July 15, 2024

Photo courtesy of Mount Marty University

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mount Marty University (MMU) in Watertown, which has offered students service, community and education. For South Dakota’s Benedictine university, this milestone has been a source of tremendous pride, a celebration of community and recognition of the past 50 years dedicated to providing greater access to education.

In 1972, the university opened its second location at Harmony Hill Education Center in Watertown to serve working parents who needed continued education. From 1998-2013 and 2019 to today, MMU-Watertown operations have resided on or adjacent to Lake Area Technical Institute.

“As we’ve evolved and changed, we’ve really found our niche here at Lake Area,” Watertown Campus Director Kimberly Bellum said. “They’ve been very welcoming and see the value of having an opportunity like this right here on their campus.”

While Executive Vice President and Provost Bill Miller notes the last few decades have seen the higher education landscape change drastically, he credits Watertown’s success to the faculty’s adaptation and persistence.

The nation has also seen enrollment and retention fall in recent years, but Bellum says MMU-Watertown is proud to have an 85-90 percent retention rate.

Ask any faculty member, and they’ll likely dedicate the university’s strong foundation to its four core values: hospitality, lifelong learning, community and awareness of God. For Bellum, an opportunity to celebrate those values couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Now more than ever, those Benedictine values are so important,” Bellum said. “Being able to engage with your community, being hospitable to others, being willing to learn and having that faith-based education serves our students well.”

Bellum says the university will continue to focus on the success of its students by continuing to hire quality, committed faculty and provide a quality education that’s both accessible and attainable.

For MMU-Watertown alumnus and Watertown Police Chief Tim Toomey, his education at MMU-Watertown made him a better person, husband, father and civil servant. “I would not be chief of police today if not for the education I received from MMU. [It] set a solid foundation for me to serve others and build a career.”

Miller says it’s a privilege to impact students in communities outside of Yankton positively. “It gives people opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have, and we feel fortunate to continue supporting students in their spiritual and lifelong learning journey,” he said.

Plans to celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary include a cookout at MMU-Watertown during Mission Day on Aug. 30, 2022. 

“It feels like our best thing is to celebrate the present moment,” Kaufmann said. “And to bring together our alumni, faculty, students and their families to celebrate who we are now.”