University helps special alum celebrate 90th Doris Howell Townsend converses with Emily Jockheck, a freshman attending The University of South Dakota. The two women's lives are somewhat similar. They both grew up in Redfield before pursuing their higher educations in Vermillion. by David Lias Doris Howell Townsend didn't look the worse for wear Friday morning.
After all, she had only traveled all the way from Florida to return once again to her old stomping grounds, The University of South Dakota.
She had been up late Thursday night, and had been entertained at a special birthday party held in her honor at the home of USD President James Abbott and his wife, Colette, where she celebrated her 90th birthday.
The Alumni Foundation and USD Foundation invited Townsend back to Vermillion to celebrate her special birthday.
She was still going strong Friday morning, keeping several university co-eds spellbound with simply the stories of the incredible life she's lived.
Townsend and the four USD students she conversed with Friday all had something in common. Townsend is a native of Redfield. The USD students hailed from Redfield and other small communities in Spink County.
She quickly shared some valuable advice with the students of a much younger generation � advice tempered with years of experience.
"Life itself depends on you yourself," Townsend said. "You either make it or break it."
It had been a long time since Townsend had been back to Vermillion, the place where she unleashed her youthful energies as a USD student on more than just the campus.
She remembers the many dances she would attend as a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She recalled with special fondness the day that she met Wilbur Townsend at a dance and knew immediately that someday she would marry him.
"This is the place where I started my happy, happy life," she said. "It is a time of my life that I will never forget."
Townsend hasn't forgotten USD. She donated money to help restore a staircase in Old Main, where she attended many classes in the 1930s.