Dean Belbas Center to become home for USD student services

Dean Belbas Center to become home for USD student services Students at The University of South Dakota will now be able to perform a bit of "one-stop shopping" at one of "America's Treasures," the newly renovated Dean Belbas Center, housing the offices of admissions, financial aid and the registrar.

Selected by the America's Treasures program of the National Park Service, the Belbas Center is a re-design of a 1905 building used originally as the home for physical education and military training programs at USD. The signature towers and the rest of the building's exterior remain unchanged. Only the interior was updated in order to house the student service offices. Other service offices, such as the university housing office, will remain in Slagle Hall, the university's main administrative building.

The Belbas Center has been in the renovation process since late in 2002, when Belbas himself delivered a $500,000 challenge gift to help finish off the $2.2 million fundraising goal of the USD Foundation. As a result of his leadership, the new center is being named in his honor. Belbas and other dignitaries will be present for a dedication ceremony set to take place on Oct. 1 at 11 a.m. on the lawn near the renovated building.

Expected speakers for the event include Rich Cutler, chairman of the USD Foundation; Annie Horner, student body president; Julie Pier, director of financial aid; Regent James O. Hansen, USD President James W. Abbott and Dean Belbas. Public tours will be available following the dedication ceremony.

The Belbas Center is officially one of "America's Treasures." Because of this official national designation, repairs to this historic building were funded in part by a $365,000 "Save America's Treasures" grant from the National Park Service.

The remainder of the funds came from individual gifts to the USD Foundation's Campaign South Dakota and its commitment to campus improvements.

History of the building

Constructed in 1905 adjacent to Old Main, the Old Armory/Women's Gym is one of the most visually impressive buildings on campus. Built in a Richardsonian-Romanesque style, its features include a heavy stone base of native quartzite and red sandstone, brick upper walls, arched windows, and corner towers.

For more than 20 years the halls of the building have been devoid of student voices, but with the opening of the Dean Belbas Center, the building will again be filled with students and serve as a showpiece in the middle of campus. The facility will serve for the next generation of students as a striking first impression of campus.

During its early years, the Armory served an important role as a facility for training soldiers for World Wars I and II. Many university alumni have memories of the building when it was used for more carefree activities such as sports and dances.

The Armory was a focal point for athletics until 1929, when a new Armory (now the Neuharth Media Center) was built to accommodate larger athletic and military facilities. The building was then designated as the "Women's Gym." Most recently, the building housed the campus maintenance shops.

About Dean Belbas

Dean Belbas is a native of Sioux Falls and a 1956 alumnus of The University of South Dakota. While at USD, he was editor of The Volante and did sports publicity work for the university.

During a summer internship before his senior year in 1955, he began a long-time association with General Mills.

When Belbas graduated from USD in 1956 with a B.S. in business administration, he returned to Minneapolis and General Mills. He established a career in public relations and is considered a pioneer in the field of investor relations.

In 1977, he was named a vice president at General Mills and in 1979, director of corporate communications. Belbas retired as senior vice president of investor relations in 1997.

Belbas has played an active role in the USD Foundation, serving as a former chair. The naming of the Belbas Center recognizes the $500,000 challenge gift for the building project, along with another $500,000 for other Campaign South Dakota purposes.

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