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Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) is a four-year university located in Mitchell, South Dakotamarker, and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The student body averages slightly less than 800 students. It was founded in 1885. The campus of the university is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


In 1883, a small band of Methodist settlers meeting in Dakota Territory secured a charter to found the college that has become Dakota Wesleyan University (known as Dakota University until October 14, 1904). These pioneers were driven to "build a college of stone while living in houses of sod." These pioneers had deep religious convictions about the education and future of their children.

The founders of Dakota Wesleyan University envisioned an institution that epitomized the highest in Christian thought and deed, and so adopted the motto, “Sacrifice or Service.” This is depicted in the collegiate seal of the altar, the ox and the plow – symbols for these concepts.

By 1920, Dakota Wesleyan University was the largest independent college in the state, with an enrollment of more than 300. The Great Depression, which hit the prairie earlier, harder and longer than any region in the nation, evoked another regionally sensitive response from Dakota Wesleyan. The university accepted many students with few or no resources. Lacking adequate tuition revenues, the university and its personnel sacrificed their development and economic well-being in order to provide educational opportunities for students who had no other options. Farm produce was accepted for tuition. As part of their pay, teachers received housing in Graham Hall and coupons to purchase merchandise in town. As in earlier days, the faculty, townspeople and parishioners of the Methodist church sustained the university.

Since the 1930s the university has remained responsive to the special needs of its region. Strong programs in teacher education have provided new teachers for school districts. Nursing and allied health programs address the continuing need for health care professionals in rural South Dakota. In recognition of diverse cultures and traditions in a changing prairie environment, Wesleyan has undertaken a unique and substantial commitment to special programs focusing on Native American culture. Additionally, the university has developed programs to assist students whose previous educational experiences have inadequately prepared them for the demands of a rapidly changing region and future.

The campus was listed on the National Register in 1976, as Dakota Wesleyan University.

George and Eleanor McGovern Library

Dakota Wesleyan University's dedicated the new George and Eleanor McGovern Library and Center for Leadership and Public Service October 7, 2006. Nearly five thousand were on hand to hear former President Bill Clinton honor Senator George and Mrs. Eleanor McGovern for their decades of public service and leadership. Other dignataries who spoke at the dedication include former Senator Tom Daschle, Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Governor Mike Rounds, and Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today.

Notable alumni


  1. Note: A National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination document should be available upon request from the National Park Service for this site, but it appears not to be available on-line from the NPS Focus search site.

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