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Hilton M. Briggs
Hilton Marshall Briggs was born in 1913, the firstborn of John and Ethel (Marshall) Briggs at Cairo, Iowa, who farmed near there. Two brothers and a sister were also born to this union. His interest in animals really began with 4-H Club work. He was always interested in some phase of agriculture although as a small boy he thought about following in the footsteps of an uncle who was a lawyer. From grade school on, he planned to attend college. He earned one of three Thomas E. Wilson scholarships given in the U.S. in 1929 for achievement in livestock projects in 4-H. He earned his B.S. degree in Animal Science in 1933 from Iowa State College, followed by an M.S. degree from North Dakota State University in 1935 and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. In 1935 he married Lillian Dinnuson Briggs, and they raised two children. At Oklahoma State University beginning in 1936, he was a professor for fifteen years, becoming Associate Dean College of Agriculture and Associate Director Agricultural Experiment Station at Oklahoma State University in1949. From 1950-1958, he served as Dean of Agriculture and Director Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Wyoming. He was named the thirteenth President of South Dakota State University (1958-1975).
His administration was the longest in SDSU history. From the beginning of his first day in office, he strove to make SDSU the best possible educational institution that he could. Enrollment more than doubled from 3,800 to 8,000. Sixty-five percent of the square footage on the current campus was built during his span. Dr. Briggs was extremely proud of the 1975 accreditation report of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: it was the best they had ever given.
He served as president of the American Society of Animal Science in 1952 and was named a Fellow of that organization in 1974. Dr. Briggs was presented several military awards while president of SDSU, including Exceptional Service Award presented by the U.S. Air Force in 1975. The school had become nicknamed "The West Point of the Prairies," as they turned out more R.O.T.C. graduates than any other college in the Sixth Army District. The first R.O.T.C. commandant had been General Omar Bradley of WWII fame! Several SDSU graduates had become famous as military men, including several generals.
Dr. Briggs was a well-known stock judge, especially in sheep. He served twenty years at the International Live Stock Exposition in Chicago as sheep judge. He judged sheep in Peru and cattle in Brazil as well as in the U.S. In 1978, Dr. Briggs' portrait was hung in the Saddle & Sirloin Club. A prolific author, his Modern Breeds of Livestock (1947) is widely accepted still today as a college text.
In November, 1974, the regents named him a "distinguished professor" in the College of Agriculture. He was the first in the state so designated. Following his retirement as President of SDSU, the newly completed library on that campus was named after him in 1978. Dr. Briggs was given honorary degrees from North Dakota State University (1963) and the University of South Dakota (1973). Retired, Dr. Briggs is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at SDSU. Mrs. Briggs died in 1996. In 1997, he married Nelda Campbell.