When you ask someone about Allene Chiesman, the response is always the same. A quiet, humble, and generous person, Allene was unpretentious in all her activities, relationships, and journeys. She enjoyed the beauty within the world and sympathized with those in need. But her greatest qualities were her meekness and joy.
Allene was born in Spearfish, South Dakota to Leverett R. and Nellie Pike Chiesman on July 12, 1914. Her family ranched in the Newell-Belle Fourche, South Dakota area for more than sixty years. Her mother graduated from Black Hills Normal School (Black Hills State University) and taught in a Newell rural school for a few years. Her father was very active in many Belle Fourche community organizations and served on a local bank board until his retirement. After completing elementary school in South Dakota, Allene attended and graduated from the Brownell-Talbot Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1932. She went on to major in history at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion. After graduation in 1936, she worked in Chicago, Illinois until the beginning of World War II. During the war, Allene worked with the American Red Cross in the South Pacific.
After World War II, Allene worked at different jobs in Greeley, Colorado, and on the West Coast. She retired in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1969. For the next twenty years, she was very active in many regional organizations. She volunteered as a Grey Lady at the Rapid City Regional Hospital and as an assistant librarian for Black Hills State University. She was known to be of help in any humanitarian or community cause when called upon. One of Allene's favorite activities was traveling throughout the world. Allene especially enjoyed her yearly fall trip to England to enjoy the cultural events of the season. Her travels took her to South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, on a regular basis. Her most memorable experiences were her trips through North America which she shared with accompanying travel companions. Always self-reliant, Allene traveled to many countries alone and enjoyed the adventure of discovery and learning about new cultures.
Allene's philanthropic endeavors are among her major accomplishments. Besides founding the Chiesman Foundation For Democracy and establishing an endowment to meet its mission and goals, she established scholarships and endowments at Black Hills State University and the University of South Dakota. These scholarships have helped many students meet their educational goals and the endowments Allene created prepare individuals to become active citizens and leaders. Other beneficiaries of her generosity included: American Red Cross - Black Hills Chapter, Black Hills Children's Home, Smithsonian Institution, American Association of University Women Foundation, Rapid City Regional Hospital, American Institute of Cancer Research, South Dakota Public Radio, The Rapid City Club for Boys, Girls Incorporated, United Way of the Black Hills, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills, The Mount Rushmore Society, and many more organizations.
Some may call her a pioneer of sort; a single woman growing up during the roaring 20's, attending college during the depression years of the 30's, helping the war effort in the South Pacific, and a consummate world traveler. During her lifetime, Allene played a part in or observed many of America's defining moments of the 20th century. These experiences solidified her belief in our country, our freedoms and more importantly our individual and collective obligation to be active members in our democracy.
A fitting legacy for a member of what truly was “the greatest generation” this nation has ever seen.