Dave Snyder to resign from science authority
Dave Snyder, who was a key player in transforming the shuttered Homestake gold mine to being named the National Science Foundation's choice for a national deep underground science lab, announced Friday that he is resigning as executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. (Journal file photo)

LEAD - A man who has guided South Dakota's efforts to convert the Homestake gold mine in Lead into a national underground laboratory announced Friday he will resign.

"It's like in private business, there's a time to sell," Dave Snyder said.

Snyder is executive director of the state Science and Technology Authority. He announced his resignation at a science authority board meeting at Homestake in Lead.

"Dave's a visionary," science authority board chairman Dave Bozied of Sioux Falls said. "Without him, we would not be here today."

The Homestake lab project was a second career for Snyder, 63, who had retired from agribusiness - mainly large-scale hog farming. In fact, he was on the science authority board when director Dick Gowen resigned.

Snyder joked Friday that he was tapped to replace Gowen "by default," but he was chosen at least in part for his business and management expertise.

Over the past three years, working with scientists from throughout the nation, Snyder helped guide laboratory proposal over significant hurdles. Among the highlights:

* Homestake owner Barrick Gold Corp. donated the mine for use as a national laboratory 7,400 feet underground, where sensitive experiments are shielded from cosmic rays.

* The state Legislature voted to spend $19.9 million to create a state-run interim laboratory 4,850 feet underground.

* Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project.

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* The National Science Foundation to choose Homestake as the finalist site for a national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory or DUSEL.

* Mine experts re-entered Homestake, which had been sealed shut in 2003.

The NSF in July awarded a team of scientists $15 million to prepare a detailed engineering and science plan for a deep underground science and engineering laboratory. And thanks to money from the Legislature and a $70 million gift from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, the state has enough money to open the interim lab and run it for five years.

Snyder said the project had entered a new phase. "I'm increasingly out of my comfort zone," Snyder said, pointing out that he originally agreed to do the job for only six months. "It's not something for a person with an agricultural background to lead."

In fact, the science authority recently hired Dr. Jose Alonso to direct the interim laboratory, now called the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. Alonso retired from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and he has experience directing large science projects.

But Peterson said the science authority needed an executive director to work with the science director, and Alonso agreed. "This is quite a bit of a shock," Alonso said. "As a team, we compliment each other well."

Snyder notified Gov. Mike Rounds he would step down "at a date that is mutually agreeable" in a letter delivered Thursday. "A big part of the current success at Homestake is due to Dave's hard work, dedication and leadership," Rounds said in a written statement Friday. "We owe him a large debt of gratitude."

Snyder also said he would be available as a consultant, especially on an education center planned for the laboratory. But Snyder also is an avid hiker. A trek into the Grand Canyon might be his next project. "I'm ready for some time off," he said.

Board member Casey Peterson of Rapid City, who was surprised by the resignation, said he was relieved Snyder had agreed to consult on the Homestake project, if needed. Snyder's experience was invaluable, Peterson said, adding, "He won't be able to stay away."

Contact Bill Harlan at 394-8424 or bill.harlan@rapidcityjournal.com

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