SDSU alum excels on S.D. Supreme Court

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

David Gilbertson has shown that just because you can’t receive a law degree from South Dakota State University doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in the judicial system.

Gilbertson is the chief justice of the Supreme Court for the state of South Dakota. He is also an alumnus of State.

Originally from Sisseton, Gilbertson moved to Brookings when he was 15.

He decided to attend SDSU for the same reason many students do today-the money. In the late 60s and early 70s, each credit hour only cost $10 and fees were usually under $200.

“Books cost more some semesters that tuition,” he said.

Activities didn’t take much of Gilbertson’s time; his studies did. He had three majors. He majored in political science, geography and history.

He also worked 35 hours a week at a local grocery store.

“I either worked or studied,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean Gilbertson didn’t have fun at SDSU. He really enjoyed the relationships he had with instructors and friends.

“It was kind of one like big happy family,” he said. “I have very fond memories of SDSU.”

He really liked the diverse group of people there was at State.

“I got to meet a cross section of people from the entire state and I enjoyed being around them,” Gilbertson said.

One of Gilbertson’s favorite things to do was to take walks around campus.

“It was so picturesque,” he said. “I really enjoyed that, still do.”

There wasn’t much that he didn’t like about SDSU.

“It was a very enjoyable experience all the way around,” Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson learned several things about life and himself while at State.

He learned to budget his time and how to prioritize his goals. He also discovered where he would like to live once he graduated.

“(I learned) that I was going to stay in state,” he said.

After graduation, he went on to law school at the University of South Dakota and received his law degree in 1975. He did some private practice until 1986 when he was appointed to the circuit court bench.

He was appointed to the South Dakota Supreme Court to represent the fifth circuit in 1995. In 2001, he was elected to a four-year term as the chief justice.

He currently lives in Pierre, which is only three hours from Brookings. But Gilbertson only gets back to campus once and a while.

“Not as often as I would like,” he said.