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Gabriel named SDSU Distinguished Alumnus

South Dakota State University will honor Larry Gabriel, who will receive a SDSU Distinguished Alumnus Service to South Dakota Award during the 43rd annual Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner and Program November 5. Gabriel is among three women and five men honorees.

Gabriel has served as Secretary of Agriculture for the State of South Dakota since 2000. His public service efforts include county commissioner, legislator, cabinet secretary and community volunteer.

Born and raised in western South Dakota, Gabriel was named Doane's Outstanding Ag Economics student at SDSU in 1969. He earned his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics in 1970 and returned to his family ranch, where he created one of the best-operated cattle ranches in the region. Within a few years, he began a long career in public service when he served as Haakon County commissioner from 1975-82. In 1983, he joined the State Legislature and served in the House of Representatives until 1998. He served six years as House majority leader.

Among his successes as Secretary of Agriculture are the major dairy operation and cheese plant at Lake Norden and ethanol production facilities across the state, as well as showing South Dakota that change is possible and agriculture can be competitive and profitable.

Gabriel has also served for more than a decade on the board of a non-profit, locally owned health system, Philip Health Service Inc., which provides primary medical care to the central part of western South Dakota. It operates the only 24-hour emergency services for 85 miles.

He was a focal part of a fundraising campaign for a new facility completed in 2002 to replace the aging "acute care" hospital. This community-wide fundraising effort received the "Outstanding Philanthropic Community Award" for the State of South Dakota.

Gabriel and his wife, Charlotte, have two children and three grandchildren. With their son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Heather, they operate a ranch in Pennington and Haakon counties.