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The South Dakotan

Robert Legvold’s father thought his son needed a fallback. To temper his

doubts as to whether or not Robert would get into a good law school, he

encouraged his son take shorthand and typing in high school — just in case.

Little did he know his good intentions were unwarranted. Legvold, a 1962

University of South Dakota graduate, is a now a premier Sovietologist in the

United States with a career spanning more than 50 years.

“He meant well. And those skills came in handy when I got a job in the

dean’s office. But at USD, my first aspiration was getting into the Foreign

Service,” Legvold said.

The Sioux Falls native actually began his academic career at the University

of Chicago. After a year, though, Legvold transferred to USD to find a degree

of “community” he said he could not find in Illinois.

“[The University of Chicago] really wasn’t my cup of tea,” Legvold said.

“I felt more comfortable with what I assumed would be life and studies at

South Dakota. So I came back for my last three years—and I was right.”

Legvold said he lived a “split life” as a student because he was married and

had a daughter by his junior year. But that did not keep him from getting

involved in student life. By his senior year, Legvold was elected to student

body president.

“I wasn’t a typical college boy,” he said. “When I ran for president that

senior year, it wasn’t because I was heavily involved with fraternity or student

life. I must have done enough that people knew about me, and I could

plausibly run for this post.”

Legvold’s election to student body president was not a surprise for his wife,

Gloria, who is a fellow South Dakotan and 1962 USD graduate. Since they

first started to “go together” in high school, she said her husband did not shy

away from leadership positions.

As a young family in Vermillion living in married housing on campus,

Gloria said they found a “real community” at USD. More than 55 years

of marriage later, Gloria said she and her husband feel great loyalty to

South Dakota.

Sovietologist, ’62 graduate boasts career that

bridges the fall of the USSR to the ‘new Cold War’

By Timothy Schorn and Megan Card ’15

Robert Legvold

Alumnus Leads Soviet


Post-Soviet Studies