McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service

Welcome to the McGovern Center

The McGovern Center is the living legacy of Sen. George and Eleanor McGovern, two of Dakota Wesleyan’s most prominent alumni.
Building on George and Eleanor’s lifelong commitment to humanitarian outreach and civic engagement, the McGovern Center works in four key areas.

  • Ethical Leadership: The McGovern Center seeks to cultivate leaders of integrity who are committed to civic responsibility in their communities. 
  • Social Justice: The McGovern Center fosters dialogue, encouraging individuals to think ethically and holistically about education, health and nutrition, housing, criminal justice, and sustainable development, and the ways society approaches these issues to impact the common good. 
  • Public Service: The McGovern Center facilitates opportunities for everyone to serve others in meaningful ways through hard work and humility, creativity, and compassion. 
  • Community-Based Research and Learning: The McGovern Center seeks to serve its community and region through the creation and facilitation of learning experiences committed to strengthening the common good and the connectedness and resiliency of our communities. 

McGovern News & Social Media 

The McGovern Report

The McGovern Report is the voice of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University. Listen in for interviews with McGovern scholars, faculty and students at Dakota Wesleyan University and others. New episodes come out monthly.

The McGovern Report

Interview with Sen. Tom Daschle

Interview with Sen. Gary Hart

Interview with Ann McGovern and Jim Rowen

Interview with Catherine Bertini, Marshall Matz and Alan Stone, McGovern's partners against hunger

Interview with Judy Harrington his long-time office manager

Interview with David Aylward a long-time McGovern devotee

About George and Eleanor McGovern

The vision of the George and Eleanor McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service is to improve lives through education and service to others. We actively pursue this vision by offering academic and cocurricular programming that align with the McGovern philosophy of humanitarian outreach, political activism, and leadership. Sen. George McGovern distinguished himself as a pilot during World War II, a former congressman and senator who ran as his party’s nominee for president in 1972, and as a United Nations Ambassador who fought to end world hunger. 

Throughout his life, George McGovern earned the respect of countless individuals from all political viewpoints and all walks of life. 
From his days as a student at Dakota Wesleyan University, and throughout his long and distinguished career in public service, George McGovern never forgot his roots. He was born in Avon, S.D., on July 19, 1922, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister. The family moved to Mitchell, S.D., in 1928, and George graduated from Mitchell High School in 1940. He was an outstanding student, and his proficiency in debate won him a scholarship at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, where he enrolled in the fall of 1940. There he met fellow student Eleanor Stegeberg of Woonsocket, S.D. George and Eleanor were married on Oct. 31, 1943, and their five children were all born in Mitchell. 
As a college student, McGovern was twice elected class president and won the state oratorical contest with the topic "My Brother's Keeper," an avowal of his belief in one's responsibility to humankind. 
World War II interrupted McGovern's education in 1943. He flew 35 combat missions as a B-24 bomber pilot in Europe, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war he returned to Dakota Wesleyan University, graduating in 1946. McGovern then attended Garrett Seminary for one year before enrolling at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American history and government. 
McGovern returned to Dakota Wesleyan University in 1950 as a professor of history and political science, where he became a beloved and respected faculty member. He left the university in 1955 to reorganize and revitalize the South Dakota Democratic Party, from which his illustrious political career was launched. He was elected to Congress in 1956 and reelected in 1958. As a congressman, he was an advocate for the American farmer and represented the nation's heartland with distinction. 
After McGovern lost his first bid for the U.S. Senate in 1960, President John F. Kennedy named him the first director of the Food for Peace Program and Special Assistant to the President. In this position he oversaw the donation of millions of tons of food to developing nations. McGovern was then elected to the Senate in 1962 and reelected in 1968 and 1974. As a member of the Senate committees on agriculture, nutrition, forestry and foreign relations, and the Joint Economic Committee, he led the way in expanding key nutrition programs. 

For more information about the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public service, please contact the director of the McGovern Center. 

Joel Allen, Ph.D.

Professor of Religion and Philosophy | Director of the McGovern Center