John W. Heston

John W. Heston
5th President of Dakota State
In office
Preceded by William W. Girton
Succeeded by Bela Malcom Lawrence
 Personal Details
Born Febraury 1, 1854 Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Died Febraury 1, 1920 Madison, South Dakota 


John William Heston was a native of Bellefonte, Center County, Pennsylvania. He was born February 1, 1854, the son of Elisha B. and Catherine Heston. He studied in Pennsylvania, continued in Center Hall Normal and Penn. State College. Dr. Heston received scholastic degrees A.B., M.A., PhD., and LL.D. from Pennsylvania. He married Mary Ellen Calder at Harrisburg, PA on August 16, 1881. She was the daughter of Rev. James Calder, President of Penn. St for 12 yrs. They had two sons, Charles Ellis who became an electrical engineer and Edward who became a physician. He taught 3 yrs. in county schools of PA and then at Penn State Industrial University where he was elected Principal of the Department for 6 years. He was then elected professor of the Science and Art of Teaching in Penn State. He likewise taught Ag. In the meantime, he studied history and with specialization in constitutional and institutional law at John Hopkins University, and was admitted to the Penn Bar in 1890. He left PA to practice law in Seattle, but soon tired of this and re-entered teaching – spending 3 yrs. as principal of Seattle High School. He organized the Washington Agricultural College in This followed his work as president of the State Agricultural College at Pluman, WA in 1892. He was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, in 1894, from the University of Seattle, in recognition of his work as an educator in the pioneer problems of the west. He then became president of the State Agricultural College at Brookings from 1896-1903. In 1905 he became the President of the college here in Madison, following W.H.H. Beadle. Dr. Heston held the position until his death in 1920. His interest in industrial education in relation to teacher education that moved him to build the Science Hall (later called the Women’s Gym or the Performing Arts Center). At that time it housed the chemistry and physics programs as well as extensive agricultural department. This was constructed in 1910. He was interested in the vocational approach to education. Mrs. Heston died in Madison in 1915. In 1917 Dr. Heston married Miss Eliza Small, a niece of the first Mrs. Heston. One of Dr. Heston’s biggest achievement was building the Campus Training School in 1916. He had long envisioned the development of a laboratory school where teachers in training could be carefully supervised. The lab school included both elementary and secondary school students. This training school burned to the ground in 1963. Dr. Heston died in Madison, February 1, 1920. In 1971, the State of South Dakota purchased the Madison Community Hospital and renovated it into an administration building and named it Heston Hall after President John Heston.



Olson, Bonnie. Historical Calendar of Dakota State University

(1881-2007). Madison, SD: Dakota State University.

Lowry, V. A. Forty Years at General Beadle (1922-1962). Madison, SD:

Dakota State University, 1984. pg 18, 19, 20, 22.