The praise ran deep and wide Wednesday for John Bastian.

Bastian, a retired circuit judge from Belle Fourche, chaired the panel that recommended Jim Rankin be president at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Bastian is a member of the state Board of Regents that announced Rankin’s hiring Nov. 7. Rankin grew up in Draper and Fort Pierre and is an alumnus of the state university in Rapid City.

Rankin starts Jan. 8 and replaces Heather Wilson, who accepted President Trump's appointment to be secretary of the U.S. Air Force.

The kind words Wednesday came from regent president Bob Sutton of Sioux Falls. He specially recognized Bastian for his efforts. “The result ended up fantastic,” Sutton told Bastian, thanking him for leading the Mines presidential search.

Bastian said 16 people, including four regents and University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott, took part in deciding who would be the four presidential candidates invited to campus.

“The group helped the board make the decision,” Bastian said. “It was a wonderful experience for me to work with all of them.”

Their remarks came during the regents meeting at School for the Deaf in Sioux Falls. 

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Sutton also credited regent executive director Mike Rush, system director of student affairs Molly Weisgram and others on the central office staff.

“We’re going to put you back to work on another one,” Sutton told Weisgram.

Abbott announced Sept. 27 he plans to retire from USD in June. Now 69, Abbott became president of South Dakota’s original public university at Vermillion on July 1, 1997. He is the longest-serving leader now in the state’s public universities system.

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