, and growth. The University Leadership Honors ceremony is an opportunity for State to recognize the tremendous generosity behind named positions, as well as the game-changing faculty and staff who fill the positions and set out to transform lives for current and future Jackrabbits.

This would not be possible without the university’s determination to invest in its people and the incredible generosity of donors willing to invest in them.

- President Barry Dunn

In the past and in the early days of Bold & Blue, individual investiture ceremonies were held to honor endowed faculty positions and their new holders as they emerged. As the momentum of the campaign grew and the ceremonies became more and more frequent, the time came for SDSU to think a bit bolder in recognizing these pivotal positions – and the University Leadership Honors ceremony was born.

While commitments are in place for 48 positions, 11 faculty and staff who are holders of the most recent endowments were honored at the event.

Our people are our reason to celebrate, and the next chapter of SDSU would look very different without the donors and scholars who make named positions possible.

As new endowments come to fruition and the Jackrabbit family continues to collaborate in fueling our bold future, the University Leadership Honors ceremony is our opportunity to honor how far we’ve come and just how far we have the potential to go.