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Jack Science Center exterior
Jack Science Center

Bismarck State College was a bold, Depression-era experiment. As North Dakota's first two-year city college, BSC became an example for others and over the years has grown at a pace most likely unforeseen by its early promoters.

Created in 1939 in response to a community need for a local college, it was originally known as Bismarck Junior College. Enabling legislation providing for the establishment of junior colleges had been passed by the 22nd Legislative Assembly in 1931.

The College's first students started classes on Sept. 4,1939, in Bismarck High School. There were 104 full- and part-time students and 12 instructors.

By the late '40s a new location for the college became increasingly urgent as college enrollments soared. In 1951 the 32nd Legislative Assembly responded to an appeal from community leaders to grant the College 15 acres on the Capitol grounds for a campus site. The College moved into its own building at 900 Boulevard Avenue in 1955.

Within a few years the new campus was inadequate to meet the needs of the growing college. The search began for a new location that would allow for future growth and expansion. The problem was solved in 1959 when Harold Schafer, a local entrepreneur and founder of the successful Gold Seal Company, offered the College a tract of land overlooking the Missouri River at the northwest edge of the City. Classes were first held on the new campus in the fall of 1961.

BuildingDate CompletedCost
Schafer Hall1961$858,971
Werner Hall1965661,766
Swensen Hall1972576,363
Student Union1974899,328
Office Annex1979394,949
Technical Center addition19831,291,740
Jack Science Center19988,465,000
Leach Music Center2001762,000
BSC-Mandan Campus20071,860,000
Lidstrom Hall20085,700,000
National Energy Center of Excellence200818,300,000
Ritchie Hall20155,200.000
Communications and Creative Arts Center201513,500,000

Campus improvements from the middle 1980s to the late 1990s focused on the grounds. Parking lot and landscape improvements, sidewalks, handicapped access, and outdoor lighting were included in the projects. Many trees and shrubs were planted and permanent outdoor benches were placed in some areas.

One of the major changes in the college's history occurred in 1984. Through legislation passed in 1983 by the 48th Legislative Assembly, the College became part of North Dakota's system of higher education. On July 1, 1984, the governance and control of the College was transferred from the Bismarck School Board to the State Board of Higher Education.

The 50th Legislative Assembly changed the college's name to Bismarck State College, effective April 27, 1987.

Gov. George A. Sinner transferred ownership of the Burleigh County Memorial National Guard Armory to BSC, officially effective July 1, 1989. The Armory was built adjacent to the campus in 1962, and the National Guard and BSC shared usage of the facility from that time until 1988.

The men's residence hall was named Werner Hall in the spring of 1989, in honor of the college's third executive officer.

Construction on the Jack Science Center began in the summer of 1996. It was completed in February 1998. The three-floor, 74,340 square-foot building houses classrooms and labs for the sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science classes, and offices for faculty teaching in those disciplines. Funding for the building was approved by the 54th Legislative Assembly in 1995, the third time BSC and the N.D. University System requested funds. The BSC Foundation raised $1,060,000 as a local match for the state's $7 million appropriation. The building is named for Tom and Peg Jack, who provided the lead donation in the Foundation's capital campaign.

Bismarck Community Bowl improvements were completed in the summer of 1997. The facility is managed by the Community Bowl Authority. This athletic complex consists of football and soccer fields, ten lane track, locker rooms, press box, restrooms, concessions, and bleacher seating.

In the late 1990s, remodeling work began on Schafer Hall. The entire building was renovated in phases, with the final phase on first floor completed in the summer of 2008.

The Leach Music Center was completed in 2001. This 6,000 square foot addition to Schafer Hall was funded by a grant from the Tom and Frances Leach Foundation, state funds and other private donations.

Private developers completed the Horizon Office Building north of the Technical Center in 2003. Late in that year, BSC rented part of the building for administrative, faculty and staff offices.

In the fall of 2005, BSC's Allied Health programs moved to a city-owned building downtown at 500 E. Front Ave. The second floor of the building was remodeled to provide state-of-the-art classrooms and labs for four programs.

NECE in spring
National Energy Center of Excellence
Construction on BSC's National Energy Center of Excellence began in the summer of 2006 on the southeast corner of the campus. Completed in the fall of 2008, the 106,200 square foot building houses the National Energy Center of Excellence, BSC's Energy Technology Programs, Great Plains Energy Corridor Office, Division of Continuing Education, Training and Innovation, and administrative offices. Funding was secured through a capital campaign led by the BSC Foundation. Sources of funding include industry partners; local, state and federal government; BSC employee donations; and other individual donations.

BSC was granted permission to offer a baccalaureate degree by the N.D. State Board of Higher Education in November 2006. The degree, a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Energy Management, educates energy workers to move into supervisory and management positions. The online program was designed for BSC graduates with an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in one of the college's five energy education programs.

In February 2007, BSC opened the Bismarck State College-Mandan Campus at 1831 Twin City Drive S.E. in Mandan. The 12,500 square foot building was constructed to house the Mechanical Maintenance Technology program. The $2 million facility was funded through the sale of bonds, a federal earmark, funds from the City of Mandan and contributions from industry.

The BSC Foundation moved into the Foundation/Alumni House in the fall of 2007, after purchasing a private residence at 1255 Schafer St., on the southeast corner of the campus. The house was remodeled to accommodate the Foundation, Alumni Association, and Resource and Grants offices.

Lidstrom Hall, the college's third residence hall, was completed in time for fall semester 2008. The new facility is named in honor of president emeritus Dr. Kermit Lidstrom. The 35,000 square foot residence hall has 76 beds in suite living arrangements, a large lounge, kitchen, and meeting room.

Since its founding in 1939, Bismarck State College has had six chief executive officers. Dr. Walter J. Swensen was appointed the first dean of the College in 1939 and served in that capacity until 1948 when Sidney J. Lee was appointed dean. Lee died in 1961 and was succeeded by Ralph Werner. Werner retired in 1977. Dr. Kermit Lidstrom served as president from 1977 to 1995. Dr. Donna S. Thigpen served as president from July 1995 through June 2006. Gordon Binek, vice president for college advancement and federal relations, served as interim president for eight months until Dr. Larry C. Skogen became the college's sixth chief executive officer on March 1, 2007.

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