Longtime USD supporters Jim and Nini Hart were honored for their service to the University of South Dakota and the USD Foundation at an awards luncheon in Vermillion on Friday, Oct. 5. The Foundation presented the Harts with its highest award, the Darwin and Adele Inman Award for Distinguished Service. The Inmans were instrumental in the early years of establishing the University, and the Foundation’s award honors those who share the Inman’s spirit of generosity and volunteer leadership.
Born in Minot, N.D. and raised in Miller, S.D., Jim Hart grew up helping his father in the Hand County State Bank. After graduating from USD in 1963 with a business degree and spending two years in the Army, Jim began his professional career in the banking business with a move to California. He not only got a strong business foundation, but he met and married Nini Richardson. Five years later, the Harts returned to South Dakota, Jim’s hometown of Miller and the family bank. In 1971, Jim was pursuing a full time career in the Hand County State Bank; by 1979 he was president. He continued in that role until his retirement and the sale of the bank in 2000.
A California girl, Nini quickly assimilated herself to her community and became a full-fledged South Dakotan. Over the years she’s been a teacher, owned a gift shop, was a museum curator, worked as a public relations officer at the bank and been a steadfast volunteer. She helped to create a community daycare in Miller, which is still active 38 years later, brought Relay for Life to town and served on various political, religious and educational boards throughout the years.
Both Jim and Nini are very civic-minded, conscious of the choices they make and the roles they play. They helped establish and served on the board of the Miller Community Foundation. Both have also done terms as directors on the South Dakota Community Foundation; Nini served nine years and Jim served 11 years as a founding director and is currently president-elect and in his fifth additional year. Jim served on the South Dakota Board of Regents for six years. Both have been USD Foundation trustees since 1999, were active on the Campaign South Dakota committee, and Jim was a member of the board of directors from 1999-2004. Both are also active in the Catholic Foundation of Eastern South Dakota. They give generously of both time and money, doing all they can to improve the quality of life in their communities. Retired now, they split their time between Lake Madison, S.D. and Surprise, AZ.
The University of South Dakota Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit, South Dakota Corporation organized solely for the benefit of the University of South Dakota. Private giving to the Foundation is essential in raising the level of excellence at USD. The Foundation’s mission is to provide resources for the University of South Dakota, in order to increase the excellence of the educational experience provided by that institution, with the overriding goal of creating the best small public university in the country.