Yankton banker lauded for largesse

Larry Ness

Larry Ness, chair and CEO of First Dakota National Bank, Yankton, S.D., was honored as one of six “distinguished alumni” by South Dakota State University, Brookings.

Ness, decorated as BankBeat’s Banker of the Year in 2018, has been committed to serving his alma mater in significant ways since he graduated. 

 The 1969 economics major has served on the SDSU Foundation’s Council of Trustees since 2007. At the insistence of university leadership, the Ness Division of Management and Economics at SDSU bears his name and lasting influence.

Ness became president of First Dakota in the 1980s when the bank was in trouble. The Yankton bank is now one of the largest ag lenders in the country.

The Sinai, S.D.,  native has said his success is abetted by the people who work hard by his side. Coupled with a grateful outlook, Ness’s actions are marked by generosity.

Collectively, Ness, his wife Diane, and First Dakota National Bank have donated more than $7 million to the university. SDSU named the couple Philanthropic Family of the Year in 2015, while the local Yankton newspaper deemed the pair Citizens of the Year in April 2017.

The Yankton banker offered a mid-seven-figure donation when the president of SDSU approached him 10 years ago with an idea to expand resources for economics, management and entrepreneurial studies. 

However, Ness insisted all donors be recognized equally at the fundraising kickoff.

The CEO’s generosity was never about public adulation, said Steve Erpenbach, president of the SDSU Foundation. “For Larry, it was always about the power of the idea and the potential of the initiative.”