USD’s Slagle auditorium is now named after Aalfs

Kathy and Bailey Aalfs address the crowd in the auditorium that now bears their name on Friday, Oct. 7. The Bailey and Kathy Aalfs Auditorium is located in Robert L. Slagle Hall on the USD campus. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

A University of South Dakota landmark has a new name to go with its recently-completed renovation.

Slagle Hall Auditorium was officially christened Bailey and Kathy Aalfs Auditorium Friday, Oct. 7, in honor of two USD alums who donated more than $1 million toward the project.

"The education we received here at the university played a significant part in our lives, and we wanted to return to the university in some small way to show our appreciation for all the university had done for us," Bailey Aalfs said during a ceremony held that afternoon.

USD President James W. Abbott thanked the couple for their support, stating that their participation was the "key" to the building.

"In my experience, at least, behind every project there is someone – some person, some couple – who makes the initial commitment that makes something possible," he said.

Built in 1925, the 38,000 square foot facility was renovated at the cost of $8.2 million, including lighting upgrades, enhanced electrical service, better acoustics, accessible seating, new stage floors and improved sightlines.

Another addition is located in the lobby – a list of the names of the donors who contributed funds toward the restoration project.

Aalfs said both he and his wife remember using the facility as students in the 1950s.

"We could never have imagined … that one day this historic facility would be named in our honor," he said.

Kathryn Johnson, president of the South Dakota Board of Regents, said donors such as the Aalfs are important, as this is the only state in the union where taxpayer funds are not appropriated for university buildings.

The two main sources of revenue come from tuition and gifts from donors, she said.

"The Regents very much appreciate the donors … but we also recognize, appreciate and thank the students, because they're speaking with their pocketbooks," Johnson said. "They're speaking about how much they value these high-quality state-of-the-art facilities."

Collin Michels, president of the USD Student Government Association, said the students do appreciate the changes that have been made to the USD campus over the past few years, stating that today's seniors would not recognize the campus as it stood four years ago.

"It's amazing to see how much campus has transformed (in a short time)," he said.

Aalfs said this transformation plays a large role in drawing potential students to the university.

"We are proud to see the progress that has been made in regard to campus expansion, renovating existing structures and the addition of new buildings in the last few years – particularly under the leadership and guidance of President Abbott.

"It is obviously very expensive, and not easy. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it," he said.

The Aalfs received their degrees in 1960. Bailey received his B.A. in mathematics, and Kathey received a two-year teaching certificate.

Among other achievements, Bailey founded Lunar Communications in Lincoln, NE, and managed the company's Sioux City office after selling his interest. He also started Sabre Communications in Sioux City in 1977 and sold the business to a New York firm in 2006.

Kathy worked for a brief time at a Sioux City bank, and as homemaker and mother to the couple's three children, Kimberly, Scott and Jeff.

Both are trustees of the USD Foundation and have been active in various civic and cultural affairs.

Abbott said that when the auditorium which now bears the Aalfs' name was initially constructed, "you had to go a little bit on faith."

The same holds true today, he said.

"You had to believe that it can be done in a way that makes all of us proud – particularly on a preservation project," Abbott said. "You have to believe that the history and tradition of our university is important. I believe that, and the Aalfs do as well."

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