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Northern State University

Northern State University is a four-year public university located in Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States.


1200 S Jay St


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Thunder The Wolf
Maroon Gold
Northern Sun

College History


Founded on the intersection of the southern and eastern branches of the Milwaukee Railroad, Aberdeen, South Dakota saw a rapid growth in its population during the late 19th century; this rapid growth led the citizens of northern South Dakota to push for a government-funded institute of higher learning. During the 1855 legislative session a Bill was passed creating the University of Central Dakota to be located in the small town of Ordway, however, funds were not approved for the school until the 1857 legislative session. Even though the funds had been approved the bill had been vetoed by Governor Louis K. Church for financial considerations and the statewide lack of support; it would take a few more decades before the school became a reality. In 1900 Aberdeen had the fastest growing population in northern South Dakota and supporters for the school began to organize in greater numbers. On January 7, 1899, Senator Lawson, often thought to be the father of the Northern Normal and Industrial School, proposed a bill for the creation of the school in Aberdeen; the bill went through many revisions and it would not be until March 2, 1899 that the new school would exist on paper; however both a site and funding were still needed. Wealthy Aberdonians quickly responded and started to donate their land for the school; responding to the demand to pick a site, the Aberdeen City Council created a committee of twenty-five individuals responsible for choosing the location. The committee was composed of the well-to-do individuals of Aberdeen, including Ira Barnes, W.F.T Bushnell, C.F. Easton, F.W. Brooks, Ed Askew, B.C. Lamont, William Tennant, W.G Bickellhaupt, James Lawson, and Andrew Melgaard. The committee met through most of the early months of 1899 and adjourned in late spring before any decision was made. By late 1899 Governor Andrew E. Lee made the decision to use the land, just south of city limits, donated by Andrew Melgaard; however, the northern border of Melgaard�s land did not extend all the way to Twelfth Avenue as Governor Lee had wanted; the land between Melgaard�s northern border and Twelfth Avenue was owned by D.C and W.R Thomas of Watertown. In order for the state to receive the land as a donation, the committee had to pay Melgaard and the Thomases for their land. On November 10, the Thomases sold the two half-blocks in question to the state of South Dakota for one dollar and Andrew Melgaard received thirteen hundred for his 20-acre (8.1 ha) plot of land. Now the state was left with the task of funding the construction of the new school. Approved by Governor Herreid on March 6, 1901, $28,000 was allotted for the construction of the school and an additional $2000 allowed for the building of a heating plant. Under the supervision of the Board of Regents the construction was to be completed and ready for students by September 1, 1902. Additional funding was allotted in yet another legislative bill for expenses such as salaries, lights, fuel, furniture and maintenance; now everything was in place for the creation of Northern Normal and Industrial School. The first president of the Northern Normal and Industrial School, Charles F. Koehler, opened the school with the purpose of providing students with and education in academic studies. The initial admission requirements were simple: the applicant must be at least fourteen years of age and have a desire to teach. Students entering the school with a high school diploma placed them into a one-year �High School Course� that prepared them to teach, students that had completed at least eighth grade entered into either a four-year �English Course� or �Latin Course�, and there was great flexibility in the rules so that students could receive credit for the high school they completed even if a diploma was not obtained. In addition to the Normal programs and Industrial programs, there was also a Model School; it included children in grades one through four and gave potential teachers the opportunity to learn practical teaching methods and attitudes. The Northern Normal and Industrial School would spend the next decade and a half modifying and defining the mission of the school. The school saw changes in both policies and practices, as well as changes around the campus, with the addition and destruction of buildings. The school also experienced many unique events in its early years. A proud moment for the school came on October 23, 1911, when the president of the United States, William Howard Taft, gave a speech, combing foreign policy issues with the role of the Normal school, in the newly completed auditorium of the Administration Building. Good times for the school and country came to an abrupt halt in April 1917 when the United States declared war with Germany and entered World War I. Students at the school responded immediately to the war effort and celebrated �Loyalty Day� on April 19, 1917. School was closed for the day as students marched down the streets singing patriotic songs and waving flags. The faculty also showed its patriotic side by instituting a rule stating that any young man that had requested a �school release� to fight overseas would be graduated; faculty members such as football Coach Strum, Professor Gillis and Professor Stech joined the military ranks. The school newspaper, The Exponent, began publishing letters from former students that had been sent to the war front and gave the first glimpse into the hardships of war; the first letter to arrive at NNIS came from junior T. Otway Thomas: While bombs are to be dodged, shrapnel to be watched, and rifle bullets guarded against, the war-weary warrior thinks of home�There is more discussion of home than anything else when two pals get together�It is food for their friendship and if you could open a soldier�s heart, you would find the pictures of his sweetheart, mother, father, sister, or brothers and children. His is the pride of love and affection, the feeling of deep and unexpressed worry over the loved ones at home and the hope for a safe and triumphant return to where he feels his heart would dwell in peace�How his very nature becomes imbued with the idea of one more being in the society of his loved ones! � He doesn't talk of it in any quick and slighting way, but becomes a devout convert to the Godly essence in human-kind Love. As love is far away, his thoughts are expressed on paper� And then when life becomes darkened and gets dim, like a drowning man he clings to what he trusts, and that is Love, a longing to see his home before Death overtakes him. And how he tenaciously holds on to the last thread of life, only to life and experience those joyous sensations on the point of being snatched from him! � But alas! The poor fellow who has no such luck, but on whose face creeps slowly and surely the paleness of Death, the gradual knowledge that the Light of Life is fast waning and soon shall dawn a new light; but e�er it shines, a faint prayer is whispered: "God bless those at home!" The end of the war brought a great relief to the country and students at NNIS; classes returned to normal, students were no longer sewing, knitting, or making bandages, students sent overseas were slowly returning and the flow of letters was dwindling; however, of the four hundred and forty-two students, alumni, and instructors who were sent overseas, thirteen never returned; their names have been engraved on a plaque, �Lest we forget� the sacrifice made by these men that liberty and equality might not perish from the earth.� The end of the war also brought a drastic decline in the amount of teachers in rural South Dakota, the state responded by creating Normal departments in four-year high schools. This new policy proved to be troublesome for NNIS, because now it was not necessary to attend the school in order to teach in South Dakota, therefore enrollment decline. In response to the decline in enrollment president at the time, Dr. Harold Foght, pushed to professionalize the teaching occupation, making it necessary to be certified to teach. The headline for the April 1920 issue of the Exponent read, "NNIS To Become Teacher's College," making Dr. Foght's effort successful.2 The school was then reorganized into three divisions: the pre-normal division, junior-normal division and senior-normal division; each division would have their own dean. NNIS was now able to award baccalaureate degrees; however, it would not be until 1939 that the State Legislature would change the school's name from Northern Normal and Industrial School to Northern State Teachers College.[4] The school had survived through the Great Depression and was now under a new title with new responsibilities; carrying out these responsibilities however would be no easy task: the Great Depression had left the school in debt, enrollment numbers were dropping and the world was entering into yet another war. Luckily, for Northern State Teachers College, Dr. Noah E. Steele was the school president and he presided over the school from his induction in 1939 until 1951; he increased enrollment numbers, constructed new additions to the campus, and helped the school get through World War II. The school had experienced many changes in WWII: it now offered a flight and ground pilot program to train future military pilots, established a defense school, and also began to offer basic engineering programs. In response to NSTC's changing size and programs South Dakota State Legislature changed the name in 1964 to Northern State College. For the next two decades Northern State College would continue to improve the quality of education and make drastic changes to their campus. In 1987 Northern State College received the second highest classification, from the Carnegie Commission, granted to any South Dakota college or University: Comprehensive I Institution. Then, two years later, on February 6, 1989, the state recognized this achievement and changed the name for the final time from Northern State College to Northern State University.

College Specialty


The legislature established Northern State University to meet the needs of the State, the region, and nation by providing undergraduate and graduate programs in education and other courses or programs as the Board of Regents may determine. (SDCL 13-59-1) The Board implemented SDCL 13-59-1 by authorizing graduate and undergraduate programs in education to promote excellence in teaching and learning, to support research, scholarly and creative activities, and to provide service to the State of South Dakota, the region, and the nation. The Board approved a special emphasis on E-learning in the university curriculum and service.



Ronnie Cruz of the Dallas Cowboys Elmer Diedtrich, South Dakota businessman and legislator Richard Gaikowski, suspected in the Zodiac Killer murders. Jim Hundstad, South Dakota politician Joe Robbie, original owner of the Miami Dolphins David Sigdestad, member of South Dakota House of Representatives Floyd Red Crow Westerman