Cover photo for John E. "Jack" Powell's Obituary
John E. "Jack" Powell Profile Photo
1936 John 2020

John E. "Jack" Powell

June 21, 1936 — April 20, 2020

John Edwin (“Jack”) Powell was born June 21, 1936 in the Reading, Pennsylvania hospital to Vernon and Theresa (Speece) Powell, and was welcomed home by older brother Robert and sister Ann.

He spent four years in West Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. His family then moved to Chicago, Illinois where his parents went to Bethany Biblical Institute to enter the ministry. They took their first parish in Kingsley, Iowa where brother Duane and sister Debra joined the family.

Jack graduated from high school in Kingsley, Iowa and went to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa to become a math teacher. He graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

He married Kay Herbold in Kingsley, Iowa in June of 1958. They had two children, a son Vern and a daughter Rhonda.

He taught at Correctionville, Iowa for three years, and while there, drove Monday nights to the University of South Dakota and earned a Master’s degree in Mathematics.

He began a forty-five year love affair with USD teaching mathematics. In the 1960’s, he started the first USD Computer Center. In 1969, he moved his family to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he received an M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Quantitative Business Analysis. He returned to USD and moved to the USD Business School where he taught Operations Management, Production and Operations Management, and Management Information Systems. In addition to his teaching and Division Chair roles at USD, he also served on the University Senate, the Athletic Board of Control, Faculty Athletics Representative (ten years), and served on the NCAA Division II Rules Committee. He served as a timer for USD Track and Field for over thirty years and was affectionately known as the “Shot Clock Guy” for USD Men’s and Women’s Basketball for over thirty-five years.

Public service, helping others, being involved, and giving back to his community were very important to Jack. He served as Mayor of the City of Vermillion for ten years (was elected for three terms) and City Council Alderman for ten years prior to that. During that tenure, he was sponsored by Missouri River Energy Services on the American Public Power Association’s Policy Makers Council which is a board made up of forty people across the country. At the local level he served and supported various boards and organizations including: Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, National Music Museum, WH Over Museum, Main Street Center, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (twenty-five years), USD Foundation, USD Athletics, United Church of Christ, Vermillion Lions Club, Dakota Hospital Foundation, United Way of Vermillion, Clay County Historical Society, Vermillion Area Community Foundation, South Dakota Community Foundation, Heartland Humane Society, Missouri Valley Growth/Vermillion Now, Vermillion Area Dance Organization, Vermillion Public Transit, Vermillion Public Schools Foundation and Booster Club, Vermillion Public Library, Local Emergency Planning Committee, Integrated Community Action Plan, Welcome Table, Vermillion Food Pantry, Community Connection Center, and others.

Jack’s partner in life, soul mate, and best friend for the past twenty years is Lisa Ketcham. They married in March of 2006. They had two “furry” children, cats Felix and Chloe.

Over the past five and a half years, Jack dealt with some significant and unique health issues. Despite those challenges and beating many odds along the way, he was an amazing patient with strong faith, a positive outlook, and determined to live life to the fullest. He was very fortunate, blessed, and thankful to have world-class medical care and cutting-edge treatment through the collaborative efforts of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, Sanford Health in Vermillion, the Olson Medical Clinic, and Sanford Hospice. In addition, the loving care, concern, and support from his wife Lisa, family, friends, professional colleagues, and the community were truly incredible and invaluable to him on the journey.

Jack was preceded in death by his parents Vernon and Theresa, sister Ann, and brother Duane. He is survived by wife Lisa, son Vern, daughter-in-law Sheila, grandchildren Logan, Wesley, Jorgen, Kamie, and Garrett, daughter Rhonda, daughter-in-law Isabel, brother Bob, sister-in-law Phyllis, sister Debra, brother-in-law Steve, nieces and nephews, the Ketcham and Parsons families, and a host of special friends.

Jack’s legacy will live on in the many community projects that he was a part of, and in the hearts and minds of the many people whose lives he touched.

Jack passed away peacefully at home on April 20, 2020. Memorials can be directed to the Powell Family Scholarship at the University of South Dakota, USD Athletics, and the United Church of Christ Congregational in Vermillion.
To send flowers to the family in memory of John E. "Jack" Powell, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, June 20, 2021

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

United Church of Christ (Vermillion)

226 E Main St, Vermillion, SD 57069

Prayer service at 7:00 PM

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

United Church of Christ (Vermillion)

226 E Main St, Vermillion, SD 57069

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