Skip to main content

South Dakota State University

Close Search

George Lilley (1884-1886)


The first president of Dakota Agricultural College was only 30 years old when he accepted the presidency of what is now South Dakota State University. Hired on June 2, 1884, he arrived in Brookings from Corning, Iowa to find a campus with no buildings. He promptly gave a third of his $1,500 salary to finish the lone building, and by September 23, 35 students had enrolled in the Preparatory Course at the college. Over the next two years, the enrollment went as high as 252. The male and female students came from many different educational backgrounds, were of different ages, and many continued to appear throughout each term. The unprecedented growth led to many problems in the college, and by the time the first degree candidate graduated on June 24, 1886, Lilley had handed in his resignation. The regents discovered that Lilley had embellished his credentials. Instead of a doctorate, he held only an honorary degree. Despite that, his term in office was a time of development, and many of the ideas and plans laid down during his tenure eventually came to fruition.