Mines Students and Teachers - 1895

SDSMT Historic Campus Photo

South Dakota Mines History

Explore Highlights in South Dakota Mines History (below) - or learn more about Past South Dakota Mines Presidents.

SDSMT Historic Library Photo

The Past in Pictures

Historic photos of the university archived by the Devereaux Library.

Highlights in South Dakota Mines History

South Dakota Mines has a long history, one that started before South Dakota gained statehood.  Below we highlight a few of the many special moments in our university's evolution, interwoven with key historical events.

  • In 1876, before South Dakota even became a state, Rapid City was laid out. Only months later, Custer was overwhelmingly defeated at the Battle of Little Big Horn by a combination of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native Americans, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall.

  • The Dakota School of Mines was founded in 1885, with the cornerstone of the first building being dedicated on August 19. In the same year, William P. Blake donated 41 scientific and technical books to form the beginning of the library. Gilbert Bailey loaned his collect of fossils and minerals, providing the foundation for the Museum of Geology. The first class was held almost two years later in 1887.

  • South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota. Soon after being awarded statehood, the Dakota School of Mines became known as the South Dakota School of Mines.

  • The campus continued growing and student organizations were established. In 1888, the Metallurgy Building was completed. The first football team, The Longlocks, was established, near 1895. In 1901, the front portion of the Liberal Arts Building was completed. In 1901, the school newspaper, The Aurum, was published for the first time.

  • Time-honored traditions like M-Day began at this time. The first M-Day was on October 5, 1912, when the “M” was constructed on M-Hill.

  • The world was thrown into pandemonium in 1914, with the beginning of World War I. 3 years later, the US enters the war. In 1918, training detachments began to be housed on campus. Shortly after, in the same year, Germany was defeated and World War I ended.

  • Campus expansions and improvements continued after the chaos of the War ended. In 1913, electrical engineering course of study was offered for the first time. In 1921, work was completed on the new engineering building, now called the McLaury Building. The M Club was formed at Mines in 1922. On April 27, 1928, the cornerstone was laid for the School of Mines gymnasium, which was completed the following year.

  • The nation faced more turmoil in 1929 when the Stock Market crashed, setting off a worldwide economic depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected 32nd president in 1932 and worked to build the US economy. The following year, prohibition was repealed.

  • Joseph Connolly, the namesake for Connolly Hall, took his place as 10th president at Mines in 1935. In 1938, O’Harra Field was completed.

  • The shaky peace after World War I was broken in 1939 when World War II breaks out. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese execute an unprecedented attack on Pearl Harbor. The US ends their policy of isolationism and joins the war the following day. The campus was used for Army Specialized Training Program, and some buildings become barracks. In 1945, World War II ends and atomic bombs are dropped on Japan.

  • More programs were being offered at Mines. In 1942, a degree program in Engineering Physics was established, as well as Chemistry and Industrial Engineering. A year later in 1943, a degree program in mechanical engineering was established. 

  • Connolly Hall was completed in 1947.

  • With expanded university offerings, more buildings were needed. The Civil/Mechanical Building was completed in 1950. The Chemistry/Chemical Engineering Building was completed in 1957. In the same year, a mathematics course of study was established. In 1959, the March/Dake Hall was completed.

  • The 1960s brought new technologies and changes to Mines. In 1961, the first computer was constructed on campus. Construction began on the Surbeck Center in January 1962. The following year, the Mineral Industries Building was completed. On September 5, 1969, Palmerton Hall was completed and dedicated. 

  • Ph.D. programs expanded in 1967, with Ph.D. programs authorized for electrical engineering, geology, and geological engineering.

  • In May 1970, 4 Kent State University students are killed while protesting the Vietnam War in what is referred to as the Kent State Massacre. On June 17, 5 men are arrested breaking into the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Due to controversy stemming from Watergate, President Richard Nixon resigns. In 1979, Americans were taken hostage at the embassy in Iran. They were returned 444 days later.

  • Research at Mines grew in the late 1970s. In 1979, nearly $2 million was expended for research during the year, up from only $100,000 in 1964.

  • Construction of the Classroom Building begins in 1988 and was completed the following year. The Liberal Arts building was condemned in the same year and demolished in 1994. The Tech Learning Center begins providing tutoring services for students.

  • The Internet was brought to campus in 1992. TechNeT also became available on campus.

  • The prestige of the School of Mines grows in the 1990s. In 1993, the Devereaux Library was designated as the Patent and Trademark Depository for South Dakota. In 1993, the School of Mines site was selected for the National Weather Service Office for western South Dakota. In 1995, the Mines team wins the national concrete canoe competition. The Memorial Arch and Plaza are constructed in 1996. In 1997, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Production (CAMP) was established on campus. In 1999, Sun Microsystems established a high-performance computing lab on campus.

  • In 2004, Peterson Hall opens to house the steadily-growing student body. The Tech Development Laboratory opens, housing several modern research activities and projects. In 2006, the Black Hills Business Development Center opens on campus.

  • In an effort to provide support to women students, the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program was implemented in 2006.

  • The School of Mines was recognized in the national spotlight in 2007 when it was named one of “America’s 100 Best Buys” for the 10th consecutive year. In 2008, it was announced that the School of Mines is the only university in the nation where starting salaries for graduates are equivalent to the cost of a four-year degree, the nation’s best college investment. In 2009, Mines was named the Military Friendly School for 2010 by G.I. Jobs Magazine. In 2012, Bloomberg News reported that Mines graduates out earn Harvard graduates when they enter the job market, and the story goes viral.

  • Research at Mines reached new heights in 2009, when Mines researchers were awarded nearly $21 million in research and development funding, the highest amount in the history of the university.

  • In April 2013, Dr. Heather Ann Wilson was selected to be the 18th President of the South Dakota Mines. In 2014, Mines was accepted as a full member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and in May construction began on the new student Wellness and Recreation Center. In October, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled an educational sculpture, showing different types of welds on the northwest side of the Civil & Mechanical Engineering Building. Also in October, Winter Storm Atlas drops 23.1 inches of snow on Rapid City.

  • In 2014, the school offered two new programs: a PhD in Civil & Environmental Engineering as well as a minor in Petroleum Systems

  • The school dedicated the Veurink Chemical Engineering Unit Operation Laboratory in November of 2016. The lab was made possible thanks to a donation from Gary and Ruth Veurink.

  • In March 2017, the school announced a multi-phase renovation to the nearly century-old McLaury Building. The renovations included updating facilities, improving efficiency, and bringing the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In April, there was the grand opening of the newly renovated Chemical & Biological Engineering/Chemistry Building (CBEC). In May, the US Senate confirmed the appointment of President Heather Wilson as Secretary of the US Airforce and Jan Puzynski, Ph.D. became interim president. In July, researchers at Mines were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony that marked the start of construction on the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). The facility will become home to the international collaboration known as the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). Later that year, a groundbreaking ceremony and press conference was held at Dunham Field at O'Harra Stadium to kick off the upgrades to O'Harra stadium. Mines helped host the ICPC world championships in July, bringing in the top collegiate programmers from around the world. In November, Mines selected James Rankin, PhD, a Mines alumnus, as the 19th President of South Dakota Mines.

  • Mines offered a new undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2018 and a new master’s in nanoscience and engineering. In April, the Mines Mining and Mucking Team took home first place in the co-ed/mixed division at the International Collegiate Mining Games in Cornwall, England. In May, a groundbreaking was held for the new Pearson Alumni and Conference Center. In September, Mines opened the Hardrocker eSports Arena. In October, Mines reorganized two existing departments to create a new Computer Science and Engineering Department.

  • In 2019, the school offered a new degree, Business Management in Technology, in collaboration with Black Hills State University in Spearfish, but the degree will be issued by South Dakota Mines upon graduation. Ground is broken for what would become the David Lust Accelerator Building. Mines received a $3.6 million donation for the Department of Civil Engineering. The endowed gift came from the estate of Willard and Billie Kaye Goodman.

  • The World Health Organization declares Covid-19 a pandemic on March 16, 2020, in the middle of Spring Break. The Mines campus shut down. Spring Break was extended an extra week while university officials made decisions on how to finish the spring semester safely. It was determined to offer classes online for the remainder of the semester. In the fall, campus opened and classes were offered through both in person and hybrid formats. Social distancing was in place, and masks were required indoors.

    • The mask mandate was lifted, and in the fall of 2021, Mines resumed normal operations in a pre-Covid 19 format. Mines adds a Master's Degree in Industrial Engineering in 2021. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering was renamed to the Karen M. Swindler Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in honor of alumna Karen Swindler, the first time such a department was named after a woman in the nation. The school partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) on a new project called “Materials and Manufacturing for Cold Regions.” The effort includes a five-year, $11.2 million grant to fund faculty and student research at Mines from multiple engineering and science disciplines.

    • In March, the university was given permission by the South Dakota State Legislature and Gov. Kristi Noem to purchase the Ascent Innovation Building on campus that previously housed Elevate Rapid City. The departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering were merged into one department in July of 2022. In August, the school offered a new specialization in Data Science for Math majors as well as a new PhD in Data Science and Engineering. Also that month, the ribbon was cut on the newly renovated Devereaux Library Building. In October, ground was broken on the new Nucor Mineral Industries Building. Nucor donated to the project with the largest corporate gift in university history, totaling $5 million, to help fund a new Mineral Industries building on campus.

      Have other questions or information needs?  South Dakota Mines Marketing and Communications Department handles public and media inquiries about the university. The Devereaux Library archives South Dakota Mines history. The Alumni Association has records on past South Dakota Mines alumni.