VERMILLION, S.D. | University of South Dakota President James Abbott is retiring from his position in June 2018 after 20 years at the helm of the university. 

“This has been both the most rewarding – and the most demanding – job of my life,” Abbott said in a press release Wednesday. “USD is positioned well for the future. We have a strong and growing enrollment, academic programs that are second to none, and Division I athletics.”

Abbott, 69, is the university’s 17th president and the second longest-serving president in USD's 155-year history, the release said. He is the only USD president to have also graduated from there.  

“I’m proud of my alma mater and all the progress we’ve made,” Abbott said. “Now it is time for new leadership to take USD to the next level.”

The release said Abbott entered the president’s office with a budget of $90 million. It has grown to $215 million. Enrollment has climbed from 7,448 students to 10,261.

Scholarships and financial aid to students have nearly tripled, from $6.5 million in 1997 to $24 million last year. The USD endowment is six times larger, building from $45 million to $258 million, thanks to two successful fund-raising campaigns during Abbott’s tenure as president, the release said. 

During the past 20 years, Abbott has led a vigorous building campaign to repair and refurbish historical structures on campus and upgrade laboratories such as the Lee Medical Building, Muenster University Center and Sanford Coyote Sports Center. 

Prior to being president, Abbott practiced law and was involved in the management of various businesses. He represented Yankton County in the South Dakota State Legislature from 1991 to 1993, was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of South Dakota in 1994, and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002.

Abbott's wife of 29 years died suddenly in May 2016 just days after being diagnosed with renal cancer. Colette Abbott, 59, was active with the school and many local and statewide organizations.

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