Multimillion Dollar Gift For Newly-Dubbed USD Knudson School of Law

Aug 3, 2020

David Knudson offers his thanks during an announcement of the 12.5 million dollar gift from T. Denny Sanford at USD in Vermillion.
Credit USD Media Relations

The state’s only law school has a new name.

A 12.5 million dollar gift from T. Denny Sanford will fund up to ten full-ride scholarships at the newly-dubbed USD Knudson School of Law.

David Knudson served as chief of staff for former-governor Bill Janklow and as majority leader in the South Dakota state senate. He’s also overseen more than two-billion dollars in other gifts as T. Denny Sanford’s lawyer.

But this latest gift came as a surprise to Knudson—a difficult feat, according to Law School Dean Neil Fulton

“The hardest part of this entire process was—Dave is such a right-hand-man to Mr. Sanford—was to pull off a gift of this magnitude without involving Mr. Sanford’s lawyer!”

Fulton says the $12.5 million more than doubles the law school’s current endowment. It also offers the law school flexibility in how it awards the scholarships for each incoming class.

“We can do full tuition, we can do partial, we can do need-based, we can do merit-based as the needs of the law school dictate,” says Fulton.

When he learned about the plans for this gift, Knudson says his mind swirled.

Knudson believes a lawyer’s highest calling is to help solve problems.

“Whether these are in government service, private practice, in business organizations—lawyers have to use all of their gifts of intelligence, creativity, imagination and training to help people solve problems. That’s the best reward you have, is having someone come to you with a problem and then solving it,” Knudson says.

He says he’s humbled by the honor and excited for the impact the scholarships will have on the state’s future lawyers.