UA 53.31




3.0 linear feet (3 records center boxes) photographs


Robert T. Wagner, president of South Dakota State University, 1985-1997. Papers related to his career at SDSU as a teacher and administrator.

Historical Note

Robert Todd Wagner was born October 30, 1932. He earned a degree in philosophy from Augustana College in 1954. He and Mary Mumford, a native of Howard, married that same year before moving to Evanston, Ill., where he was a student at the Seabury Western Theological Seminary. The couple eventually moved back to South Dakota, where Robert earned his Ph.D. at South Dakota State University, and Mary a master’s degree in social sciences in 1974 and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1978.

Wagner first joined the university in 1971 as an assistant professor of rural sociology, and he earned “legendary” status through his Marriage 250 class. The class enrolled almost 1,200 students a year in three sections, filling every seat in Rotunda D, the largest classroom on campus.

Wagner served two years as an assistant to the vice president for academic affairs and spent a year as vice president and chief administrator at Dakota State University in Madison before he was called back to SDSU to assume the university presidency. A position he held from 1985-1997.

Wagner led SDSU from a controversial era into a decidedly more tranquil time. His quiet attention to the internal workings of the college, rather than external politics, worked well and resulted in a great deal of growth. Despite constant budget problems under his administration, the campus expanded by more than 380,000 square feet. Twenty-two faculty were added, and technology became a major factor in the university. The College of Education and Counseling was formed, and many buildings were built, including Berg and Bailey Apartments, the Animal Disease Research, and the Northern Plains Biostress Laboratory.

His wife, Mary, was also an SDSU staffer as well as a member of the Brookings school board and a Republican legislator for 12 years. She died in 2004.

In 2010, SDSU renamed its Nursing, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Arts and Sciences building in honor of the Wagner’s. The South Dakota Board of Regents approved the name change.

A scholar as well as a popular teacher, Wagner was the author of 64 publications and chaired numerous academic committees.

Content Notes

The Robert T. Wagner papers span his career from 1971 until his retirement in 1997. The records are composed of materials related to all aspects of his career at South Dakota State University. Also included is a small amount of material related to his service as Vice President at Dakota State College.

Files related to his academic teaching as a professor of Rural Sociology at SDSU are composed of correspondence, calendars, programs related to speaking engagements, and greeting cards of thanks and birthday wishes. A minimal amount of material is related to the courses he taught.

The Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs at SDSU records are composed of calendars, correspondence, clippings, newsletters, greeting cards, photographs, and certificates awarded to Wagner. A small amount of materials related to teaching can be found in these files as he still taught some classes during this time.

Records related to his presidency at SDSU make up the largest portion of this collection. These files are composed of correspondence, clippings, calendars, certificates, reports, newsletters, evaluations, and greeting cards. At the end of this material researchers will find material related to his retirement.

SDSU Archives and Special Collections

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


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