Undergraduate Research Grant winner will tell story of noteworthy alum

Darcy Usher

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Darcy Usher didn’t know she wanted to be an archivist until she got a job in the Northern State University library archives—she loves learning about histories and being able to help tell the stories for others.

“I’m a sucker for a good story,” said Usher, who will be a junior this fall at NSU.

The story of one Northern alum and World War II veteran in particular really captured Usher’s attention. Now as the 2018 NSU Undergraduate Research Grant winner, Usher will bring that incredible story to the public with her project, "From Country Boy to Soldier: Discovering How to Tell the Story of William H. Daly."

Anytime Usher tells someone about Daly, their reaction is: How have I never heard of him? She hopes that her research project will change that.

“My goal is to educate everybody about him and in some way also do his story justice,” she said.

Discovered Daly’s Folder at Library

Usher, who is majoring in history and minoring in public history, was going through the library’s South Dakota National Guard collection when she came across Daly’s folder.

She quickly learned he was in Pearl Harbor three days before it was bombed. He later lost an arm during WWII but still came back to Northern and played basketball. He also started the public relations branch at Northern as a student, and after college he went on to discover Lawrence Welk and became his national promoter.

“It was crazy that no one had ever actually heard of him before,” she said. “When I learned about the grant, I knew I wanted to do something about that.”

For Usher, it was fascinating to go through the South Dakota National Guard folder.

“These men were just plucked off the farms and just sent over,” she said.

Soldiers in the 147th Field Artillery, which included Daly, were the first men to set foot on Australian soil during WWII, she said. Daly passed away in 1997. The folder included his  journal, which recounted the day-to-day life of his unit’s time in Australia.

“That’s the closest I’m ever going to get to meeting him and learning what his personality is like,” Usher said.

Will Tell Story in Different Ways

Her research will essentially involve finding the best way to tell Daly’s story. Usher will write an academic paper, create a digital exhibit online, create a physical exhibit in Williams Library, and then measure which is the best way to get Daly’s information to the public.

The first step of her project is to visit other museums this summer and early fall to talk to curators to find out how they measure the success of their exhibits. That’ll include the House on the Rock in Wisconsin; Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan; Minnesota History Center; South Dakota National Guard Museum in Pierre; and the North Dakota State University archives, which has information on Lawrence Welk.

Her year-long research project needs to be completed by April 2019. Usher hopes to have the physical exhibit opened by February 2019 with the intent of presenting at the Pierre Poster Session as well as the University of South Dakota History Conference.

Though Usher graduated from high school in Sisseton, she said she moved around a lot with her parents, Tinna and David Usher, because of her dad’s career as a chief financial officer in hospital administration. Usher was born in England, where her dad’s from, and lived in Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Nebraska before moving to South Dakota. This summer she’s living in Michigan, and her parents have moved to Colorado.

Liked Small Campus Feel at NSU

A member of the NSU Speech and Debate Team, Usher said her acceptance into the NSU Honors Program played a factor in her decision to come to Northern.

“But I also liked how tight-knit this campus is,” she said.

Usher said she had heard of NSU’s Undergraduate Research Grant, but in the past she always thought it could only be used for science-based projects.

“When I realized that history can have research projects too – that was something I got really excited about,” she said. “The university has this funding for people to do undergraduate research. I wish that more people realized it’s not just a science thing. You can do history, music, anything.”

To learn more about undergraduate research at Northern State, visit the NSU Undergraduate Research webpage. For more information about history and public history academic programs, visit the NSU history program webpage.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions