The Honors College Challenge: An Investment in Excellence

Brookings couple offers challenge to endow $4.5 million for Honors College

Aaron Sattler considers his involvement in the Honors program to be the best investment of his time at South Dakota State University.

Van and Barb Fishback of Brookings have provided a $3 million challenge match that could create $4.5 million in endowments to support program development, faculty support, and student excellence initiatives for the Honors College.

The Worthing, South Dakota, native graduated in May with Honors College Distinction and a degree in Spanish. Soon after, he was in León, Nicaragua, putting his college experience to work with Quetzalltrekkers, a nonprofit volunteer organization that offers adventure hikes to raise money for at-risk children.

Sattler guides tours ranging from one-day hikes up cinder cone volcanoes to three-day hikes through canyons and volcanoes, often reaching the highest point in Nicaragua.

Sattler credits the Honors program for helping prepare him for his new adventure. “My Honors experience significantly and positively impacted my life through all that I have learned and all of the relationships I formed.”

Students like Sattler inspired Van and Barb Fishback of Brookings to provide a $3 million challenge match that may create $4.5 million in endowments to support program development, faculty support, and student excellence initiatives for the Honors College.

When the Honors College Challenge is met, the $4.5 million in endowments will be the largest established to support an academic endeavor.

Longtime supporters of SDSU, the Fishbacks have offered a two-for-one match for other private gifts to the Honors College. The $1.5 million in matching funds must be raised or pledged by the end of 2012.

The $4.5 million in endowments will provide $180,000 a year to the Honors College—more than doubling the amount now available.

“Van and Barb Fishback’s leadership gift will have a transformational positive impact on the Honors College,” says Dean Tim Nichols. “It will provide unrivaled opportunities for SDSU students to earn an education of the highest quality. The gift will elevate our Honors College, which challenges and supports the development of well-rounded student leaders, to a whole new level of excellence.”

Nichols says the Fishbacks first approached him last winter and asked what would be necessary to put SDSU’s Honors College on par with the top programs around the country. Nichols developed a plan to use private funds to add or expand programs to reach more students.

Earnings from the endowments will expand the range of courses and enhance support for students and faculty, including academic advising and funds to support travel, service learning, leadership development, and undergraduate research.

Honors College provides rigorous learning

“Having a sound, productive, compelling Honors College is a huge recruiting tool for the very best and brightest students,” says Nels Granholm, who retired in July after forty-one years of teaching biology and global studies at State. “It tells the national and international community that SDSU is serious about instruction.”

Barb Fishback places the Honors College medallion on Aaron Sattler at an Honors College ceremony in May. Sattler graduated in May with Honors College Distinction and a degree in Spanish.

The Honors College curriculum emphasizes higher-order thinking skills, communications, ethics, and multidisciplinary perspectives.

Each year, approximately four hundred students take Honors courses, which are capped at twenty-four students per class. Honors course enrollment has doubled since 2008. Last fall, the Honors College moved into the Hilton M. Briggs Library to provide greater access and dedicated space to its students.

The Honors College reaches across every academic college, offering a more rigorous curriculum to students who meet specific academic requirements.

Students graduating with Honors College Distinction are required to earn a 3.5 grade point average and complete twenty-seven Honors credits, including a senior independent study project.

The Honors College also organizes the campus and community Common Read, LeadState program, and undergraduate research activities at SDSU. The Griffith Honors Forum Lecture brings a renowned speaker to campus each year.

Pledge adds to Fishbacks’ longtime support of SDSU

Van and Barb Fishback have been longtime supporters of the University, both personally and through First Bank & Trust and Fishback Financial Corporation. They, along with Bob and Pat Fishback of Brookings, provided the leadership gift for the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education.

Fishback Financial provided a $1 million gift to help underwrite the costs of It Starts with STATE: A Campaign for South Dakota State University. That $1 million was matched by other donors to provide the SDSU Foundation with a $2 million campaign fund. The six-year campaign aims to raise $200 million.

“The Fishbacks are indicative of supporters willing to invest in the vision presented through the goals of It Starts with STATE,” says Kevin Roberts, chair of the SDSU Foundation’s Council of Trustees. “They also understand the power of being a catalyst, using their commitment to encourage others to support this great cause.”

Van Fishback is vice chair of Fishback Financial Corporation and the former executive vice president of First Bank & Trust. He is a member of the development councils for the College of Nursing and the South Dakota Agriculture Heritage Museum.

Barb Fishback is a member of the Foundation’s Council of Trustees and the Women & Giving program. Their son, Tom, is a member of the Honors College Development Council.

To take part in the Honors College Challenge, please call the SDSU Foundation toll-free at 1-888-747-7378 or contact:

Keith Mahlum
Vice President for Development

Steve Erpenbach
President and CEO

Tim Nichols
Dean, Honors College

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