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Hayengas endow department head of animal science position at SDSU

Mary and Cal Hayenga
Mary and Cal Hayenga

A Spearfish couple has endowed the Cal and Mary Hayenga Department Head of Animal Science at South Dakota State University. 

Cal, a 1969 agriculture major, and his wife, Mary, a 1967 sociology major, utilized a gift of land to make a difference at their alma mater. By investing in the department head position, the Hayengas are fueling opportunities and resources for staff and students alike. 

Cal and Mary met at SDSU, finding common ground at the Wesley Methodist Student Center on campus. The two had even more in common than just their shared faith, having both come from farming backgrounds. Mary was raised on a dairy farm and attended SDSU through a scholarship funded by Betty Crocker; Cal grew up in a farming family, headed to State based on his parents’ ill-fated hopes that he’d become a minister — his agricultural roots won out, instead. 

Following graduation, Cal took over and grew his family’s farming operations in the Andover area. Meanwhile, Mary enjoyed a decade-long career as a social worker before pivoting to work on bookkeeping for the farm, once the enterprise had become a full-time job for much of the family. 

After decades of hard work, the Hayengas’ accumulated acres of land became a tax burden, and they reached out to the SDSU Foundation for ideas on philanthropic giving at the university. 

“We gradually wound up acquiring a lot of land,” Cal said. “That in itself wouldn’t have been a problem, but then the land quadrupled in value and the estate taxes were set to dwindle. We couldn’t divest ourselves fast enough.” 

By opting for a gift of land, the Hayengas can prioritize both their heir — in this case, the couple’s nephew — and the university. The decision to endow the department head of animal science also serves as a nod to one of Cal’s favorite professors from his years at SDSU, Swine Specialist Bob Seerley. Though Cal never went on to raise pigs, he valued the critical thinking skills he learned from Seerley, crediting the problem-solving mentality that helped him navigate the many challenges of leading a farming operation. 

“The Lord treated me well, and everybody was a winner,” Cal said. “SDSU receives the land rent, and that serves the university and me both.” 

The Hayengas’ gift marks the 58th commitment in place for endowed faculty and leadership positions at the university. Bold & Blue: The Campaign for South Dakota State University had a goal to secure commitments for 50 endowed positions by the conclusion of the fundraising initiative in April 2024; the university reached this milestone in fall 2023. 

The perpetual nature of endowed funding ensures increased resources that the holder may allocate at their discretion, elevating learning opportunities and program experiences for Jackrabbits following in Cal’s footsteps in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. 

“Cal and Mary’s generosity has already had a significant impact on the educational environment for our students,” said Joe Cassady, the South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “Through their newly endowed gift, we will be able to continue to help students by providing scholarships and educational experiences that would have been cost prohibitive.” 

Mary cited the couple’s belief that their gift can strengthen the university’s recruitment and retention efforts, helping future students find their career paths and potentially reinforcing the local economy. In effect, by gifting land, the Hayengas are supporting the influential leaders who are training the next generation of stewards for South Dakota’s land. 

“I hope this will help students stay in South Dakota long enough to realize what a wonderful place it is,” Mary said. “If they go somewhere else, they’ll come back here in the future because they’ll really remember it. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to State.”