University of South Dakota renames law school after receiving $12.5M donation

South Dakota’s only law school is getting a new name. The University of South Dakota will now be known as USD Knudson School of Law after the school received $12.5 million.

David Knudson, who the law school is named after, is a lawyer, businessman and politician in Sioux Falls. The $12.5 million donation came from T. Denny Sanford, a friend and colleague of Knudson. The school says the gift will ensure the law school remains a national leader in excellence, service and leadership.

"It's quite meaningful to see an investment of this size and to see the vision Mr. Sanford and Mr. Knudson have for securing the future of law in the state of South Dakota," said USD President Sheila Gestring. "The USD Knudson School of Law is the only law school in the state, and most of our graduates’ practice in the state and regionally. This gift is very important to continuing law in South Dakota."

Most school naming donations have been between $20 and $50 million in recent years. While the University of South Dakota’s donation is smaller, it is also a much smaller law school with a smaller endowment than most. 

"This gift is tremendous because it more than doubles the size of our current endowment at the law school, and it will fund up to 10 full-tuition student scholarships for every incoming class," said Neil Fulton, dean of the law school. "It literally changes the lives of 10 students every year, and it gives us the opportunity to help 10 students begin their careers right here in South Dakota." 

Knudson was born and raised in South Dakota and received his MBA from USD in 1981. He served the state in many capacities after completing his bachelor’s studies at Harvard University and obtaining his J.D. from New York University in 1975. 

"Dave chose to come back to South Dakota because he cares about his home," said Fulton. "Dave is a perfect example of what a lawyer can do here in South Dakota, and for the students of the law school to walk in the front door every day and see 'USD Knudson School of Law,' it’s transformative."

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