Kurt D. Bassett
S.D. Chapter President, 1992-93

In the Beginning. . . .

     In the summer of 1961, a group of enthusiastic and dedicated hvac professionals and ASHRAE members from Sioux Falls and the surrounding region began meeting with the goal of establishing a new chapter. The result was a premier chapter (literally) which even today reflects the outstanding professional and personal character of those pioneers.

     Support and encouragement were received from the Nebraska and Minnesota Chapters. A set of bylaws were developed and adopted in September. The following slate of officers was selected:

  • Chairman of the Board: Melvin Bird
  • President: Ralph Larson
  • Vice-President: John Sandfort
  • Assistant Vice-President: Dave Rosenstein
  • Secretary: John Mahanna
  • Assistant Secretary: Bill Menzel
  • Treasurer: Fred Monick


     Dick Jameson served as the first editor of the chapter’s news bulletin. The fledgling group began regular meetings at the Cactus Heights Country Club in Sioux Falls, SD. Organizational efforts culminated in the chartering of the chapter by the Society in October of 1961.

     The charter was presented on October 31, 1961 at a special ceremony by Mr. John E. Everetts, Jr., Society President.
Other officials attending the event were:

Mr. Jack McNamara, President of the Minnesota Chapter
Mr. Fred Janssen, Director, Region IX
Mr. Frank Faust, Second Vice President of the Society
Mr. Charles Thomsen, President of the Nebraska Chapter.

Charter Members of the South Dakota Chapter were:

Melvin H. Bird
Duane Miller
Ralph Larson
William S. Moser
Dick Jameson
Norman Fodness
Ray L. Roby
Joseph B. Russell
Robert D. Sargent
Robert Wood
Joseph W. Egan
Robert C. Howe
Harold J. Mahanna
W.F. Robinson
Ed Finnell
Milton Berg
Fred Monick
Larry Meyerhoff
John Sandfort
Evan Tessier
Jack R. Conrad
Harry Greenslate
David Rosenstein
R. Mark Swenson
Clifford F. Smith
Kenneth Bastian
Bill Menzel
Gordon Gulbranson
Jim Sanders
Frank Sales
Edwin O. Anderson
Bill Ziske
Frank S. Farkas


Members from Brookings, Mitchell, and Sioux City, Iowa were active from the very beginning of the chapter.

      Many traditions were established during the first year of the chapter’s existence. The newsletter, which officially became the “Blueprint” in April of 1962, was published monthly. Regional Director Janssen indicated that the S.D. Chapter was one of four in the region which had an official publication.

      The October Membership Night tradition also began in 1961. An effort to get prospective members to attend the Charter ceremony has carried over to the present time. The 1961 Christmas party began a tradition of inviting spouses to the December chapter meetings. During the first year, the meeting venue changed from the Cactus Heights Country Club to the Westward Ho Country Club in Sioux Falls. The Westward Ho has remained the standard meeting location throughout most of the chapter’s 31-year hisory.

Chapter dues were set at $1.00 for the first year of operation.

The First Decade . . . .

     A 100% dues increase was approved at the beginning of the 1962-63 chapter year – dues were set at $2.00. The policy of having the chapter president serve as CRC delegate and the vice-president as the alternate delegate was established during the ‘62-63 year. The purpose was to provide continuity of information from year to year.

     At the time, Region IX CRC’s were held in the spring, and the ‘62-’63 meeting was held in April in Omaha. Chapter Vice-President Dave Rosenstein presented a paper entitled “Medium-Temperature Water Systems with Primary and Secondary Pumping” at that meeting.

Programs of special note were:

May 1962 – R.B. Keely, Radiation and Chemical Engineer at the short-lived
Pathfinder Nuclear Power Plant, on the operation of the plant;

February 1963 – Frank Heidelbauer, Raven Industries, on balloon launching, tracking, and recovery.

The South Dakota Chapter hosted its first Region IX CRC April 10 and 11, 1964. The event was proclaimed a rousing success.


     A tradition of meeting jointly with the South Dakota State University student branch of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers began in February of 1965. Members from Sioux Falls took a bus to Brookings for the meeting. The cost of transportation and dinner at the Brookings Supper Club was noted as $5.50 for the December 1965 joint meeting. The annual event continued for several years, but was eventually abandoned.

     The chapter also had a policy of holding at least one meeting per year in Sioux City. Many of the social events, especially the annual spring fling were held in Sioux City or Mitchell. This practice seems to have had a very positive influence on the participation and interest of members outside the Sioux Falls area. The remote meetings were also a source of many of the stories of “humorous incidents” experienced by the membership on their travels.

     The first of the traditional Valentine Parties was held in February of 1966. The Valentine Dinner/Dance became one of the primary social events of the chapter year. The summer social, later called the “Spring Fling”, typically included golf and a trap shoot for the men and cards by the pool for the ladies. Other social events included trips to Twins baseball games.

     The 75th Anniversary year of ASHRAE was observed by meeting on September 10, 1969 (the anniversary of the founding). All chapters held meetings on that date and participated in an attendance contest.


The Second Decade . . . .

     The Presidential Award of Excellence (PAOE) system was established in the 1970-71 Society year. Membership and research were emphasized in the first year of the awards. The South Dakota Chapter received the PAOE that year, thus beginning the unbroken string of PAOE’s which has made chapter presidents cringe with dread.

     In 1971, past chapter president John Sandfort was elevated to the grade of Fellow of the Society.

     The South Dakota Chapter hosted the 1972 CRC May 4-6 in Sioux Falls. Once again, the event was proclaimed a success.

     Local dues were set at $7.50 for the 1972-73 year.

     Energy conservation came to the forefront as a topic of special interest and concern for the nation in 1973. The South Dakota Chapter program agenda for 1973-74 reflected the concern generated by the Arab Oil Embargo and the ensuing “energy crisis”.

     Another topic pursued by the chapter leadership was the recruitment of women into the engineering profession. Discussion was held with John Sandfort of ;the mechanical engineering department at South Dakota State University regarding the promotion of engineering among female students.

     A great deal of support was generated for students in the technology program at USD-Springfield during the 1973-74 year. Chapter members sponsored individual students as guests during meetings. In addition, two $200 scholarships were awarded to USD-S students. These were the first scholarships established by the chapter.

     In August of 1973, with the sponsorship of the chapter, and ASHRAE Explorer Scout post was begun. Also, in May of 1974, the Chapter Board of Governors began discussing the idea of sponsoring a new chapter in the Black Hills area.

     Local dues were set at $10.00 for the 1974-75 year.


     Solar energy was an emerging technology of interest in the mid-‘70’s. Dave Rosenstein presented a program entitled “Solar Energy Installations Throughout the World” at the January 1975 meeting.

     Two mechanical engineering students from South Dakota State University, James Natzel and Curtis Klaasen, were presented with $200 scholarships at the May 1975 meeting.

     ASHRAE Explorer Post 35 ceased operation in 1975-76. Insufficient student interest and lack of school support were listed as the cause of the post’s demise.

     In May 1976, the chapter’s scholarships were awarded to two students at Northwest Iowa Vocational School in Sheldon, IA.

      ASHRAE members in the Black Hills area began meeting as an independent chapter during 1975-76. The group prepared to petition for a charter from the Society.

     Past president John Sandfort received the E.K.Campbell Award of Merit at the semi-annual meeting in Dallas in 1976. The same year, Dave Rosenstein received the Regional Award of Merit at the CRC.

     The Black Hills Chapter was presented a charter on September 22, 1976 by Society President William P. Chapman. Many members of the South Dakota Chapter had a hand in the organization of the new chapter. It was felt that members in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming would be better served by a local chapter.

     Frank Hughes and Bob Hoisington, students at South Dakota State University , were recipients of the chapter scholarships in 1977. From this point on, the chapter began to concentrate its scholarship and student interaction efforts on the SDSU students.

     Chapter members Dan Grider, Art DeWit, Ron Mielke, and Jim Foy presented a legislative program at the state capitol on “Model Code for Thermal and Lighting Efficiency Standards in Building Construction for South Dakota” on January 26, 1979. Efforts of these and other chapter members were instrumental in forming the state’s energy efficiency standards.

     The South Dakota chapter hosted its third CRC May 20-22, 1979. Once again, the program and other diversions were well-received by the delegates and attendees.

     Many organizations were invited to meet jointly with the chapter during its first twenty years. Those organizations included the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Illuminating Engineers Society (IES), the Siouxland Electric Council, and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). These joint meetings were very successful and served to improve the stature of ASHRAE in the region as well as promote interaction among professionals on topics of mutual interest.


The Third Decade . . .

     One of the highlights of the 1980-81 year was a meeting in Vermillion, SD, which included a tour of the Dakota Dome. The meeting theme was “Past Presidents”. A champagne toast was offered to the eleven past presidents in attendance. For several years, the chapter’s events included a trip to a football game (usually between SDSU and USD) at the Dakota Dome.

     The chapter continued to award two $200 scholarships annually to SDSU engineering students through the ‘80’s.

     Local dues were set at $15.00 for 1980-81.


     The chapter co-sponsored the STATE (Statewide Technical Assistance through Extension) Energy Management Conference in 1980 and again in 1981.

     A special 20th Anniversary meeting was held Nov. 4, 1981. Eleven past presidents attended and each summarized his year in office. Photographs and the yearly record notebooks were displayed. Historian Joe Stout and President Tom Van Wyhe were instrumental in arranging the display.

     In 1982, the chapter began efforts to establish a student branch at South Dakota State University. To encourage student attendance and participation, the chapter instituted a policy of paying the cost of their meals.

     CENGAS, Inc. picked up the tab for the October 1983 meal. The Board of Governors moved to have the amount forwarded to the research fund. Thus began the tradition of emphasizing research fundraising at the October meeting. Minnegasco, Inc. has carried on the policy of sponsoring the meal at the October chapter meeting.

      After many years of effort, the chapter succeeded in sponsoring its first student branch. The South Dakota State University student branch received its charter January 31, 1985. Regional Director Larry Staples was on hand to present the charter. Kurt Bassett, instructor in mechanical engineering at SDSU, served as advisor to the student branch.

     Chapter member Robin Hermanson won third place in the 1985 ASHRAE Energy Awards. His project at the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls was entered in the “Existing Commercial” division. The following year, Orlin Kuper won third place in the 1986 Energy Awards. Orlin’s project at McCord Heat Transfer was entered in the “Existing Industrial Facilities or Processes” division.

     The chapter’s 25th anniversary year was observed in high style with a special program on November 7, 1986. Mayor Jack White proclaimed the day “South Dakota Chapter of ASHRAE Day” in Sioux Falls. The program included reminiscences of 25 years by various chapter members, comments by Region IX Director Larry Staples, and an address by Society President Frederick H. Kohlass.

      The 1980’s saw the establishment of a second student branch under the sponsorship of the South Dakota chapter. The student branch of ASHRAE at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA received its charter. Charles Adams served as advisor to the group.


The Fourth Decade . . .

     The South Dakota Chapter hosted its fourth CRC at Sioux Falls in August of 1991. The Region had moved its CRC to a fall format by this time. The theme “Great Faces, Great Places” was a hit and the special entertainment accompanying the theme was enjoyed by all. Jim Ryan, Jr. and Ron Mielke served as co-chairmen of the CRC committee. A low point in the chapter’s history occurred following the 1991 CRC. The chapter awards banner was lost, along with 30 years worth of award ribbons and the 20 years of PAOE emblems. It is suspected that the banner was disposed of during remodeling at the Westard Ho, where chapter equipment was kept. No one knows for sure.

     During the ‘90’s a new tradition emerged. Remote meetings had been neglected for several years, but a popular new policy of holding the May chapter meeting in Pierre was begun. Not only were the Pierre members able to participate in a meeting, but the other members were able to participate in some Missouri river walleye fishing.

     The topics of concern in the industry have reflected the nation’s concern for the environment and the interaction of various building and energy conversion systems. Local chapter programs dealing with CFC refrigerants, harmonic distortion of AC power by electronic equipment, and energy-efficiency highlighted the new challenges of the ‘90’s. Refrigeration programs held jointly with the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) became a popular annual event.

     The South Dakota Chapter had a member serving as a Regional officer beginning in 1992. Past president Dan Woldt served as Region IX Historian. This post was especially important as preparations began for the Society’s Centennial in 1994.



Robert A. King
SD Chapter Historian