Neuharth: The best is yet to come

Neuharth: The best is yet to come by David Lias For the past 11 years, the annual Allen Neuharth Lecture has attracted the top journalists of the nation to the campus of The University of South Dakota each fall.

The presidential debates this month, however, put a damper on the original plans to bring television anchor Jim Lehrer to Vermillion to accept the coveted Allen Neuharth Award.

In an ironic twist, Neuharth himself presented the 12th annual Neuharth lecture at the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre on the USD campus Thursday night.

At the end of the night's festivities, he also was presented the award for journalistic excellence that bears his name.

While The University of South Dakota has completed major projects such as Old Main and the DakotaDome, Neuharth, who graduated from USD in 1950 with a degree in journalism, predicts unprecedented success with a $60 million fund drive.

Neuharth told a packed Knutson Theatre that USD has made giant strides since he graduated 50 years ago, but the best is yet to come.

"We are on the threshold of real excellence as one of the best small-sized public-supported universities in the nation," he said. "We have visionary leadership and adequate funding in the decade ahead and for the next century."

He singled out USD President James Abbott � who brings unique characteristics, vision and leadership to his job.

"Jim Abbott was a non-traditional choice for the post, but he has become the best, most effective leader in USD history," Neuharth said. "He is non-academic, a businessman, a lawyer and a politician. He is also the only USD alumnus as president. He understands USD and the state better than any other president."

Abbott, a Democrat, also enjoys the support of Republican Gov. Bill Janklow, "and that's no small feat," Neuharth said jokingly.

Abbott did not ascend to the presidency with any motives besides a love for USD, even turning down offers elsewhere, Neuharth said.

"He wanted the job. He didn't need it, and he wanted to stay. He knows the system and has its best interests at heart," Neuharth said. "He also has the guts to make the decisions which will get people ticked off along the way."

He also praised the aggressive approach being taken by the USD Foundation.

"They are starting a fund raising campaign next year which will boggle the mind, even for people who are thinking in the many millions," he said. "The $60 million Capital Fund campaign will give us the resources to recruit and retain renowned teachers. And we will offer more scholarships and more state-of-the-art technology."

Neuharth predicts big things for the small university in the near future.

"USD can be great in what it does," he said. "We are blessed to have people supporting this Foundation. They have taken it from caretaker to dream maker. USD has $75 million in assets, which is 200 times what it was 50 years ago."

Despite challenges from other media, Neuharth told the audience that newspapers will always be a part of their lives.

He noted that everyone from Ted Turner to Bill Gates has predicted that newspaper would die with the advent of cable television and the Internet.

Both were wrong, Neuharth said, adding "print has not only survived but thrived."

Print and other media has embraced, not feared, new technology, he said.

"The Internet is here to stay, and it has changed newspaper operations. But the Internet will supplement, not replace print," he said. "Newspapers are putting up web sites so people can gather more news and information more ways."

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