Courtesy of the SDSU Foundation
On April 5, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences hosted a pivotal day that was a decade in the making with the formal investiture of Eluned Jones as the inaugural recipient of the Ness Director of the Ness School of Management and Economics.
The generosity of Larry and Diane Ness that first led to the creation of the Ness School of Management and Economics has also funded the school’s first endowed director position.
Jones joined SDSU in 2012, laying the groundwork for the Ness School. She will retire in June.
“Ten years ago, two critical questions came up throughout my interview process, from the first phone call to the final interview,” Jones said at the investiture ceremony. “Should SDSU have a business school or college? And why is accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business critical?”
In response to those initial questions that drew her to SDSU, Jones has been an unwavering proponent for the business school and advocated tirelessly for accreditation. The accreditation process is expected to be finalized by the end of 2022.
“I am honored to have been a part of this process, to have had the dedicated partnership of Larry and Diane Ness in achieving the vision and aspiration of the Ness School of Management and Economics,” said Jones, “and to know that there will be continued recognition of their belief in the power of education to create future leaders in the naming of the school and its director.”
Larry and Diane met as undergraduates at SDSU. Larry is a 1969 economics graduate; Diane is a 1970 home economics education graduate. They live in Yankton. Larry is CEO and chairman of the board of First Dakota National Bank.
Their $5 million commitment in 2011 was the critical investment that eventually led to the Ness School of Management and Economics. They made an additional $5 million gift in 2021 to create endowments for the director, scholarships and a speakers’ series that will bring significant guests in the fields of business, economics and management to campus.
“To be a premier university, we need to have the best minds, the most creative researchers and the most engaged teachers,” said SDSU President Barry H. Dunn about the purpose and significance of endowed positions. “One of the best ways to be premier is through endowed positions that allow us to recruit and retain top talent in our academic programs and, in turn, to attract the brightest students.”
Since the creation of the Ness School, the university continues to see upward trends of enrollment within the realm of business and economics. In the years since the school was established, interest in programming has skyrocketed. First-year and transfer enrollments have doubled since the business economics major was approved. Admitted student numbers have doubled since the school’s naming, from 360 in late March 2020 to more than 600 currently.
The university also continues to see strong growth in commitments for endowed positions, bolstered by the prestige, opportunity and innovation associated with the perpetual support. SDSU set a goal to secure commitments for 50 endowed faculty positions by the end of Bold & Blue: The Campaign for South Dakota State University. As of April 2022, there are commitments in place for 47.
At the investiture ceremony, Ness talked about his SDSU experience, including former professors who provided tough advice that has remained with him to this day. He said it was a motivation for the couple to give back.
“I would urge those of you here to make the most out of your association with South Dakota State—whether you give them a nickel or give them your best advice. It all counts,” he said. “This is a wonderful place.”
Jones spoke of the indelible impact of the Nesses’ philanthropy for the business school. “There are too many changes that are unseen, but some changes were highly visible and marked the history of change,” she said. “These were made possible because of Larry and Diane Nesses’ belief in the vision. We are already seeing the evidence of achieving the vision of the Ness School of Management and Economics.”