Our Story

Our history showcases our success as well as yours.

From The Beginning

Responding to a need for private support of student scholarships and loans, the University of South Dakota Foundation was formed by a group of Vermillion residents in 1922 as the University of South Dakota Endowment Association (EA). 

From its relatively passive first half century, the Endowment Association, now the Foundation, has emerged as a major force supporting USD in the highly competitive world of higher education.

A Broader Vision

Longtime USD President I.D. Weeks was succeeded in 1966 by Edward Q. Moulton from Ohio State University. President Moulton tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Association board to more actively solicit private gifts, recruit board members from outside Vermillion and adopt a broader vision. That failure prompted Moulton to enlist several prominent USD alumni to create a new development organization known as the University of South Dakota Foundation. It began a gift solicitation program, optioned land for campus expansion and (among other institutional needs) purchased an aircraft for USD’s growing regional extension program.

Moulton was succeeded as USD President by Richard L. Bowen. Among Bowen’s priorities was merging the two similar organizations, which was achieved in 1974. The combined organization became the Foundation, which adopted the mission earlier advocated by President Moulton.

Opportunity and Growth

In 1977, the Foundation was advised of an unrestricted bequest of $750,000 from Mabel Bridgeman of Los Angeles, CA.   Although not a USD alumna, she had been a telephone operator in Vermillion.  Bridgeman later relocated to Southern California to continue her career with Pacific Bell where she acquired the AT&T stock ultimately bequeathed to the USD Foundation.  Her gift doubled Foundation assets.

Despite campus-wide requests for spending the Bridgeman bequest, the Foundation board and University wisely used the funds to establish a Mabel Bridgeman Endowment, with the annual investment payout used to support the first true Foundation operating budget. This permitted the Foundation to hire its first staff and begin active fundraising, leading to the relatively modest 1982 USD Centennial Campaign.

A New Challenge     

In the early 1990s, USD President Betty Turner Asher inspired the Foundation to undertake a $3.5 million capital campaign to restore and re-open USD’s Old Main, which had been closed for a quarter-century.  The Old Main campaign was successful and the building reopened in 1997.

To further establish its independent status, the Foundation in 1996 purchased a small medical clinic building near the campus and relocated its operations there from USD’s Slagle Hall.

Campaign South Dakota

In 1997, the first USD alumnus, James W. Abbott, was named president.  In his inaugural address, Abbott outlined several major fundraising goals for USD that ultimately became Campaign South Dakota. Led by co-chairs Rich Cutler and Linda Mickelson Graham, the campaign began in 1998 with a goal of $60 million, a sum never before raised by any South Dakota entity.  Campaign South Dakota concluded on December 31, 2006 with gifts of $134 million.

Among the outcomes of Campaign South Dakota were the new Beacom School of Business, new Lee Medicine Building, a renovated Old Armory re-named the Dean Belbas Center, the new Muenster University Center, Al Neuharth Media Center, a new roof and air conditioning system for the Dakota Dome, the Vucurevich Childcare Center, scores of student scholarship and grant funds and several new endowments supporting key faculty positions and teaching awards.

At the close of fiscal year 2014 on June 30, the assets of the Foundation had grown to more than $220 million from its modest $750,000 before the Bridgeman bequest in 1977.


The USD Foundation has come a very long way since its humble origin in 1922, providing increasing resources for the development of South Dakota’s flagship university.  Since the turn of the 21st Century, the Foundation has been a major player in more than $250 million of campus improvements and millions more for student aid, faculty support and other operating needs. 

Although the Foundation has built a strong professional staff, its success lies with the dedicated support of alumni and friends of USD and the many volunteers who have served as officers, trustees and members of the board along with visionary leaders of the University itself.

The future holds even more promise as USD, in partnership with the Foundation, continues to raise its prominence as one of the nation’s highest quality comprehensive state universities. Stay tuned.  It will be something to behold!


To learn about the history of the University of South Dakota, click here!