Huron, South Dakota
Huron is only a hop, step and a jump below Redfield on Highways 281 and 14, so for me, as for athletic teams of an earlier era, it was an easy trip. After I had collected materials from Huron College yearbooks at the public library, one of the librarians pointed me to the Huron campus, only a block away.
In 2010 the Huron campus was at an embarrassing stage for all concerned. Too good to be razed, it nevertheless had had no offers to be re-purposed. So it sat, the lawns a breeding ground for mosquitoes—as I discovered with each step..
Huron College was founded in 1883 as Presbyterian University of Southern Dakota. Located at Pierre, it became Pierre University in 1884. In 1897 it was moved to Huron and became Huron College, the name it bore for much of its history.
The 1926 Rubaiyat shows 245 college students with an additional 39 academy students and 15 commercial students. In addition to the usual debate, oratory, and drama activities Huron College sponsored two touring glee clubs and no fewer than seven literary societies. At the time Huron also had four Korean students.
By the 1980’s Huron College was experiencing financial problems, and its final years were marked by a series of ownership changes and consequent changes of mission. In 1984 the city of Huron paid off the school’s debts and turned it over to Midwest Educational Systems to manage. That Colorado group purchased the college outright in 1987, shifting its emphasis from liberal arts and education to business.
In 1989 ownership of Huron College passed to Lansdowne College Ltd, which changed the name to Huron University and opened a branch campus in London. In 1992 Eastern International Educational Association, a group headed by Japanese politicians, purchased the school and opened a branch campus in Tokyo. Huron University then lost its accreditation in 1996, and ownership passed to the Whitman Educational Group, and then in 1999 to local investors. Huron’s final chapter was written in 2001 when it was purchased by Si Tonka Community College, owned by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The two schools together became Si Tonka University. But a lack of Native American students at Huron caused the Tribe to lose federal financial assistance. The Huron campus closed on April 1, 2005.
Thalia Women’s Glee Club 1925-26. This group toured in Minnesota and South Dakota. (Rubyiat, Courtesy of Huron Public Library)
Bricks and Mortar
Ralph Voorhees Hall was completed in 1907 at a cost of $122,000. Voorhees, a Chicago native, gave the first $10,000 toward its construction. His wife had previously given $15,000 toward the building of a women’s dormitory and contributed another $27,000 to eliminate the school’s debt. When completed, Voorhees Hall was considered the finest school building in the state.
Voorhees Hall in 2010. The hall was demolished in September 2011 to make way for a water park.
Team name: Scalpers or Tribe. (The Si Tonka Huron teams were called Screaming Eagles)
Colors: Purple and Gold
Huron College fielded teams in football, basketball and track. The school played football before the twentieth century. In 1917 Huron became a charter member of the South Dakota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The years 1949-61 were glory years for Huron football as the team went 87-25-3 over that period. The 1958 team was undefeated and three other teams had only one loss each.
As Si Tonka Huron, the school became a member of the DAC-10 conference. The 1998 football team reached the semi-finals of the NAIA playoffs; the 1999 and 2000 teams also qualified for playoffs.
The 1926 Rubaiyat shows a Women’s Athletic Association which organized inter-class contests in six sports.