Dr. Thomas Kilian (1924 - 2014)

Obituary
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Thomas R. Kilian

Dr. Thomas Randolph Kilian, South Dakota educator, author, and founder of Kilian Community College, passed away at his Sioux Falls home on Saturday, April 26, 2014. A memorial service to celebrate his 90 years of life will be on Wednesday, May 7, 11:00 AM at the First Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls. Interment will be at the West Nidaros Lutheran Church, Crooks, SD.

He was born on March 23, 1924 in Vilas, SD to Ward and Mabel Kilian. Growing up in rural South Dakota, he described his childhood, "I grew up a barefoot kid on the prairie, chasing gophers and listening to meadowlarks." He was a graduate of Howard, SD High School. He graduated from Augustana College, Sioux Falls; Boston University (MS), Boston, MA and Michigan State University (Ph.D.) at Lansing. He attended the Harvard University Graduate School of Business in 1971.

While at Augustana, he met Lorna J. Pearson, Brandon, SD. They were married August 27, 1949.

He began his lifelong career in higher education at Waldorf College, Forest City, IA. In 1952, he began working for Augustana College as Director of Public Relations and Admissions; Vice President of Development, 1961-74; and Executive Vice President until 1982. He served the college for over thirty years.

In 1974, Governor Richard F. Kneip appointed him South Dakota Secretary of Education and Cultural Affairs. In 1976 he began developing a community college program, the forerunner of Kilian Community College, Sioux Falls. He founded the Rural Initiative Center, a consultation and educational resource center, in 1987.

Dr. Kilian served with over 100 local, state, regional and national service-based organizations. Notable service accomplishments include: President, SD State Historical Society; co-founder, the Center for Western Studies (Augustana College); co-founder, South Dakota Public Television; Minnehaha Century Fund; Sioux Falls Beautiful; South Dakota Future Society; vice-president, First Lutheran Church (Sioux Falls); director, Sioux Falls Symphony Association and the SD Library Association. He is a member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame. He received the Augustana Alumni College Achievement Award and is listed in Who's Who in the Midwest and Who's Who in America.

An avid historian, amateur archaeologist and conservationist, Dr. Kilian was a consultant to the National Trust for Historic Preser-vation, and a member of the Badlands Natural History Associa-tion, The Wilderness Society, and the American Association for Indian Affairs. He was instrumental in the establishment of South Dakota's newest state park at Blood Run. He was a noted authority on the history of South Dakota and the Great Plains.

He served in the U.S Army from 1942-1946 in Iceland and the South Pacific. He fought in the Battle of Okinawa as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 96th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Bronze Star (Valor). After the war, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and served with the Philippine Scouts battling Communist land reform forces. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

Tom is survived by his wife Lorna, four children, James (Vicky), Sioux Falls; Peter (Tari), Aberdeen, SD; Mary Kilian Gaul (Hans), Carlsberg, Germany; Susan Kilian, Sioux Falls; and four grand children, Katherine Kilian; Thomas Gaul; Philipp Gaul; and Anna Gaul. He was preceded in death by his daughter Anne; parents, Ward and Mabel Kilian; and his brother, Austin, Palm Desert, CA.

The family suggests that memorials may be sent to Kilian Community College; The Center for Western Studies, Augustana College; the South Dakota State Historical Society; or the First Lutheran Church Endowment Fund.

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Published in The Argus Leader on May 4, 2014
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