Late banking magnate Vucurevich recalled as a humble, giving man
– By #Rapid City JournalDale Clement laughs while talking about the late Rapid City philanthropist John T. Vucurevich on Thursday morning during the Morning Fill Up series at The Garage meeting space.
One can only imagine what it must have sounded like when good friends John T. Vucurevich and Dale Clement took one of their frequent road trips across the Great Plains and something would tickle their funny bones.
Vucurevich, the late banking magnate from Rapid City, and his good friend and confidant Clement would take long car rides through South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin to make personal checks on some of the dozens of banks that Vucurevich owned during the 1970s and 80's.
He had a great sense of humor, and his laugh ... it sounded like a horse," Clement said of Vucurevich.
In one of many light moments in an hour-long chat during the latest installment of the Morning Fill Up series at The Garage meeting space in Rapid City, Clement, 83, had to admit that his own style of laughter — a hearty sort of cackling rat-a-tat-tat that comes easy and often — might just rival Vucurevich's for decibel level and uniqueness.
He had a great sense of humor," Clement said of Vucurevich, who he said was "like a father" to him.
"I still miss him."
Clement, a Missouri native who has lived in Rapid City for 27 years, serves as board chair of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, which has given out about $40 million in grants to health care, education and arts organizations in the Black Hills region since its inception 11 years ago. Clement had his own stellar career in finance, serving 22 years as dean of the Business School at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion before moving to Rapid City, where he was a senior vice president for Black Hills Corp. for eight years before retiring.
Based on their 40-year friendship, Clement is in a unique position to share background and stories about Vucurevich, who once owned about 65 banks and whose local gifts included buildings or major support for the United Way, the YMCA, the Cornerstone Rescue Mission, and the John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute at Regional Hospital.
He shared some well-known history of Vucurevich: That he was an immigrant from Yugoslavia; that he grew up mainly in Lead, where his dad worked at the Homestake Gold Mine; and that he he was a humble man who eschewed attention even as he gave away millions.
But Clement also provided more intimate insights into Vucurevich. He said Vucurevich was superb at spotting wise investments in banking and real estate, but was not adept or very interested in managing systems or people.