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South Dakota State University

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John W. Heston (1896-1903)


Formerly the head of Washington State College, John Heston came to D.A.C. in June of 1896. He arrived with experience in public schools, a law practice and a college presidency. As the first president to work with the newly organized Board of Regents, his administration was marked by major changes in the focus of the institution. In addition to witnessing an increase in enrollment and the construction of new campus buildings such as Solberg Hall, Heston implemented a "modern university." This modernization brought about electives, majors and minors, and specialized Bachelor's degrees including the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Agriculture, and Bachelor of Engineering. Heston also oversaw the formation of new departments such as music and foreign languages in the liberal arts, and mechanical, agricultural and electrical divisions in engineering. In his most lasting legacy, Heston broadened the work of the Agriculture Department to include many scientific courses, reflecting his attitude that "the scientific study of agriculture is nothing more or less than the study of modern sciences in their bearing on agriculture." This approach continued to prevail after Heston's resignation in 1903, and is still evident in College of Agriculture and Biological Science courses today. Like others before him, Heston had a troubled relationship with the regents and moved on to become the president of the Normal School (now Dakota State University) in Madison, SD.