Yankton, like any town, has an interesting, rich history. Born and raised in Yankton, I have heard many stories of the town’s past but don’t know much about it. Never much of a history buff, most of the stories weren’t of much interest to me. Call it getting older, reflection or discovering an appreciation of my roots, I am intrigued by Yankton’s history and step back a few years to take a visit.

Yankton College (YC), otherwise known as “the college on the hill,” is one of those landmarks in Yankton that I never knew much about. The college, founded by Joseph Ward in 1882, remained open until 1988, when it closed and became a camp for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, remaining in central Yankton on Douglas Street to this day, according to the Yankton College website (www.yanktoncollege.org),

Ward began the college based on the foundation that “wisdom, knowledge and faith were inseparable.” The college offered a variety of courses in two-, three- and four-year programs; the first class contained a mere 5 students. Enrollment grew, and the students were provided a notable education in the comfort of a small-town setting. I talked to four female graduates of YC about their experience at the college on the hill. Sandra MacTavish Gross, Vicki (Wilken) Lehrman, Joan (Bunnell) Neubauer and Jan (Schmidt) Schiferl shared some memories with me.

Gross, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, attended YC from 1967-1970 and graduated Cum Laude. With the desire to teach and coach, she chose the school because Canada did not offer athletic scholarships. She

and her brother both attended YC on track scholarships. She recalls experiencing some culture shock as the only girl on the track team and is sure the experience was also a bit awkward for the guys on the team. Her triple major in Biological Science, Physical Education and Education provided her the opportunity to spend numerous hours in class and labs. She explains that the science labs and many physical education classes required two hours of contact time per credit hour and that the three majors she chose required her to take many classes, leaving no room for any electives.

Lehrman, a native of Westside, Iowa now residing in Spencer, SD knew that she wanted to attend the school on her first visit. Awarded a Presidential Scholarship, she attended YC from the fall of 1975 to the spring of 1979 and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology. She favored several chemistry classes led by Dr. Arthur Schultz, a professor who served also has her advisor, and commented that he is one of the best teachers she’s ever had. She recalls that it was hard for her to focus during her least favorite class, Speech, as it was held after lunch in the spring semester and she was tempted to lounge at the town’s beautiful lake when the temperatures started to rise. She has several memories of homecoming contests held at that same lake.

Schiferl, a Lake Andes, SD native, graduated from YC in 1981 with a double major in business management and administration with a minor in vocal music. Originally attending two years at the University of South Dakota at Springfield, (which has since become home to the Mike Durfee State Prison), she desired to continue college to obtain her bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in music and mentions how she was one of few that graduated from two “prisons.”

The music conservatory and her talented mentors share a special place in Schiferl’s collection of memories. She admired Lewis Hamvas for his musical brilliance and leadership with music theory, Floyd Mcclain, a

sweet man who gave her the desire to play in his summer band, Stan Rishoi’s instruction in voice and George Whaley, who’s encouragement of her to write a senior thesis on bluegrass music initiated a trip for her to Nashville, TN. She reflects upon interviewing a collection of fascinating and talented people during her time as a senior: Vassar Clements, Mac Wiseman, Earl Scruggs, Jim & Jesse Reynolds, J.T. Gray and Wilma Lee Cooper just to name a few. She excitedly recalls even being invited to John Hartford’s wedding party.

Joan (Bunnell) Neubauer, though not born in Yankton, is the only Yankton native that I spoke with. Sounds contradicting, I’m sure, but Neubauer explains that she was born in a Californian roadside motel as her parents raced home to Nebraska because of her quickly impending birth. She attended schools in Yankton from kindergarten to her college graduation, enjoying school and loving the community where she has always resided.

She knew that attending college would require her to obtain good grades to earn scholarships and to continue to work as she attended classes and studied. She recalls, “It was a pretty heavy burden for a girl who was lucky to break 100# on a scale!” She signed up for summer school classes right after high school graduation to get a start on earning college credits.

Though she aspired for a career as a concert pianist, she realized the dream’s unlikeliness when she heard the level at which the musicians were playing upon her first visit to the Conservatory of Music. She focused her education in public speaking, debate, speech rehabilitation and teacher training. Though she originally feared failure in her heavy class schedule, she appreciates the lesson she received in personal growth. She reflects, “That (fear of failure) was, actually, a good thing; most of our young men were being drafted or volunteering for what became known as the Korean Conflict and the girls just had to step into their places and show extreme leadership.”

The entrance into the college life brought about many feelings, from Neubauer’s apprehension of carrying a substantial course load to Lehrman’s fearless embracement of the new venture, looking forward to a new challenge. Schiferl was anxious about coming to a new college as a junior and Gross, though worried about not doing well in classes, approached the journey as a big adventure.

The ladies recall an assortment of friendships gained from their college days. Lehrman is still in touch with many friends she made while at YC, many of them meeting together at least annually for rotating reunions or vacations and appreciates Facebook for giving her the ability to stay in contact with those that don’t live nearby. Gross met some wonderful girls from different areas of the United States and mentions Pam Chabriel from Buffalo, NY; Jan Knudsen Larson from rural South Dakota, Peggy Allen Thompson from Yankton, and Marian Danforth White from Los Angeles, CA.

The graduates retain a plethora of memories from their college days. Gross recalls that her most memorable moment is when she met her husband of 48 years, David Danforth Gross, and adds, “Now that has been an adventure!” She is still in contact with many of the men and women she met. She enjoys attending the YC annual reunions and has served on the Board of Trustees and Alumni Advisory Board for nearly 20 years. She feels that this allows her to meet other college alumni and maintain lasting friendships with classmates. She comments, “It is amazing to me that a college that closed in 1984 still has such a vital impact on the lives of so many. I never in my wildest dreams thought when I went to Yankton College that I would meet and marry a “Yankee” and live in the United States - now that is what I call a life-time impact!”

Lehrman enjoyed the student diversity, supportive students and knowing nearly everyone on campus. She was able to participate in her favorite activities: orchestra, softball and assisted as a line judge and score keeper in other sports. She was Vice-President of Kingsbury and a Resident Assistant and recalls the delicious, readily accessible homemade cookies provided by Mrs. Jackson (Mrs. J.). She loved attending the theater shows and athletic events. One of her favorite pastimes was playing matchbook basketball with ring stands in the Organic Chemistry Lab. She has a slew of memories including the “Old Hacketts,” Barry’s Disco, panty raids, jock raids, chasing escapee attic bats around Kingsbury. She smiles as she reminisces in the memories. Oh, college days! Powder puff football, softball, winning the intramural basketball championship, graduation and obtaining a 12- month internship for Medical Technology at Sacred Heart Hospital are in the top ten of her college memories.

Neubauer comments that she was part of the “Town Girls” group, those that lived with parents or siblings rather than in the dormitories. Though she was a little jealous of the camaraderie that the dormitory girls had, she is thankful that she is still in touch with and enjoys seeing her group of “town girls.” She enjoyed the debate trips in

college, especially the trip to compete in Denver, CO where the beauty of the mountains captivated the Midwestern girls’ attention. She even won a college “Superior” medal at one of her debate tournaments. As her graduation neared, she recalls several dozen students preparing for the ministry, having graduated from the School of Theology, a component of YC that many involved with YC took pride in.

Schiferl also enjoyed the Denver, CO area, where she traveled to with the concert choir. She also has fond memories of her senior voice recital.

Several people come to mind when the ladies think back to college days. To name a few, Gross remembers how Dan Rasmussen helped get her into full classes as she started in the second semester. She comments that Dr. Jobes and Dr. Boos in the Science Department were extraordinary teachers and Dr. John Notheis was a teacher, coach, mentor and lifelong friend. If she could do anything differently, she feels like she would be more politically active and become more involved with student council.

Lehrman recalls many when reflecting back: “Sue (Notheis) Kemnitz, Becky (Gowery) Huser, Brenda (Elsberry) Ealey, Fred Lyles, Kathy (Rodgers) and Rick McCauley, Sheila (Bender) McKenna, my roommate, Janet (Liibbe) Young, and the list goes on: Rob, Richie, Bobby, Deb, Twink, MG, Val, Bev, Shep, Geno, Ann, Peggy, Patty, Mary Ann, Dawn, Becky, Bruce, Pat, Julie, Sue, and so many more,” she states. She also recalls instructors and coaches Doc Schultz, Marty Wood, Greg “Badger” Bailey. She doesn’t think she would have changed anything about her college days, having had a wonderful experience.

Neubauer mentions that YC has hundreds of living alumni that correspond regularly and are involved in the Yankton College Alumni and Educational Center which is being built on the third floor of the Mead Building, located north of town. They are gearing up for the all-class YC Reunion, which will be held at Minerva’s on July 18, 19 and 20 this year. I laugh as she recalls how they are known to break into a loud rendition of “Hail! Yankton College” at a moment’s notice.

When Schiferl thinks back to the college life, her good friend Denise comes to mind, whom she met while at YC. They shared an apartment their senior year and still stay in touch. She also feels that, if given the chance to do something differently, she wouldn’t change anything about her college days, noting that “My time at USD/S and YC are cherished memories.”

Though coming from different backgrounds and taking different paths in life, these students all agree on one thing – they loved their time at Yankton College. The YC mantra of “Yankton College Forever” stands true to its word.