Biography of George Williston Nash

George Williston Nash, the state superintendent of public instruction, is a native of Janesville, Wisconsin, born in 1868. Raised in Lincoln County, his early years were spent on his parents’ homestead near Canton. Nash’s educational journey led him to Yankton College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1891. After teaching and studying abroad, he returned to Yankton and became a professor of mathematics and astronomy. In 1902, he resigned to assume the role of state superintendent, showcasing his dedication to advancing education. Nash’s leadership, characterized by persistence and fairness, promises a future of valuable contributions in the field.

George Williston Nash, state superintendent of public instruction, is almost a native product, for his parents brought him to their home in Lincoln County in his infancy. He, however, is a native of Janesville, Wisconsin, where he was born in 1868, and is the son of Newman C. and Jennie (Williston) Nash and comes from good old Anglo-Saxon stock. The name, indeed, is a thoroughly characteristic Saxon product, originally being “At the Ash,” but, yielding to the penchant of the old English yeomen to abbreviate, it became first “At’nash” and finally assumed its present form. Something more of the family history will be presented in the sketch of Newman C. Nash in this volume.

The earlier years of George W. Nash were spent on the homestead claim of his parents, near Canton, but in 1877 his father purchased the Sioux Valley News, and thereafter the family home was in Canton, where he attended school and assisted his father in the printing office, soon becoming an excellent printer. In 1885, he entered the preparatory course at Yankton College, from which institution he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1891. In the meantime, however, for a year in 1888-9, he associated with James F. Hall in the publication of the Sioux Valley News, his father’s newspaper in Canton, while the latter was at the time engaged in the publication of another newspaper in Hot Springs. The following autumn, after his graduation, Nash accepted a position as an instructor at Augustana College in Canton, where he continued until he was called to Yankton in January 1893 to become the principal of Yankton College Academy. In 1894-5, he went abroad and studied at the University of Leipzig in Germany and traveled extensively in Europe. In the autumn of 1895, he resumed his work in Yankton, and his alma mater conferred upon him the degree of Master of Science. During the summer vacations of 1896 and 1897, he pursued his post-graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, and in the latter year, he was advanced to the professorship of mathematics and astronomy at Yankton College, a position he held until he resigned in 1902 to become the state superintendent of public instruction. Professor Nash’s work in this department has demonstrated his ability, energy, and untiring industry, as well as his creativity in devising methods for the advancement of education and fostering enthusiasm and cooperation among educators and boards of education. Upon his recommendation, the legislature passed the uniform certification bill, which made teachers’ certificates uniform and valid in every county. The requirements to secure certificates for graduates of state institutions were also raised. He immediately adopted the plan of visiting the members of the school boards at the annual convention in each county, a plan that has resulted in arousing the utmost enthusiasm, penetrating into every school district. He compelled the reciprocal recognition of South Dakota’s state certificates in other states by refusing to recognize any state’s certificates unless that state reciprocates by according equal favors to those of South Dakota. He proposes that our standards shall be as high as any and that they shall receive the recognition to which they are entitled.

Professor Nash possesses all the qualifications for successful leadership in the field of education. He is deliberate in forming a judgment, but once formed, his judgment is unshakable. Yet, his manner is so agreeable and his methods so fair that he attracts new friends with every accomplishment. Persistence and thoroughness are controlling characteristics in all his undertakings, and failure is unknown and unrecognized by him. It is difficult to describe some men without resorting to superlatives, and George Nash is one of this class. His conduct and success thus far in life are infallible prophecies of a future career of great usefulness in expanded fields of activity.

Professor Nash was married on November 17, 1903, to Miss Adelaide Warburton of Pierre, the daughter of Judge and Mrs. Fuller. He is a member of the Congregational church, the Modern Woodmen, and the Home Guardians. He also serves on the executive committee of the State Historical Society.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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