The Eminent Leaders Program began in 1927 with the recognition of two Eminent Farmers by South Dakota State College, now South Dakota State University. The following year, the program was expanded to with the addition of two Eminent Homemaker honorees. In the early years, the Eminent Farmer and Homemaker awards were much like honorary degrees. In the 1950s, the purpose of the program was clarified and the awards were designated as a very high honor, uniquely different from honorary degrees.
This program has been continuous since 1927 with the exception of 1942, 1943, and 1945. In 2011, the name was changed to Eminent Farmer/Rancher & Homemaker. In 2018, the full name of the award program was changed to Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family, and Community. The program is sponsored by the South Dakota State University Colleges of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences and Education & Human Sciences.
The honorees have come from all parts of South Dakota. Their leadership has influenced their communities, our state, and the nation. These people, their homes, families, farms and ranches, and communities are an integral part of the state of South Dakota.
The Eminent Leaders are nominated by people in their community and have not applied for this honor. The honorees have gone the extra mile and given unselfishly of their time, talent, and leadership to enhance their homes, churches and community organizations, schools, and agriculture, resulting in a betterment of family, communities, the state, and the nation.