Barry H. Dunn

Shortly before his first day as the 20th president of South Dakota State University, Barry H. Dunn, and his wife, Jane ’77, answered numerous questions p25-Dunn-new-ADJIMG_3753in order to give you, the loyal readers of STATE Magazine, some insight into their lives. President Dunn, who earned his bachelor’s degree from State in 1975 to go with a master’s degree in 1977 and a doctorate in 2000, answers 20-plus questions on the following pages. Jane provided a few comments, too. Jane’s thoughts on being State’s first lady are on page 27.

1. When you were younger, what did you want to be?
“I wanted to be a cowboy or rancher just like my grandfather, Claude Lamoureaux. He was a very strong role model for me and that’s what I wanted to do.”

2. Where did you grow up?
“I was born in Pennsylvania and lived in three or four towns growing up. My maternal grandparents had a ranch south of Mission that was the focal point. I didn’t go to school there but I really identified that with home.”

3. What attracted you to South Dakota State as a potential student?
“I came here with my older brother (Gregg) who was looking for colleges in 1966. I just fell in love with it. It was the only school I applied to. He didn’t come here, but it was the only place I wanted to go. I came in the summer, and it was such a friendly and pretty place. I liked the size. I got to visit with the faculty. I remember the campus green distinctively. It just had the right feel. I was 13 or 14 but I just knew.” NOTE: Gregg attended Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

4. What’s your favorite memory of your undergraduate days?
“I think the first of two powerful memories are the iconic teachers—Dr. Gary Thibodeau, Dr. John Hartell and Dr. John Grove—I had. They made a huge difference for me. The other powerful memory is the great friends—Larry Demers, Bill Stewart, Roger Gates—I developed and still have. We were good for each other and had a great experience. We seemed to balance each other out and take care of each other. We studied hard and had a wonderful experience.”

5. Did you ever think you’d serve as the university’s president then?
“Not at all. The plan was to be a rancher, but I also thought about veterinary school.”

6. What inspired you to stay at SDSU and earn your master’s degree?

The Dunn family, South Dakota State’s newest first family. From left, Thomas, Barry, Jane and Michael.

The Dunn family, South Dakota State’s newest first family. From left, Thomas, Barry, Jane and Michael.

“He stayed and waited for me,” Jane said. She’s a 1977 graduate from the College of Nursing.
President Dunn said, “John Hartell really got me very excited about science and research. I did an undergraduate research project with him. I got very interested in the scientific method and wanted to keep going, keep learning.”

7. As an SDSU alumnus, what experiences made a lasting impression on you when you were a student?
“This group of friends was avid basketball fans. We went to all of the basketball games and went to the football games. I have more fond memories of Frost than The Barn because we couldn’t get into The Barn because it was usually packed. Frost, when it was brand-new, had Lee Colburn, Dave Thomas and Rich Gerry playing on the men’s basketball team. It was just a great experience watching them play basketball. That was an important part of our college life.”

8. What programs or groups were you associated with while attending SDSU?
“I was president of the Harding Lecture Committee, which was a joint committee with faculty and students then. I hung out a lot with the Hobo Day Committee but wasn’t a member. It was half of the size it is now so we felt like we knew everybody. Everybody knew me as a Harv, for Harvey Dunn. I was very fond of the nickname. Jane never liked it. You know how people would yell out Norm on “Cheers,” that’s how it was for me. I would walk in somewhere and people would yell ‘Harv.’ It was a very, very fun time.”

9. What is your favorite place on campus?
“I spent an enormous amount of time in the library. Every night after supper in Grove Commons, Larry and I went to the Lincoln Library to study. We had study groups for the physiology and anatomy courses. President Chicoine also says that he went to the library every night.”
Jane said, “We didn’t have the Internet then obviously. We went to the basement where they had all of the hometown newspapers  to see what happened in Onida or Philip or wherever. It was quite the congregating place.”

10. In what residence hall(s) did you live in as an undergrad?
“I started in Mathews Hall and then lived in Pierson Hall. I lived on campus for three years.” NOTE: The Dunns met while living in Pierson Hall.

11. What’s your favorite story while working at SDSU?
“As a faculty member, the most meaningful thing was getting a thank you card years after this young person had been in my class. She wrote on Thanksgiving that she was grateful for the difference I made in her life in a positive way. She grew up on Lower Brule. The card was really special. I didn’t realize the role I played in her life at the time, I was just being her teacher, a mentor, a friend. To get that card years later and have someone give thanks for me was very humbling.”

12. What prompted you to come back as dean?
“I think I felt some responsibility. I loved the college and the state a great deal and knew there were some pretty serious challenges. I was recruited fairly heavily by friends across the state and faculty on campus who thought I could make a positive difference.”

13. What will you miss most about being a dean?
“I’m going to miss working closely with the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences leadership team. They are a great group of leaders who I am proud to call friends. We worked hard together and have the college on a very good trajectory.”

14. What prompted you to think about applying for the presidency of South Dakota State?
Three years ago, President Chicoine encouraged me to attend the Millennial Leadership Initiative in Washington, D.C., which is a yearlong program to prepare for becoming a college president. I got to thinking about being a president then but put it on the backburner when I got home. I didn’t apply for any other presidencies when they came open at other universities. When President Chicoine announced he was going to step away from the presidency and go
back to the faculty, I again got a lot of encouragement from friends and colleagues and stakeholders across the state to apply.”

15. What have the days been like since you were introduced as the 20th president?
“It’s been very exciting. The wave of support I felt that afternoon has been followed with waves of cards, texts, phone calls, emails and letters. It’s been really wonderful. The support I’ve received everywhere I go has been more than I could have imagined. It’s very affirming and very, very helpful as I became mentally prepared.”

16. What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing SDSU?
“Enrollment management and student retention. I’m going to pay an awful lot of attention to those areas. We need to pay attention to our students from the time they arrive on campus through graduation. Our mission is to be the point of access to opportunity for young people but it’s also important that we maintain strong academic programs and give the students a great living and learning experience.”

17. What are your expectations for SDSU one year from now?
“We will all feel much more comfortable. There are an awful lot of leadership positions open right now. Those will have been filled or we’ll be on the way to filling those and everyone will feel a sense of relief from this period of really dramatic change.”

18. What are three words you would use to describe your wife, Jane?
“Beautiful, warm, loving.”

19. What do you think your family is looking forward to the most as you move into this new role?
“Maybe knowing what I’ll be doing for the next 10 years. They’re very proud of me, but I’m not sure it’s quite what they thought I’d be doing at this time of my life.”

20. What are your hobbies outside of work?
“I love working around our farm. I’ve put a lot of time into keeping it up and making it better. I love to read. I’m an avid, almost voracious reader. I like to shop for antiques.”

What was your initial reaction to BarryBerry ice cream?
“It was really fun. I think we can all take each other too seriously at times. I thought it was a pressure release and good for all of us to do something silly and fun.”

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