Ben Reifel attended both a Rosebud Reservation Boarding School and a county school. He graduated from the eighth grade at 16 and spoke both the Lakota and English languages. After working on his parent’s farm for a few years, Ben finished high school and graduated at the age of 22. Immediately following his graduation, Ben enrolled at South Dakota State College. He paid his own way through college with help from one of the first loans made available to Indians. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1932. Later, during his time at the BIA, he was awarded a scholarship from Harvard University where he received his master’s degree in 1950 and his Ph.D. in 1952.
Ben was very active during his time at South Dakota State College. He served as class president his junior year and was involved in various campus activities and organizations, such as Agricultural Club, Alpha Zeta, Little International, Officers’ Mess, Board of Control, and Scabbard and Blade. He especially loved to take part in hobo day. Long after he graduated and was elected into Congress, Ben still promoted hobo day at the capital. Ben continued to be a part of South Dakota State College by returning for hobo day whenever he could, and speaking at and attending other events on campus. In 1964, the school’s president, Hilton M. Briggs, visited Ben at the capital.
Learn more about Congressman Ben Reifel's education and early career by diving into his papers. A large selection of the Benjamin Reifel Papers is available online through the Digital Library of South Dakota.