The namesake of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering at South Dakota State University has committed $5 million to create an endowed dean position in the college, President Barry H. Dunn announced Thursday afternoon in the Chicoine Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering Hall.
The endowment will provide $200,000 or more annually in perpetuity for current and future deans to use strategically for the benefit of the Lohr College of Engineering. The endowment also brings stature that will be critical in the retention and recruitment of strong leaders for the college.
“If a forensic scientist studied SDSU’s campus, they would see Jerry Lohr’s fingerprints everywhere,” Dunn told a crowd of 150. “Jerry has impacted SDSU in literally countless ways. Some are very grand and highly visible. Many are more subtle, but ultimately just as important. In this university’s 140-year history, Jerry Lohr stands as a giant.”
Lohr is a 1958 civil engineering graduate, coming from the farming community of Raymond. He went on to create and operate two successful California-based companies: a custom-home building business and J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines.
Lohr purchased his first vineyard in 1972. Today, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines farms approximately 4,000 acres of estate vineyards in Paso Robles and Monterey County, as well as 35 acres in the St. Helena appellation of Napa Valley.
Provost Dennis Hedge recounted Lohr’s involvement in every renovation, expansion or construction of engineering facilities over the past two decades, starting with the revitalization and expansion of Crothers Engineering Hall and Solberg Hall in 2001 and 2002, respectively. That continued with two phases of Daktronics Engineering Hall and construction of the Chicoine Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering Hall, which opened for classes in fall 2015.
“The renaissance, so to speak, started in 1983,” Hedge said. “That was the year Jerry returned to campus and walked through Solberg Hall. He taught classes there—as an undergraduate. He saw the same worn tile floor that he remembered from 25 years earlier. He saw a building that was worn-out. Jerry, himself, identified that as his motivation to get involved.”
Lohr joined the SDSU Foundation board in 1988 and has served on that continuously since then. He has chaired and co-chaired the first two comprehensive campaigns for the university. He is among the top benefactors in SDSU history.
The College of Engineering was formally named the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering in 2013 in recognition of his giving and leadership.
In announcing Lohr’s new $5 million commitment, President Dunn said, “This gift is yet another demonstration of his incredible generosity and an additional example of his extraordinary vision.”
Endowed faculty positions have become a point of emphasis at SDSU because of the financial resources, prestige and stability they bring. They range from endowed professors to endowed chairs to endowed deans. Bruce Berdanier will be the first holder of the Lohr Endowed Dean.
Paris Marcy, a senior civil engineering major from Minnetonka, Minnesota, introduced Lohr at the announcement. “I have learned how to be a leader and what it means to be part of a community, and most of all, I have learned how to harness my engineering judgment to solve the complex problems we face today,” said Marcy, who was recently selected as one of six students nationwide to receive a student leadership award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“We may not have a lot in common. But as a soon-to-be civil engineering graduate from South Dakota State, I hope it leads me to the type of success that Mr. Lohr has achieved,” she continued. “And not just as a professional, but as a person who cares, gives back, makes a difference and transforms lives.”
About the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering
The Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering has fostered a rich history of success in fulfilling its land grant mission in teaching, research and outreach. Named in 2013, the college includes six academic departments that offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering is to provide a rigorous, practical education oriented toward problem-solving; to conduct world-class regionally relevant research; and to provide technical assistance to existing and emerging business, industry and government.
About the SDSU Foundation
The SDSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that raises and administers funds to benefit SDSU. Founded in 1946, the SDSU Foundation has secured more than $900 million in gifts and commitments for SDSU in those 74 years. That success includes It Starts with STATE: A Campaign for South Dakota State University, which raised $255.7 million for students, faculty, facilities, athletics and other university programs from January 2007 to April 2013. The organization plans to announce the university’s next comprehensive campaign Oct, 21, 2021. The SDSU Foundation holds more than $312 million in assets, including a $205 million endowment. It has 44 full-time employees and approximately 30 students on a part-time basis.