Guiding South Dakota State for more than 17 years, Briggs enjoyed the longest tenure in the presidential office. In 1957, he was appointed President at South Dakota State University. During his tenure, the South Dakota State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts became South Dakota State University, and the campus grew to match its increasing status. Indeed, Briggs' term was marked by growth. The number of departments grew, enrollment increased by more than half, and the number of buildings on campus almost doubled. Briggs was also instrumental in beginning the Greek system, initiating women's intercollegiate athletics, and weathering the controversy and activism of the 1960s. The Faculty Association became a full-fledged Academic Senate with decision-making capacity under Brigg's leadership, and the Student Association also took on more responsibility. Many clubs and departments now associated with the university began under Briggs leadership and continue to this day.
Upon his retirement in 1975, he was designated a Distinguished Professor of Agriculture, taught for two years, and was subsequently appointed Director of International Programs. He was involved in the development of the Botswana Africa Project, an AID Program for teaching, research and Agricultural extension in that country.