A recap of 20 years: Regent Harvey Jewett

ABERDEEN, S.D. (June 30, 2017) – Harvey Jewett is retiring from the South Dakota Board of Regents after two decades of accomplishments—including a recent push to secure approval of the Northern State University Regional Science Education Center.

Jewett, an Aberdeen native, was also a major supporter of the Johnson Fine Arts Center renovation. NSU revealed at a reception held Wednesday night that the JFAC main theater will be renamed the Harvey and Cynthia Jewett Theater. A plaque will be created to hang in the space, dedicating the theater to the couple.

The packed reception was full of people wishing Jewett well and sharing stories from throughout his life.

Jewett said the “goodbye” party was a funny and wonderful thing. 

“I appreciate the effort so many people made to be there and to prepare their stories. Asking me to preside at the Thursday meeting was very special to me. It brought back many memories,” he said. “When I gaveled the meeting to adjournment, that gavel strike ended my time on the Regents. I will miss being on the Regents, being part of the wonderful things they accomplish and the exceptional people involved.”

NSU President Dr. Tim Downs said Jewett has dedicated a generous amount of time and energy in his service as a member of the Board of Regents.

“Northern State University and the citizens of Aberdeen will always recognize the immense, positive impact Regent Jewett has had on the northeast region of South Dakota, along with the whole State,” Downs said. “We are eternally grateful for his boundless service, leadership, and vision.”

Based on available records, Jewett is believed to be the longest-serving regent in South Dakota Board of Regents’ history.

“We owe Harvey Jewett a tremendous debt of gratitude for his leadership to promote strong academic standards and innovative approaches to resource allocation and performance assessment,” said Regents President Bob Sutton.

Twenty Years of Accomplishments

Jewett started with the Board of Regents in 1997 after a call from a friend, the late Gov. Bill Janklow, who said, “I just appointed you to the Regents.”

Janklow assured Jewett it wouldn’t be too much of a time commitment. “He couldn’t have been more wrong,” Jewett joked.

Jewett says he was privileged to come to the Regents when the time was just right. “Virtually the entire university systems’ facilities were built in the 50s and 60s. Little had changed. The academic side of the house needed updating as well, as the state of South Dakota offered no scholarships. Individual foundations supported each university, which was the only available scholarships.”

Another change Jewett went after was out-of-state tuition. At the time, South Dakota universities charged out-of-state students 325 percent more than in-state students, and enrollment was decreasing.

Jewett said, “I was privileged to serve 12 years as an officer of the Board and ten years as president, just at the time when the Regents became ready to address these issues. The universities (their presidents, faculty and staff) brimmed with ideas and were chomping at the bit to get going. Leaders of the foundations came forward to charge into the projects and were a huge part of the solutions. Corporate leaders were ready to join. And crucially, a consensus was reached with the governors and the legislators that the time was right. The changes and improvements took my breath away.” 

During his tenure, state institution enrollments surged from 25,000 to 36,500.

“This was due to the incredible work by all,” explained Jewett. “I had a ring-side seat in that time of incredible change and success of our universities.”

The Regents renewed virtually all the facilities. The board spent $1.2 billion constructing 49 buildings and rehabilitating 57, as well as 13 infrastructure projects in the last 20 years, all through Higher Education Facilities Funds, student fees, foundation fundraising, and individual and corporate contributions.

“The state made selected contributions but the vast majority of the $1.2 billion was raised without a state general funds contribution,” Jewett said. “The job is not done. Northern State University, for example, has two buildings that are used full time by faculty and students, have been lovingly maintained, but are over 100 years old.”

He’s also proud of the Regents’ work to create a state-funded Opportunity Scholarship, which is available to all South Dakota students who get at least a 24 on their ACT and take the required high school curriculum; and also Dakota Corps Scholarship (privately funded). This is available to all South Dakota students, on a competitive basis, who commit to pursuing a major in an area of need and commit to five years of work in that field in South Dakota after graduation. 

Advocating for NSU

Jewett is a lifelong Aberdeen resident besides his high school years in a Jesuit college preparatory school in Wisconsin and his time serving in the Army. During his board presidency, he said he intentionally did not push to build new buildings at Northern in order to maintain the appearance and fact of fairness. Jewett felt it was extremely important as the Regents pushed dramatic changes in the system that he be perceived to be the president of the whole system and not just a shill for one university.

“These last few years I’ve tried to catch up with that,” he said. 

He and fellow Regent Terry Baloun, an NSU alum and president of the Regents succeeding Jewett, worked hard on behalf of NSU, pushing for approval of the Regional Science Education Center, three new residence halls, and supporting the JFAC renovation.

Jewett said, “NSU has a niche in preparation for professional schools and, of course, the K-12 teaching profession.” He praised its excellent business, education and fine arts programs, as well as the impressive remodeling of JFAC. “I think Northern’s done an excellent job, and it’s got an excellent reputation,” he said.

Jewett and his wife, Cynthia, have four children: Megan Jewett-Hill, Chase Jewett, Libby Jorgensen and Taylor Jewett; as well as six grandchildren. Jewett served as partner at Siegel, Barnett & Schutz; president and chief operating officer of The Rivett Group LLC; and president and chief operating officer of Super 8 Enterprises Inc. In addition to his time on the Regents, he also served 20 years as a board member of the College of Saint Benedict and chaired the Joint Audit Committee of the College of Saint Benedict and University of Saint Johns. Jewett is also an inductee in the South Dakota Hall of Fame. 

Time to Retire

Now, it’s time to retire. It’s taken him about three years to slowly step down from his commitments as his terms on other boards have expired. He still serves on some foundation boards, but with a more manageable time commitment.

Jewett has always had to carry his paper calendar to keep track of his schedule. Recently when trying to schedule something in August, he flipped past June 29—the date of his last Board of Regents meeting—and saw nothing but blank pages. He’s not sure yet how he’ll fill those empty pages, but he’d be happy to serve in another capacity—one that requires a little less of a time commitment than the Board of Regents.

Leaving the Regents as the senior board member, Jewett also said he’d be happy to provide advice to current members, but only if asked. One thing he believes is that the board should keep pushing for more state funding.

“We have made significant improvements on state assistance to our K-12 system and changes in structure and funding for tech schools, but some of those improvements have been at the expense of South Dakota university students. We need to acknowledge that, and focus on matching state funding support to South Dakota students,” Jewett said.

“One of our prime jobs as Regents is to try to make sure the university system is adequately funded,” he said.  In a state struggling to bring in young people and find workers, he said, “nobody brings in young people like the university system.”

He added, “The universities are the hope of the future for bringing people to this state,” he said. “On average 70 percent of South Dakota students remain and up to 40 percent of non-South Dakota students remain after graduation. If you really want to bring young people into the state – call the Regents!”