When you ask someone about Allene Chiesman, the response is always the same. She was 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. Even in her last days, while she endured sickness and pain, she was always joyful about the new day and her friends.
Allene was born in Spearfish to Leverett R. and Nellie Pike Chiesman on July 12, 1914. Her family ranched in the Newell-Belle Fourche area for over 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 graduated from Brownell-Talbot Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1932. She majored in history at the University of South Dakota. After graduation in 1936 she worked in Chicago until the beginning of World War II. During the war Allene worked with the American Red Cross in the South Pacific.
Following World War II Allene worked at different jobs in Greeley, Colorado, and on the West Coast. She retired in Rapid City around 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.
Among Allene's favorite activities was traveling around the world. Special every fall were her trips to England to enjoy the cultural events of the season. She made trips to South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe on a regular basis. Her trips through North America were among many of her memorable experiences that she shared with accompanying travel companions. Being 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. The scholarships have helped many students meet their educational goals and the endowments fulfill the goals of preparing individuals to become active citizens and leaders within South Dakota. Other beneficiaries of her generosity are Black Hills Chapter of the American Red Cross, 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, Boys Club of Rapid City, Girls Inc., United Way , Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Mount Rushmore Society, and many more organizations.
Allene R. Chiesman's legacy will be that she cared about South Dakota and America. She was willing to share her prosperity with all of us. Her generosity has impacted many lives and institutions. Although she never had a family of her own after her parents' deaths, she acquired an extended family that will never forget her and her memory will live for many years. Ms. Chiesman has been nominated for the South Dakota Philanthropist of the Year Award. No one will deny her qualifications for this honor. Biography by: Dr. John Usera