To Experience One’s Legacy Now with Jim and Dianne Gropper
Jim and Dianne partnered with South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) to establish the Gropper Clement Legacy Fund–a scholarship fund supporting Huron, James Valley Christian, Kadoka and Miller High Schools students. The Groppers also have a gift annuity established, which they are receiving payments from now, and ultimately, their SDCF scholarship will be the beneficiary.
“We are feeling happiness and joy during our lifetime,” shared Jim, “I suggest you enjoy your legacy now as we are.”
Jim and Dianne sat down with Jamie Farmen, SDCF Community Development Coordinator & Marketing Manager, to discuss how their own paths to higher learning inspired giving back to their hometowns in a meaningful way.
Jim Gropper grew up in a ranching family, son of Lawrence and Ruby Gropper, the eldest of five siblings, near Long Valley. With Kadoka High School being a 30-mile drive, he was given room and board with Doc Sundet, Kadoka’s family doctor. One evening during sophomore year, Jim fell while pruning a tree and broke his back. During his time recuperating from this injury, Doc Sundet encouraged Jim to think about his future and college, seeing as he would likely not be able to pursue a farm or ranch career that involved intense physical labor. It was through the guidance of teachers and the assistance of scholarships that Jim successfully graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in geology and later Utah State University with a master's degree in environmental planning. Jim obtained a career with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which he held for 42 years before retiring in 2019. He currently works part-time as a consultant for Ducks Unlimited. During retirement he enjoys cycling, woodworking, gardening, and walking.
Dianne Gropper, daughter of Hubert and Betty Clement, was the eldest of nine siblings on a farm near St. Lawrence. She similarly spent her high school years room and boarding in Miller with her great aunt. It was her aunt/godmother who wanted to see Dianne’s name published in the Miller Press High School Honor Roll, and this served as encouragement for Dianne to think more seriously about her future. During her senior year of high school, her German teacher encouraged her to think about college. Working part-time after school, weekends, and summers at the Hand County Library, Dianne was inspired to pursue a career in the library field and attended USD, majoring in library science. She met Jim at USD, and after they were married in Vermillion, they moved to Brookings, SD, then Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and back to South Dakota for Jim’s growing career. While living in Albuquerque she finished her bachelor’s degree at the University of New Mexico. Dianne retired in 2020 with 23 years of service to the U.S. Geological Survey in Huron. She continues to be active with Huron Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, P.E.O. Chapter CH, Huron Area Quilt Guild. SD Extension Master Gardener Emeritus, SD Horticulture Society, and chairs Huron Lions Diabetes Awareness Program. Her hobbies include cycling, walking, reading, and gardening.
The Groppers have given back in a variety of ways, including donations to support the construction of buildings at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds and the Huron Regional Medical Center Dialysis Center. When asked what inspired their scholarship fund, they reflected on the importance higher education has played in the success of their own lives. They were interested in establishing a way to give back long-term, which inspired their scholarship fund.
The two agreed that supporting their hometown communities where they still have connections feels important. They have even had the pleasure of finding out that some of the recipients of their scholarship funds have been grandchildren of old friends.
Jim shared, “We had the privilege of being present when a young woman received and accepted our scholarship fund. When I asked about her future studies, she told me she was going to the University of Iowa to study biomedical engineering, and that she would be researching and designing medical devices. This took me aback because I spent a month in a Stryker hospital bed when I broke my back in high school. It’s moments like that, that put a lump in my throat.”
Jim and Dianne have both been active community members. Jim has served on the SD Lions Foundation Board and served as Huron Public Library Trustee. Dianne served as president of Friends of Huron Public Library and superintendent of the SD State Fair Horticulture Building. Both stay involved with Huron Lions Clubs and SDSU Extension Office 4-H Program judging exhibits during County Achievement Days and South Dakota State Fair.
Dianne was integral in working with Kelly Nelson, SDCF’s Scholarship Coordinator to establish scholarship guidelines for the Gropper Clement Legacy Fund. Dianne shared “Philanthropic giving was not a concept we were raised with in our families, so it was a big deal for us to start down the path of learning more about how we could make a difference in our communities. We are so pleased with the service of the South Dakota Community Foundation and how they have helped us move forward.”
In closing, when asked what giving back to South Dakota means to the Groppers, Dianne shared, “The Gropper Clement Legacy Fund is all about gratitude. We are just an ordinary couple. I am just extraordinarily grateful for my education and career, and I wish to share that with others.” Jim added, “It’s really simple for me--–giving back to these students makes me feel great!”