Barry Dunn announces leadership vision in inauguration

IAN LACK Reporter

Under the towering Coughlin Campanile and a clear, sunny sky, more than 1,000 people sat in attendance waiting for Barry Dunn to be inaugurated as the 20th president of South Dakota State University.

On Thursday, Sep. 29, President Dunn was officially installed in the inauguration ceremony that was held at the Coolidge Sylvan Theatre on the university’s campus.

The former dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences was announced as SDSU’s next president on April 25 by the South Dakota Board of Regents and took office May 23. The inauguration event served as his official installation.

This change came after former President David Chicoine announced plans to step away from the presidency in December 2015 to teach agricultural economics. He had been president of the university since 2007.

In his acceptance speech, Dunn announced the creation of a new program called “Imagine,” designed to commit about $12 million over the next 10 years to ensure that “no student is left behind.” He also made a commitment to furthering research at the land-grant university.

“I stand before you, pledging with every part of me that this place will be a place where—regardless of ethnicity, race, belief system or station in life—an imagination can be the foundation of a future, with the beacon on top of our campanile, lighting the way,” Dunn said.

The ceremony began at 3 p.m. with the presentation of the colors by Army and Air Force ROTC cadets and the playing of the national anthem by the SDSU symphonic band and concert choir under the direction of Jacob Wolles. It concluded with the university alma mater, “The Yellow and Blue,” and a recession followed by a reception at the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

Executive Director of the South Dakota Board of Regents Michael G. Rush presided over the ceremony and introduced speakers and guests to those in the audience, as well as spoke on behalf of the university.

Among those in attendance were more than 20 delegates from other post-secondary schools across the country as well as representatives for Senator Mike Rounds, Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem. Brookings Mayor Tim Reed and several university marshals were also represented the city and university.

Students’ Association President Ally Helms spoke on behalf of the university’s student body and remarked on Dunn’s first months as president and his involvement with students.

“I don’t think we could’ve had a more beautiful day,” Helms said after the ceremony. “I really enjoyed his speech and I think his push for inclusivity and what he hopes to accomplish over the next ten years sets a really strong vision for South Dakota.”

Robert Thaler, professor of animal science, delivered the introduction before President Dunn’s appearance at the podium. He first met President Dunn in 1990 when they served on the state extension advisory board.

“For me personally, some of President Dunn’s greatest gifts are his sincerity and true concern for everyone he interacts with,” Thaler said. “South Dakota State is the people’s university and President Dunn will redefine what it means.”

SDSU’s newly inaugurated president said he was happy to share the day with his wife, Jane Dunn, and their two sons, Thomas and Michael Dunn, who were in attendance with other close members of President Dunn’s family. He also thanked his parents and the SDSU community—its students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The inauguration came after a series of events in the week leading up to the Thursday ceremony. These events included an employee picnic, and accomplishments and aspirations event for faculty and staff, as well as a student picnic and Frisbee throw.

“Thank you for using your imaginations and traveling with me this afternoon. This is our journey, and it’s for real,” Dunn said at the end of his address. “Thank you all again for coming and sharing this very special event with me.”