A Walk Through Campus… Presidents Crothers, Brown and Berg

Laura Cox

Laura CoxVisual Editor

Berg faced budget cuts, expanded university

Sherwood Berg, President of SDSU from 1975 to 1984, has the apartment complex Berg Hall named for him.

“I haven’t slept in our dorm yet,” Berg said. “I should do that.”

“The kids rather enjoy it,” Berg said about the name of the building. “Every time we drive to Lake Poinsett they say “we’ll have to drive by Berg dormitory, won’t we?'”

Berg was the first graduate of SDSU (Class of 1947) to become the president. During his presidency he focused mostly on expanding international views and cooperation.

In this he supported the Botswana project. The Botswana project was a five-year endeavor to assist Botswana in developing a school and college of agriculture. The project encompassed everything from science to language.

“People enjoy the experience,” Berg said. “People will meet you on the street and before you know it, they are talking about Botswana.”

During Berg’s presidency, he faced year after year of budget cuts, said Harold Bailey, former vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the graduate gchool.

Budget cuts were offset with activity, Berg said. Berg worked to develop enrollment from Southern Minnesota with a contract that allowed students from South Dakota and Minnesota greater opportunity when choosing a school.

“We were able to progress,” said Bailey. “I call the whole 24 years of [my] time our quest for excellence. And we actually changed a small agriculture college into a modern university. We built a foundation on which succeeding presidents have continued to build.”

It’s a matter of assisting faculty, continuing to grow and setting up an institution of research, Berg said.

Berg also described working with the Board of Regents and the Students’ Association. Berg said SA presidents were very effective at keeping students informed and involved. One SA president during this time even coordinated a plane to pick a regent up in Revillo and bring him to Pierre for a meeting.

“It was interesting times,” Berg said. “I rode many-a-mile in a combine, talking to members of the regents.”

Berg currently resides with his wife in Brookings.

Crothers was three-time acting president of SDSU

Harold Crothers, former dean of engineering and three-time acting president of SDSU, is the man Crothers Engineering Hall was named for.

Wayne Knabach, an engineering student in 1957, was present as a tour guide at the dedication of Crothers Hall, according to research done by Harold Bailey, former vice president of academic affairs and dean of the graduate school.

Knabach remembers showing an exhibit of a very old Edison direct current dynamo, originally used in the South Dakota Penitentiary, that Crothers had scavenged on one of his trips. Knabach recalls being told to say that the dynamo had been connected to the electric chair.

“We were very naive that day,” said Knabach. “That direct current machine would not generate enough current to be lethal.”

Crothers was a student, instructor, head of a department, vice-president and acting president of the university, according to the Feb. 2, 1949 Collegian.

He served as acting president for 11 months in 1946, 6 months in 1951 and again in 1957.

Upon assuming presidency in 1957, Crothers inherited the many staffing issues the university was having, including a controversy centered on the firing of tenure professor, W.W. Worzella.

Worzella had been fired for “insubordination” following an internal investigation. The firing quickly became an examination of tenure policy. The Board of Regents and the courts upheld the policy and the dismissal of Worzella, according to the Oct. 23, 1958 Collegian.

Along with the Worzella controversy, Crothers hired staff and promoted many more.

Crothers died in 1955.

Brown named President in his 70s, acted four times

Brown Hall was named for George L. Brown, who sat five times in the president’s position of, what was then, South Dakota State College.

“Those who have not met Dean Brown,” wrote the Collegian in an editorial dated April 24, 1940, “who have not talked with him, do not realize the fine sense of humor and the capability of this man who has served State College since 1897.”

According to the Dec. 18, 1940 Collegian, Brown served as acting president on four separate occasions, before being named president in 1940 following Charles Pugsley’s retirement. Brown was in his mid-70s.

Brown wrote in a Collegian column on May 1, 1940 that he regretted “the distinction the regents have bestowed upon me has come as the result of President Pugsley’s illness.”

Even as president, it was understood that he was only to serve as such temporarily. He served six months before Lyman E. Jackson was hired. Brown had been dean of faculty since shortly after his arrival at State in 1897.

“When I came here,” wrote Brown in the Collegian May 1, 1940, “I was immediately drawn to the students by a sympathetic understanding of their having been reared under conditions [similar] to those in which I had lived as a child. I enjoyed my association with the students more and more during the passing years.”

Brown served as acting president in 1908 (4 months), 1914 (6 months), 1918 (1 year) and 1923 (2 months), said the Dec. 18 Collegian.

Brown’s accomplishments while in office, according to the Sept. 20, 1940 Collegian, range from creating the first summer session of classes in 1914 to opening the campus up for use in 1918 to train and house soldiers during World War I. He is also credited with developing the agriculture and home economics teaching programs after the Smith-Hughes act of 1917 provided for their creation.

Brown began his life in Missouri and completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Missouri reported The Collegian Sept. 20, 1940. He then earned his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Chicago before joining the SDSU faculty in 1897. He served the college for 33 years.

Check out AWalkThroughCampus.posterous.com to read additional interviews and stories. The site is consistently being updated with additional interviews, photos and stories. So join me in A Walk Through Campus and its history.