Charles William Pugsley was the first of two presidents to relocate to Brookings from Washington, D.C. He left the office of the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under Henry C. Wallace during the Harding administration to take the position, staying for 17 years, the second longest term of any South Dakota State University president.
Pugsley reorganized the administration into a system of deans with separate administration for financial affairs. This reorganization allowed him to devote much time to the growth of the college both on and off campus. During his term, the Division of Nursing was developed, as was the Civil Aeronautics programs, both of which contributed to the great impact the college was having across South Dakota. On campus, many buildings were constructed, most with the help of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many buildings were constructed without WPA assistance including the Coughlin Campanile, the Coolidge Sylvan Theatre, and the Lincoln Memorial Library, dedicated in 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge. Pugsley also broke ground for the institution's first student union, eventually named after him.