Stan Adelstein makes things happen. Of the many awards and honors he has received, perhaps two sum up his character best.
In 2004, Adelstein was named South Dakota Philanthropist of the Year by the Governor’s Office and, in 1991, he received the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious “George Award” - so named because the recipient “didn’t let George do it, he did it himself.”
Following in the footsteps of his father, Morris Adelstein, a successful businessman in early Rapid City, Stanford Adelstein has made his mark in business, government and community service, while also providing major support for the arts and for religion in South Dakota.
The son of Morris and Bertha Adelstein, Stan was born Aug. 19, 1931, in Sioux City, Iowa, and attended school in Rapid City. He earned bachelor degrees in civil engineering and business administration from the University of Colorado, and then served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1957, he went to work for Northwestern Engineering Company, a Rapid City business built by his father.
Over time, NWE grew into one of the region’s largest heavy highway construction companies. Stan Adelstein became company president in 1968, and under his leadership NWE acquired and developed numerous quarry, commercial and residential properties.
in 1961, Adelstein worked with Robert Lee to organize the first public fund-raising campaign for the Black Hills PLayhouse. He also organized plans for a new library building in Rapid City. In the 1970’s, he worked with Art Dahl and Bob Gay developing plans to build the Dahl Fine Arts Center, and the Staav Kirke. With Mayor Art LaCroix he helped lead the struggle to build the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, which took two strongly controversial elections. He later helped start The Journey Museum, then raised funds and donated his own money to ensure the museum’s survival.
in 2003, Adelstein provided the funds to refurbish and light the Charles Holloway mural, “The Peace That Passes Understanding,” in the South Dakota Hall of Representatives Chamber. He helped buy a Thermosphere for the Cultural Heritage Center, has sponsored several “City of Presidents” bronze statues in downtown Rapid City, and since 2000 has annually provided $9,500 for the Rapid City Arts Council to use as needed for “targets of opportunity,” which otherwise would be unfunded.
Adelstein was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra Board, and also served on the South Dakotans for the Arts board. He received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Support of the Arts by an Individual in 2005, which he considers one of his biggest accomplishments.
As a Republican who describes himself as a “compassionate conservative,” Adelstein was elected in 2000 to represent District 32 in the South Dakota House of Representatives and re-elected in 2002. He served in the South Dakota Senate from 2004 - 2006.
Adelstein was appointed as a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army in 1999 and held that post for five years. Civilian Aides serve as advisers, communicators and advocates for Army issues, explaining Army programs and issues to local, state and national leaders and to the public. Adelstein counts his Civilian Aide work among his most fulfilling experiences.
President Gerald Ford appointed Adelstein to the National Council on Economic Opportunity if 1976. He was an appointed member of the Advisory Council for the Ninth Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis from 1992 to 1994. He also spent eight years on the South Dakota Advisory Committee for the U.S. Civil Rights Committee.
Adelstein has been part of the transition team for four incoming South Dakota governors: Archie Gubbrud in 1960, William Janklow in 1978 and 1994, and current Gov. Mike Rounds in 2002.
As a leader in the local Jewish community, Adelstein has been president of the Synagogue of the Black Hills more than once. Under his guidance, the Synagogue moved in 1995 from Ellsworth Air Force Base into Rapid City, where it found a permanent home in a building donated by Adelstein.
In 1962 Adelstein was elected to the National Executive Council Board of the American Jewish Committee, has been a member of its Governing Board since 1970, and in 1973 was elected to a 3-year term as a National Vice President. AJC is an organization with international offices that works to promote pluralistic and democratic societies where minorities are protected. From 1975 to 1982, and again in 1986, he was a U.S. Delegate to the World Assembly of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, which he describes as a sort of “Congress of Jews of the world” and the governing body of Israel before 1948. Yet, Adelstein served on and chaired the board of directors for St. John’s McNamara Hospital in Rapid City between 1966 and 1973, making him, the only Jewish chairman the Catholic hospital has ever had. He also serves on the boards of the Rapid City YMCA and Lutheran Social Services. To his knowledge, he is the first non-Lutheran, let alone non-Christian, to serve on the LSS board.
Adelstein still remembers how this association with LSS began. When he was first elected to state government, he and other legislators were invited to a dinner in Pierre. AFter the LSS officials spoke, they gave each of us a small gift. Adelstein watched as others opened their boxes to find Black Hills Gold crosses. As a Jew who spent most of his life in western South Dakota, Adelstein had faced similar situations before, but wondered what to say. When he opened his gift, he found a gold Star of David. “I've worn it every time I’ve worn a coat, from that day to his,” he said with pride. “That was one of the highlights of my life, and gave me a whole new perspective on Christians.”
Adelstein told how, during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, Jews were required to wear gold stars. As the story goes, Denmark’s King Christian X said that if Jews were to wear gold stars, “Then every Dane will wear a gold star, beginning with me.” The legend of a Christian society embracing its Jewish members resonated with Adelstein that night in Pierre. “Here I am in a Lutheran church of Scandinavian tradition, and I’m given a gold star,” he said. “That still brings tears to my eyes.”
Adelstein has worked hard to maintain the Jewish traditions, history and beliefs that are dear to his heart, and those efforts have enriched South Dakota. So, too, have his efforts to improve life for all people. Through his work in business, in the arts, in government and in the community, Adelstein has shared his wealth, talents and hearts with all of us.
Adelstein is the father of three sons, Daniel, James and Jonathan.
Stanford Adelstein was nominated to the South Dakota Hall of Fame by Norm McKie.
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