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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

DSU President Chooses Off-Campus Housing

Dakota State University is moving its president's home off-campus and uptown. MDL's Elisa Sand reports that DSU is trading the Girton House, on North Washington Avenue, right by the southeast corner of campus, for swankier digs on in Madison's wealthy northeast neighborhood, known by some as "Snob Hill", about seven blocks from the President's office in Heston Hall.

How much swankier? The new president's residence is Gene and Margie Phillips "old" house at 1022 NE 9th Street. The Phillips were trying to sell the house online at MadisonSDHouseforSale.com for several months. That website has gone poof, but a cached version from MSN offers the following description:

This 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath home was designed by Bob Visser, a Sioux Falls, SD architect. Built in 2001, it has 4050 sq. ft. of living space and 1300 sq. ft. of storage plus a heated garage with 3 stalls / shop or 4 stalls.

Geothermal heats and cools the house at minimal cost. There are 2 fireplaces that assure comfort year round. The landscaped yard has 3 patio areas surrounded by red-leaf birch, maple, evergreen trees and perennials; plus guest parking.

NEW PRICING - $399,000
Creative Financing Available

Creative financing indeed. As Sand reports, the DSU Foundation is buying the house from the Phillipses, "long-time university supporters" who have promised some "substantial gifts to the Foundation." It sounds like a win-win for all parties concerned. The Phillipses unload an expensive property that apparently wasn't moving in the Madison market (Madison's McMansion crowd must all be moving to the lake). The DSU Foundation makes some donors happy and gets assurances of future donations. DSU gets to house its president in a bigger house with better handicap accessibility and infrastructure... not to mention more room to host fundraising events.

A little history on the Girton House: The DSU Historical Archives note that the state bought the Girton House in 1921 as overflow dorm space for Eastern State Normal School for $8,417.80. The Board of Regents tried to sell it during the Depression, but the best offer they got was $1,750. The Regents said, "No deal!" Eastern State Teachers College (oh, how DSU's name does change!) thus moved President V.A. Lowry into the Girton House in 1935. So perhaps we again have a connection between a weak housing market and a change in the president's residence.

The Girton House won't face the bulldozer: evidently DSU plans to preserve it. Perhaps it will again serve as overflow dorm housing. And maybe, just maybe, the Girton House will provide some more spare rooms for hosting Mundt Debate!


  1. The Daily Leader, in its never-ending error-filled publication used a photo of Roger and Tammy Olson's home on North Division instead of the correct Phillips house, located on NE 9th in last night's newspaper. WOOPS!

  2. It would've made more sense to buy Dick W's house across the street from Heston.

    Mundt is at beating a dead horse stage.

  3. It is amazing to me that the state does not have money to fix roads and bridges but we can spend $400,000.00 on a house for the president of DSU. Would it really cost that much to fix up the present house? And if it did,, that is part of DSU history. At least we are preserving history. Yet another home taken off the tax roll. We lose again. Looks like a bailout to me... And why cant the president buy his own house in madison and pay taxes like the rest of us. Tough times call for tough measures. Change is not easy sometimes.

  4. Hang on, Anon 10:45: The DSU Foundation, not DSU itself, bought the Phillips house. That's private donations, not state money. Plus, $400K was the asking price this summer; no word in Sand's report on the final price the Foundation will pay when it closes the deal on Dec. 1.

  5. Dick doesn't want to sell. His father developed most of those homes north along Washington.

    We must remember the DSU Foundation is not a tax payer thing. It's funded by contributions, so they have flexibility with those dollars. jh

  6. I wonder if the money was donated with intent of the Foundation buying a house?
    As a donor to the foundation...I'm going to be upset if my money was used for a house and not toward scholarships for students!

  7. I thought the $36 Million fund raising effort was for DSU Foundation Scholarships, not buying homes and leasing back to DSU. It surprised me that these fund raising efforts change direction once the money flows in.

  8. I agree that it is somewhat disgusting that the President of DSU needs a house provided for him. At last check according to southdakotainfo.com he made $200,000 a year. Not too shabby for Madison.

    If the President wants to be President, make them buy a house in Madison like everyone else!

  9. I'm hesitant to say something that might not be the case, but someone said it will be helpful in their fund raising efforts. You can see that people can stay overnight, be entertained, have parking, easy access, especially older people. Some with a frugal nature may not be able to relate, but the college has a history of making decisions that work. jh

  10. President Knowlton receiving free housing is probably similar to what we in Madison would consider a corporate perk. It is commonplace in the university system for the school's leader to receive housing and maybe a vehicle. For professional entertainment purposes, the Phillips home is a good trade with many more usable square feet and less steps. Knowing Margie and Gene, much benefit will come back to the Foundation in future years. Smart move.

  11. A university president getting housing as part of the deal is rather like a pastor getting a parsonage or housing allowance. They move around a lot, and as JH alludes, they are expected to bring a lot of work home with them. For the university president, that means hosting a lot of functions for students, faculty, and donors. When the university (in this case, with the help of the DSU Foundation) provides housing, it's with the expectation that that housing will serve the university community right along with its current occupants.

  12. If the foundation buys the house and leases it back to DSU, arent the taxpayers buying the house? Im confused,,,,,,,

    I also contribute to the foundation and certainly wasnt thinking about home ownership.

  13. How many pastor's make $200k a year in Madison?

  14. The comparison to pastors is in the nature of the job, not the pay bracket. Pastors and university presidents have limited professional job opportunities in any given community. A Lutheran pastor, like a university president, is more likely to be called to work in another community than to move from one post to another similar post within the same community.

    Besides, having a house provided by your employer has pluses and minuses. Sure, you don't have a mortgage or property taxes, but you also don't have equity or collateral. And if you get fired, you've got to find a job and a place to live!

  15. One thing caught my eye here above all else: The geothermal heating and cooling system. I assume this refers to a ground-source heat pump. Bravo!


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