20 Jackrabbits and counting


Paulson family from Garden City to be honored as SDSU Family of the Year at Feb. 10 game

BROOKINGS – Choosing a college has never been a hard decision for the Paulson family of Garden City, so it isn’t a surprise that they will be honored as SDSU Family of the Year by the SDSU Alumni Association in cooperation with Staters for State, the student alumni organization.

The family will be recognized at halftime of the Feb. 10 women’s basketball game against Oral Roberts as well as at a luncheon before the game.

Since James Paulson, the oldest son of Leonard and Grace Paulson, enrolled at SDSU in 1968, 19 family members have followed representing two generations and all six of the Paulson children’s families.  The third generation is approaching college age and will surely include more Jackrabbits.

“That’s where my family goes to school,” said Angel Paulson, one of James’ three children who all graduated from SDSU, borrowing the line from the movie “The Blind Side.”

Tried, but couldn’t resist SDSU

“I actually am an oddity in my family. I transferred to SDSU in my first year. SDSU was the overwhelming choice of my (Clark High School) classmates and my sister Amy and cousin Todd (Keyes) were already attending there.  I thought I wanted to go to a school where I could be anonymous.  I lasted one semester somewhere else,” said Paulson, who received her degree in journalism in 1998. 

“At SDSU, you could hardly go anywhere that you didn’t see someone you knew.  It felt like home and I liked that a lot more than I thought I would,” Paulson said.

Two years not enough

Her brother, Mathew, the youngest of James Paulson’s three children, never doubted where he would go, but didn’t expect to stay long. “I was not big on college when I graduated high school but it was a prerequisite to coming back to the farm,” he said.

So Mathew got his two-year, general ag degree in 2000 and went back to the corn-and-soybean farm 10 miles northwest of Clark. But that summer, guided by an influential family member, he decided to gain a four-year degree in general ag and never regretted it. “It’s hard to believe how many doors it opened up. I talk to numerous people in this industry that I met at college. It’s a big part of my life today,” Mathew Paulson said. 

Paulson parade

Many of the Paulsons earned ag degrees, but the list of majors also includes construction management, journalism, nursing and political science to name a few. However, it was the Family and Consumer Science majors that brought the family a little fame.

In spring 2011, sisters Brooke (Paulson) Leibel and Hope Paulson graduated with cousin Briana Paulson. Their degrees were in interior design, early childhood education and apparel merchandising, respectively.

Since they were all in the same college, they were seated together at graduation and crossed the stage together. The oddity merited an article in The Brookings Register.

A place to call home

The Paulson family tradition of attending SDSU prompted Leonard and Grace’s youngest son Bruce to purchase a house in Brookings for his Jackrabbit children. Bruce Paulson bought the home in February 2012 when his oldest daughter Andrea Paulson was a student at SDSU.

All three of his daughters have attended SDSU and lived in the house, including current student Kathryn Paulson. She could be turning the keys over to her little brother, who is currently a junior in high school.

Hobo Day engagement

Two of Leonard and Grace Paulson’s children – David and Lori – met their spouses at college.

Lori (Paulson) Koenecke met her future husband Brett when they were both freshman in Young Hall.  On Hobo Day 1989, they returned to Young Hall where he popped the question in the lobby. Brett, a former member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and a current Jackrabbit Advocate, fit right in with this Jackrabbit family.

Although the Koenecke’s children are not yet college age, they have been raised as Jackrabbits. Arden, 17, and Claire, 14, have never missed a Hobo Day.

Gather at The Laughin’ Place

A common bond the Paulsons have with SDSU is tailgating at football games. The tradition began in 2008 when Lori Koenecke reserved a single game spot for Brett’s 40th birthday.  Now you can find them there every home game.

Their current spot, in the tailgating section north of Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, is named “The Laughin’ Place” and hosted by the Koeneckes, who are Jackrabbit Club members and season-ticket holders.

“It’s just a place where we can come and have fun,” said Amy (Paulson) Nielson, a 1995 graduate.  “Each fall Brett sends out a Facebook message to everyone in the family with the menu and theme for every game.  The majority of the family comes most of the time. Tailgating is bigger than the holidays.”

The event that could trump tailgating in 2018 is Family of the Year activities, when Paulsons from Garden City and beyond will migrate back to SDSU.

SDSU photo: The Paulson family, originally of Garden City, is shown in this December 2015 photo. The Paulsons will be honored as SDSU Family of the Year at the Feb. 10 women’s basketball game. Matriarch Grace Paulson is front row, center.


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