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Archive for March 6th, 2019

Betty Turner Asher was the first woman president of any public higher education system in South Dakota. She served at USD from 1989-1996, resigning after seven years of service. At the time, her tenure was tied with two other presidents for the fourth longest term of any president at USD. Asher was previously the Vice President of Student Affairs for Arizona State University, and held three degrees: a bachelor’s in history, a master’s in counseling, and a doctorate in education.

Asher’s accomplishments while at USD are many, and some are listed here. Under President Asher:

-USD approved and began additions to the I.D. Weeks library

-Renovation was approved for the oldest building on campus, Old Main

-Construction was completed on the Health Sciences Center in Sioux Falls

-Funds were dedicated to expand the Lommen Health Sciences Library

-Enrollment hit a record high of 7,739 in 1989

-A record 1,118 degrees were conferred in May 1995

-USD Law rose to the top half of rankings in accredited institutions by the American Bar Association

-USD ranked in the top 5% of the nation’s colleges and universities, as reported by US News and World Report

-Psychology, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Administrative Studies, Counseling, Physician’s Assistant are just some of the programs that were added or experienced growth under her leadership

Asher was known to students and faculty for her open door policy, and made leaps and bounds in improving diversity at USD. In an interview with the South Dakotan in July 1996, she states: “But I am happy that our gay and lesbian students are comfortable enough to meet openly as a group…I have received all kinds of letters and notes from the Native American community. I have been deeply touched by their response.” Asher goes on to speak about how the students and faculty make USD a success, and that she appreciated the close relationships she had with USD and its faculty and students. She recalled students coming up to her home and inviting her to join them downtown, and said that USD is where she never woke up in the morning and did not want to go to work.

Asher is the first in a short list of female leadership at South Dakota public universities. Only seven women have served as university presidents in South Dakota since Asher’s term. They are:

Peggy Gordon-Miller, South Dakota State University, 1998-2006

Kay Schallenkamp, Black Hills State University, 2006-2015

Laurie S. Nichols (interim), Northern State University, 2008-2009

Heather Ann Wilson, South Dakota School of Mines, 2013-2017

Maria Ramos (interim), Dakota State University, 2014-2015

Jose-Marie Griffiths, Dakota State University, 2015-Present

Sheila K. Gestring, University of South Dakota, 2018-Present

Betty Turner Asher’s papers are held at the Archives and Special Collections at USD.

BettyTurnerAsher

Betty Turner Asher, from USD’s Past President’s website, sourced below

Sources:

South Dakotan, July 1996 Issue

Karl Mundt Library, Dakota State University

https://www.sdstate.edu/about-us/hall-presidents

http://www.northern.edu/pastpresidents

https://www.bhsu.edu/About-BHSU/President-Jackson/Past-Presidents

https://www.usd.edu/about-usd/past-usd-presidents

https://www.sdsmt.edu/About/History/History-of-the-Presidency/

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