How It Began
In 1881, Joseph Ward established his dream, a Christian institution of higher learning, Yankton College. It was chartered by the territorial government on August 30, 1881. The City of Yankton donated $11,000, of which $9,000 came from Ward’s congregation, and a tract of 25 acres to Yankton College, thereafter known as the “College on the Hill.”
The cornerstone for the first building, known as the Conservatory, was laid in June 1882. It was dedicated in connection with the formal inauguration of Ward as the first president of Yankton College. In his spirited address, Ward is quoted, “What can be nobler than to found an institution that, by the simple force of its daily life, shall go out among the young and call each one to a higher life than he could have found without it!”
Ward and others believed that wisdom, knowledge and faith were inseparable, and that it was through the study of oneself, the universe and social order that the traditions of arts and science and human thought equipped one for life. Ward “laid down courses abreast of the standards customary at that time in old and well-established institutions.” He designed the curriculum to include both classical and scientific courses, insisting on patterning his school after the established colleges he had known in the East.
In the beginning, the Articles of Incorporation included establishing eleven professorships: 1) Moral and Intellectual Philosophy and Natural Theology; 2) Latin Language and Literature; 3) Greek Language and Literature; 4) Physics and Astronomy; 5) Rhetoric, English Language and Elocution; 6) Modern Languages; 7) Music and Painting; 8) Chemistry and Mineralogy; 9) Geology and Natural History; 10) Mathematics and Civil Engineering; 11) History and Political Economy.
In addition to a four year college program, a three-year preparatory program and a two-year sub-preparatory program was offered, known as the Yankton Academy. Special programs for music and art education, and soon a teachers course were added.
The Conservatory, Middle Hall, The Con
The Conservatory was the flagship building for Yankton College. Built of Sioux Falls jasper, it was dedicated in 1884 and, later, became known as Middle Hall. With three full stories and a basement, it served as a dormitory, dining hall, chapel, library and recitation hall. Every YC student and graduate perhaps best remembers the building for its two towers, one with the College bell and the other with the College clock. This historic landmark was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It housed the Conservatory of Music with classrooms, studios and a rehearsal hall. The Yankton College Conservatory of Music presented the study of music to develop intellectual, artistic and technical phases of the art to the students. Faculty members with broad musical training and proven teaching ability turned students into finished musicians, who then went on to unlimited musical career opportunities beyond the Midwest.
Joseph Ward seemed determined to impress this sentiment upon the life of the College. He himself before his death (in 1889) drew a sketch for a college seal, which long after was brought to light and adopted.
“All things come to those who wait.” . . . some time before the commencement of ’04, four designs were submitted to the students for inspection, and suggestions were solicited from all interested in the seal. The subject was presented at the annual collation, and a vote was taken. The seal here reproduced was chosen. We feel that this is a step in the right direction; that the seal will add greatly to the dignity of the college, especially since such an appropriate one has been chosen. The design embodies the two principles for which Yankton College has ever stood; spiritual and intellectual development. The cross sheds its light upon the book and added to this is the motto so familiar to all who have ever been connected with Yankton, “Christ for the world.” – 1905 Yankton Student
Dr. Ward said at once, “Those are just right,” and so that beautiful legend was inscribed at its casting upon the school bell.
The following men were presidents of Yankton College respectfully from 1883 – 1984. There were interim presidents and administrators as well. Those who have served as presidents of Yankton College respectfully after it closed are: Don C. Peterson and Dr. W. F. Stanage and Dr. Charles N. Kaufman. Currently Dr. Joe Ward III serves as the President.
Presidents Photo Gallery – click name for more information
Yankton College is the home of the Greyhounds, the athletic team name for football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, track, cross country, golf and tennis. The name name was proposed by Bert “Bones” Fenenga ’16 captain of the 1915 basketball team and the all-state center in football, who believed the wearers of the Yellow and Black uniforms had to win “by speed and courage rather than by physique.” His suggestion was adopted when a new student constitution said: The Greyhound shall be considered the official insignia and mascot.” Vince E. Montgomery was coach of the Yankton College football team when the players were first known as the Greyhounds. The YC student body in the sixties acquired Bridget, at right, to represent the Greyhounds as the school mascot.
Greyhound Photo Gallery – click image to enlarge
Christian Institution of Higher Learning
Yankton College was a liberal arts college devoted to preparing men and women for the responsibilities and opportunities which challenged civilization. Its academic program offered students a foundation in the major cultural subjects as well as training for professional careers.
School of Theology
Religious education and seminary training was provided to men and women through the School of Theology, which grew out of a merger with Redfield College and Yankton College in 1932. A unique five-year plan for the Bachelor of Theology degree combined the advantages of professional training, to include serving nearby churches during the senior year, with those of a full liberal arts education. This degree qualified the student for ordination and service as a Christian minister.
For more information, contact the Yankton College office, phone toll-free (866) 665-3661.