DAKOTA IMAGES | Hilton M. Briggs

DAKOTA IMAGES | Hilton M. Briggs

Hilton M. Briggs served as president of what is now South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings longer than anyone in school history, directly influencing students from 1958 to 1975 as he led the transition from college to university.

Born to farmers J. Weaver Briggs and Ethel Marshall Briggs on 9 January 1913, Hilton Marshall Briggs attended country school near Cairo, Iowa, and graduated from Wapello (Iowa) High School. After winning one of three Thomas E. Wilson scholarships awarded nationally in 1929 for 4-H livestock projects, he earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University in 1933. He completed his master’s degree at North Dakota State University in 1935 and his Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1938.

Briggs taught and held administrative posts at Oklahoma State University starting in 1936 and became dean of agriculture at the University of
Wyoming in 1950. An expert in livestock judging, he wrote a textbook, Modern Breeds of Livestock. He also served as president of the American Society of Animal Science in 1952 and became a fellow of the society in 1974.

Briggs was named the thirteenth president of South Dakota State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, now SDSU, in 1958. He championed the land-grant university system and opposed a state plan, later dropped, that would have relocated SDSU’s engineering college to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. During his tenure, enrollment grew from thirty-eight hundred to eight thousand students, and the university added sixty-two majors. In 1975, the United States Air Force gave Briggs its Exceptional Service Award on the strength of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at SDSU.

After seventeen years as president, Briggs retired in 1975 because a short-lived South Dakota Board of Regents rule limited a university president to serving ten years. He went on to serve SDSU as a distinguished professor of agriculture and director of international programs. In 1978, SDSU named the Hilton M. Briggs Library in his honor.

Briggs married Lillian Dinusson in 1935, and they raised two children. Following her death in 1996, he married Nelda Campbell. Hilton M. Briggs, eighty-eight, died on 23 November 2001 in Omaha, Nebraska, after a car accident.