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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, March 18, 2023

A deathwatch for a community

If you notice that the community you live in is unraveling, it can be dangerous to mention it.  Communities seldom actually die, but they do fail.  Community leaders tend to take explosive umbrage if someone notes that their community is showing signs of failure.  They will rail that the person stating such notice is a negative a--hole, and they will launch into an inventory of all that is alive and thriving in the community and why that negative person is mentally deficient for claiming otherwise.  I live, rather I dwell, in a community that is diminishing in aspects of community life.  Rather than face the facts regarding the faltering community, many who regard themselves as leaders go into a raging denial.

The latest crisis for Aberdeen, South Dakota, is the announcement of the closing of Presentation College at the end of summer.  The closing of an educational institution is a significant loss to a community, a  reduction of its status in the world.  The closing of Presentation College has implications that have not been fully confronted in terms of the resources it once provided or the options it offered. Finances and enrollment are the usual reasons a college has for closing.  However, the place that an educational institution has in the lives of its staff, of its students, its sponsors, and the community is part of their development, their identities, their very lives.

Small colleges such as Presentation which do not operate with a substantial endowment have a formidable disadvantage.   The annual tuition and expenses at Presentation is cited as $22,006.  Across town at the public Northern State University, it is advertised at $8,845.  Northern has the further advantage of more than 50 academic programs, a full range of extra-curricular activities, and supplies financial aid to more than 80 percent of its students.  It also has a much longer history of being part of the Aberdeen community.  Northern was founded in 1901, and Presentation 50 years later in 1951.  However, that indicates a half a century's tenure as part of the community for Presentation, and raises questions about the decision to end that relationship.

The questions raised are not about the college's assessments of its financial and enrollment outlook, but how those assessments reflect on the community's ability to support and sustain an institution that has contributed much to its intellectual, educational, and public services environment.  The loss of Presentation College is a severe setback.  It significantly diminishes the community.   And it comes at a time when Northern State shows faltering in enrollment numbers.  In terms of full-time equivalent enrollments, Northern has the lowest of the state's public colleges.  The reasons given for the closing of Presentation are "a high dependency on gifts and tuition revenue, a remote location that’s hard for out-of-state students to reach, and the pandemic."  As a public institution, Northern is part of the state's regental system and has the resources of the system to help out when enrollments decline and tuition income drops.  But it is also affected by potential declines in enrollment and a remote location that affected Presentation.  So, college officials at Northern and the state have to be alert to any circumstances that might disrupt its operation in ways experienced at Presentation.  Northern had a sudden dismissal of its president in 2021 that was never explained to the community, nor addressed by the faculty.  That dismissal makes many of its constituency wonder if the institution has lapsed into the status that once earned a censure by the American Association of University Professors.  The closing of Presentation alarms community members who know and understand the crucial tasks of keeping higher education functioning and reputable as it might affect Northern.

Aberdeen has experienced many severe reductions in employment by companies throughout the years.  In the mid-1980s, it lost 750 jobs when Control Data closed a plant and more recently hundreds of jobs when Molded Fiber Glass shut down its operations.  Aberdeen has an extensive history of employers abandoning the town. 

It has also lost its status of being a regional shopping center with the closure of such retail operations as Shopko, Kmart, and Herberger's.

The closing of a college is a different dimension in which a community can falter.  Residents are right to wonder what will be next.


Anonymous said...

It is very depressing to think about the closure of Presentation College. My mother and two aunts graduated from there one being in nursing that later went on to get her Masters degree elsewhere. Great memories of PC. I believe Northern and PC complimented each other with the PC being being a spiritual beacon on the north side of town.

Presentation College generated many positive contributions not only to Aberdeen which was the most directly affected but NE South Dakota, the state and beyond. What an incredible loss!

I also believe the annual extreme political rhetoric and environment by SDGOP candidates, legislators including local all the way up to Governor Noem has indirectly had a negative impact and contributed to the closure of Presentation College. It makes it more difficult for Northern to recruit students. It limits economic and work force development opportunities too.

Not long ago it was the new American Muslims and Somalis that were demonized and looked upon with suspicion who are trying to pursue the American Dream themselves. Then it was and has been the annual anti-Transgender bills and rhetoric that serve not only to distract from real issues that would require political courage but to fundraise and win elections by scapegoating. All of those actions have a major negative impact on impressions of South Dakota as a state and severely limit prospective opportunities of who will relocate here and/or attend a college, university or trade school.

It will be very difficult to walk, ride or drive by the campus of what was formerly Presentation College and the Convent.

Miranda Gohn

larry kurtz said...

Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem (KLAN) is directly responsible for the closure.

In my home state of South Dakota the Republican governor chose to infect thousands (some reports say millions) with the Trump Virus putting its entire population at risk. Kristi Noem's biological war on her own constituents created dire circumstances sending nurses out of state, forcing people over 65 into the workplace and driving the closure of nursing homes.

Without butts in the pews the Rapid City Diocese even received almost $400,000 in aid from the Trump Organization but it was too little, too late according to President Paula Langteau at Presentation College in Aberdeen.

Catholicism is hope like gonorrhea is charity.

The Roman Catholic Church is funneling money from parishes meant for elderly nuns and paying settlements or hush money for the sins of predatory priests and the sect's leader is slowly cleaning house of pederastic predators but is taking heat from Republicans for his stance on curbing human-induced climate change and from progressives for his intent to canonize a colonizer accused of raping children.

The Order of the Presentation opened St. Mary’s in Elkton where I attended grade school but the nuns were from the Dominican and Benedictine Orders, too. They were Commies who taught us Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Puff, the Magic Dragon.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States