Growing up on a farm near Salem, James Huls was a “fixer guy.” In 1959, farm boys grew up to be farmers. But Huls wanted to become an engineer. “Somehow I got a college catalog and saw that SDSU had engineering, so I decided to go to South Dakota State,” said Huls, now a retired manufacturing executive living at Lake Madison.
What Huls didn’t know is that his decision would create a pattern for all five of his siblings and all his children as well as many nieces and nephews.
A total of 30 from the family of the late Salem residents Joe and Gladys Huls have attended South Dakota State University, including two current students. Because of those numbers and the family’s commitment to State, the Hulses have been selected as 2011 Family of the Year at SDSU.
The Hulses were honored at the Jan. 22 women’s basketball game against Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW).
The annual event is coordinated by the SDSU Alumni Association and Staters for State, the student alumni organization.
James Huls broke from peers
Neither Joe nor Gladys Huls attended State. Gladys attended one year at Dakota State, then General Beadle State College, and taught for a couple years before marrying. Joe’s focus always was farming, but eldest son James remembers, “Mother was always pushing education.”
“Back in those days practically nobody went to college. The first day I went to college was the day I registered. My parents dropped me off and that was it. There was no college visitation,” Huls, a 1964 SDSU grad, recalled.
Maria Skoglund spurned Georgetown
Maria Skoglund is one of the most recent in the line of Huls to select SDSU. The 2008 graduate of McCook Central High School in Salem chose State even though she had visited and been accepted at prestigious Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Her parents, Mary Rae and David Skoglund, graduated from State in 1975 and 1974, respectively.
However, the younger Skoglund said she didn’t feel pressure to keep the pipeline flowing to State.
“In all honesty, my dad definitely pushed me to do other things. My mom was more understanding of why I wanted to stay in state — that it’s okay to stay in state, to go to a school a lot of your friends did and a lot of your family have. That SDSU is still a great choice too,” Skoglund said.
Now a junior, she said she hasn’t regretted for one day the decision she made. “I’m absolutely happy with my decision,” she said.
As Skoglund was mulling her choices, she said she was “blessed enough to receive the Briggs Scholarship,” which is the University’s premier scholarship. Also that spring she was elected to serve a year as the South Dakota FFA sentinel.
Involved, happy, close to home
By choosing State, Skoglund could fulfill those duties, and she became involved in a horde of activities.
She plays mellophone in the Pride of the Dakotas and the pep band, is on the staff of Little International agricultural exposition, is involved in campus ministries, intramurals and SDSU’s Relay for Life, chairs the service efforts of the Briggs student organization, and, appropriately, is an Admissions Office ambassador.
“That’s a blast,” she said of the organization that tours prospective students around campus.
“I chose SDSU because so many members of the family have gone here, but they all have had different and fantastic experiences here. They could all say they made SDSU their own,” Skoglund said, sounding a message she could give as an Admissions ambassador.
That certainly sets the stage for her cousin, Mark F. Huls, a 2010 McCook Central grad, to continue the family tradition at State. The youngest Huls Jackrabbit is a freshman majoring in economics.
Second time in the spotlight
That diversity began immediately in the Huls connection with SDSU.
Following engineering major James ’64 to campus, his brother, Don, studied agriculture and played football and basketball before graduating in 1965.
Those Huls just kept heading to Brookings. Jean (Huls) Rasmussen graduated in 1968, Denise (Huls) Linneman in 1969, Mark Huls in 1971 and Mary Rae (Huls) Skoglund in 1975.
When Mary Rae was just a freshman, Joe and Gladys Huls were honored as SDSU Parents of the Year during halftime of the Hobo Day football game in October 1971 and all the siblings were on hand.
On Jan. 22, 2011, the siblings had another chance to gather to honor their parents’ legacy.
Families of the year are selected by Staters for State based on dedication, loyalty, support and contributions to SDSU, members of family who attended SDSU, and involvement as students and alumni.
Photo: For their support and dedication to South Dakota State University, 40 family descendants of Joe and Gladys Huls of Salem were recognized during halftime of the Jackrabbit men’s basketball game Jan.22 as the SDSU Alumni Association’s Family of the Year. Those family members pictured include, by row,front row: Kira Mentele, Jase Heumiller, Will Eggink, Finn Eggink, Dr. Adele (Trapp) Huls ’67, Preston Smith; second row: Sydney Huntimer, Nancy (Huls) Eggink ’94, Kevin Eggink ’93, Don Huls ’65; third row: Seth Huntimer, Mike Heumiller, Mary Rae (Huls) Skoglund ’75; fourth row: Brandi Mentele, Betsy Huls, Tom Skoglund, Melissa (Huls) Smith, Peyton Smith, Matt Smith; fifth row: Mark F. Huls, freshman (current student), Katie (Huls) Heumiller ’03, David Skoglund ’74, Kellie Eilts, Haley Huls; sixth row: Mark A. Huls ’71, Jean Skoglund, Denise (Huls) Linneman ’69, Shana (McClure) Huls ’91, Jim M. Huls ’90, Cayden Huls; seventh row: Kay (Skoglund) Perry ’06, junior (current student) Maria Skoglund, Chris Huls ’99, Pat Huls; and eighth row: Jean (Huls) Rasmussen ’68, Anne Rasmussen, Taia Huls ’05, Jim J. Huls ’64; ninth row: Glenn Rasmussen ’68 BS ’69 MS, Jasmond Johnson.