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 parents' farm for a few years, Ben was encouraged to attend the School of Agriculture, an agricultural high school in Brookings, South Dakota. He 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 American Indians. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1932.
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.
Reifel especially loved to take part in Hobo Day. Long after he graduated and was elected to Congress, Ben still promoted Hobo Day at the capitol.
He 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.
Reifel holding a 1961 Hobo Day bumper sticker
U.S. Representative Ben Reifel holding a 1961 SDSC Hobo Day bumper sticker by the license plates on his car.
Reifel with SDSU President Briggs
1964, the school’s president, Hilton M. Briggs visited Ben at the capital. Left to right: U.S. Representative E.Y. Berry, SDSU President H.M. Briggs, Lillian Briggs, Alice Reifel, and Ben Reifel.
Reifel at Steer for State auction
Ben Reifel at the Steer for State fund raising auction at South Dakota State College in 1960.
In 1950, Reifel was awarded a grant and faculty scholarship to the Littauer School of Public Administration at Harvard University for the 1949-1950 academic year. This was a nine-month public administration program designed for federal, state, and county agricultural extension officers. He received his master’s degree in 1950 and his Ph.D. in 1952.
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.