Legends & Leaders

Nominations for 2014 Distinguished Alumni are no longer being accepted.  Recipients will be announced soon.

If you would like to nominate someone for the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards please click link below.

Nomination Form

When you have completed this form, please attach supporting information and return to:

SDSU Distinguished Alumni Awards, Box 515, Brookings, SD 57007-0299 or submit your nomination by

email to alumni@statealum.com

Legends & Leaders Distinguished Alumni

Honoring those alumni who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the SDSU community and beyond. Join us to celebrate the legacy and leadership these outstanding distinguished alumni have shown. These individuals will receive prestigious recognition from their alma mater for their accomplishments and achievements. They join 318 other alumni as part of the Sherwood O. Berg Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor, located in the Tompkins Alumni Center.

Friday, October 24th, 2014

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM : Distinguished Alumni Reception

 Tompkins Alumni Center Lounge, 905 Medary Avenue, Brookings, SD

5:30 pm : Social Hour

Lobby at Swiftel Center, 824 32nd Avenue, Brookings, SD

6:30 pm : Legends & Leaders, Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet & Presentation Ceremony

Daktronics Banquet Rooms at Swiftel Center, 824 32nd Avenue, Brookings, SD



Members of the 2013 class of Distinguished Alumni from South Dakota State University hold a particularly close tie to their alma mater.

Three are current or former faculty members, another directed the SDSU Foundation and another coordinated numerous partnerships between his current school and SDSU. 

Those chosen to be honored:

  • Robert Gunsalus, class of 1969, Los Angeles;
  • Merl Hackbart, class of 1963, Lexington, Ky.;
  • Dan Hansen, class of 2003/'05, Brookings;
  • Brian Kaatz, class of 1974, Sioux Falls;
  • David Marquardt, class of 1964, Sioux Falls;
  • Jane McKee Smith, class of 1983, Vicksburg, Miss.;
  • Roberta Olson, class of 1964, Brookings; and
  • Hugh Smeltekop, class of 1999, La Paz, Bolivia.

The distinguished alumni banquet is 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, the evening before Hobo Day, at the Swiftel Center. Tickets are $30 ($10 for age 12 and younger). They can be purchased from the SDSU Alumni Association at 605-697-5198 or 888-735-2257 or online at www.statealum.com. Reservations and payments are due by Sept. 25.

Robert Gunsalus '69

Professional Achievement

Rob GunsalusGunsalus, who grew up in Brookings, came from a humble financial foundation, raised by a single mother who had four other children. He worked at the State College sheep farm and washed lab ware at the Station Biochemistry labs to pay for tuition and fees.

The jobs allowed him to be able to earn a double major in microbiology and chemistry. Now, he is an internationally renowned leader in the field of microbiology.

He began making major discoveries concerning anaerobic microorganisms as a graduate student in 1977 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and followed that with a postdoctoral position in the Biological Sciences Department at Stanford University. His research on E. coli was recognized worldwide and gained him a professional position at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Gunsalus has been on the faculty at UCLA since 1981 and holds a professor rank reserved for the schools' most accomplished faculty. He is a member of the microbiology department as well as a member of the UCLA Molecular Biology Institute and the UCLA-DOE Institute for Genomics and Proteomics.

Among his awards is election to the American Academy of Microbiology. In addition to numerous research publications, he co-authored the textbook "Microbial Life," which is in its second edition, and he has trained nearly 60 Ph.D. and postdoctoral students.

One of those is Lita Proctor, coordinator of the Human Microbiome Project for the National Institute of Health. 

She writes: "Dr. Rob Gunsalus exemplifies what one hopes would typify the successful scientist: a zest for learning, a child-like curiosity, unwavering enthusiasm for science and endless patience and encouragement for the younger scientist."

She adds that outside of the lab Gunsalus is an excellent cook and a great wine enthusiast.

Merl Hackbart

Service to Education

Merl HackbartHackbart's days at State include serving as 1962 Hobo Day chairman, but it is budgets, not bums, that has gained him accolades in Kentucky, where he is provost distinguished services professor of finance at the University of Kentucky and where he also has served in state government since arriving at UK in 1973 to begin a master of public administration program.

Shortly after arriving in the Bluegrass State, he was asked to serve as the deputy state budget director. That began an uninterrupted period of service to state government under seven governors in various capacities, including serving twice as state budget director.

Hackbart, a native of Watertown, got a good taste for public service when he worked in South Dakota Gov. Richard Kneip's administration in 1972-73. In the State Planning Office, he did tax analysis and tax policy development, and later served as deputy secretary of transportation. 

While serving the state of Kentucky, he has also maintained his research and academic role at the University of Kentucky, mentoring many doctoral students. He is a nationally recognized public budgeting and finance scholar.

Hackbart also has served as an appointed member of the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education (Kentucky's higher education coordinating board) and has served the state through the development of numerous policy research reports focusing on state taxes, financial management and transportation policy issues.

Hackbart also has advised and provided training to the Council of State Governments, the National Association of State Treasurers, the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Upon arrival at UK, he was largely responsible for development of the public administration program and the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, whose doctoral program in public policy is now ranked fourth in the nation by the National Research Council. He is currently the school's interim director.

Hackbart also has done executive management training programs for senior government officials from the Republic of Kazakhstan and other developing nations. 

Dan Hansen

Young Alumni

Dan HansenA year before turning 30, Hansen was named assistant dean for student services at the SDSU College of Pharmacy. That was 2010, just three years after the former SDSU Students' Association president returned to his alma mater as a pharmacy faculty member.

Hansen began his career as a staff pharmacist in Milwaukee. Eight months later he became pharmacy manager when Walgreens executives recognized his leadership abilities and assigned him to a store in need of a turnaround, Dean Dennis Hedge reported.

After 20 months in that position, the Aberdeen native returned to South Dakota.

Hansen began to distinguish himself while an SDSU student, serving as Students' Association president his senior year (2002-03). Now he serves as adviser to the Students' Association. He also had the honor of giving the student commencement address in 2003.When he received his doctorate of pharmacy in 2005, he was named the college's distinguished graduate.

Since assuming the role of assistant dean for student services, Hansen "has been progressive and innovative, launching initiatives such as a rolling-admission process for the Pharm.D. program and a pre-admission program for qualified high school graduates," Hedge wrote.

Hansen's duties include oversight of professional program admission, student scholarship allocation, student recruitment and retention, and development of student professionalism.

Hansen's excellence in the classroom is witnessed in his selection in 2010 as the college's teacher of the year. His innovative teaching strategies have been given national exposure by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Brian Kaatz

Service to Education

Brian KaatzKaatz, dean of the College of Pharmacy from 2002 to 2008, oversaw the implementation of the pharmaceutical sciences Ph.D. program and approval of construction for a new building to house the college in Brookings.

The $51 million Avera Health and Science Center, the largest building project in the history of the university, has increased SDSU's capacity for health science research and also has enriched the educational experience for students, several former colleagues wrote in supporting Kaatz's nomination.

His other achievements include creating clinical faculty positions around much of the state, including Rapid City, Watertown, Pierre, and Mitchell; moving the third year of the professional program to Sioux Falls, where top medical facilities are located; and doubling the number of student scholarships as well as overall private giving to the College.

He joined the faculty in 1989 as head of the department of clinical pharmacy and helped implement the six-year doctor of pharmacy program.Three pharmacy organizations have named Kaatz as pharmacist of the year in addition to being recognized as a Distinguished Alumni by the SDSU College of Pharmacy.

Kaatz took a sabbatical in 2000 and for six months served as a senior health care fellow in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson. Kaatz focused on policy questions related to prescription drug coverage and costs; his work with Senator Johnson ultimately influenced some provisions under Medicare Part D.

Kaatz, originally of Buffalo Lake, Minn., finished his career as dean of health sciences for the University of South Dakota.

David Marquardt

Service to SDSU

David MarquardtMarquardt, originally of Watertown, headed the SDSU Foundation from 1998 to 2008 and continues to serve as senior counsel. He joined the foundation in 1996 as director of planned gifts after working as an investment broker.

Under his leadership, the foundation's assets grew from $50 million to $120 million, and endowments grew from $33 million to $77 million. Total gifts and pledges exceeded $150 million and direct support to the university surpassed $90 million.

According to nominator and classmate Bob Burns, the SDSU Foundation plays a vital role in funding buildings, student scholarships, research, and endowed faculty positions.

"Indeed, without the generous support of the SDSU Foundation, SDSU would be languished in higher education mediocrity.

"David Marquardt was in the top leadership position of the SDSU Foundation when it transformed from a struggling organization with an uncertain future to a dynamic organization capable of generating the level of private financial support necessary to move SDSU into the 21st century as a DI comprehensive doctoral-granting, research-intensive university," Burns declared.

Burns cited a statement given at Marquardt's retirement by Mike Reger, former SDSU executive vice president for administration: "Time after time David has come up with creative solutions to meet SDSU's challenges and find ways to fund the campus's priorities."

One of his last acts was to change the foundation board from an unwieldy 56 members to a nine- to 12-member board of governors with a council of trustees of more than 108 members.

Roberta Olson

Service to SDSU

Roberta OlsonOlson served as dean of the College of Nursing from January 1994 to July 31. Undergraduate admissions in 1994 were 136 per year and today there are seats for 344 new bachelor in nursing students. The college has expanded from two campuses, Brookings and Rapid City, to four by adding Sioux Falls and Aberdeen.

In addition, the college has been a leader on campus in putting its programs online, and developed doctoral programs in nursing science and nursing practice.

Olson, originally of Groton, began her career as a staff nurse at Veterans Administration hospitals.She taught at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Saint Louis University, the University of Kansas and the University of Texas-Houston before returning to her alma mater.

The SDSU College of Nursing had struggled to find the right fit for the position since Carol J. Peterson moved from dean to central administration in 1987. It was a referral by Evelyn Peterson, who, at the time, was coordinator of graduate programs, that led the school to Olson. Carol Peterson, whose responsibilities included filling the dean's post, said Evelyn Peterson remembered Olson as an outstanding student who was then as associate dean in the Texas system.

Carol Peterson convinced her to come home and "the college began to change positively immediately after Dean Olson took office," she said.

Innovation has been a hallmark of Olson' administration. Examples include the opening of the undergraduate accelerated option in Sioux Falls in 2002 and a 62-credit, 12-month curriculum in Aberdeen began in January 2013.

Hugh Smeltekop

Service to Education

Hugh SmeltekopSmeltekop began as a volunteer with Unidad Academica Campesina in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia, after earning his master's degree in 1999. Fourteen years later he named director general (president) of the university serving rural farm families.

During his years with the school, its enrollment has grown from 50 to 700 and its curriculum and funding sources have exponentially expanded. The work there has been recognized by the United Nations as one of the most successful poverty eradication programs in the world.

Dozens of SDSU and tribal college students and faculty have collaborated with Unidad Academica Campesina through Smeltekop's efforts. Several faculty and students from that school have visited and studied at SDSU.

Two graduates of the Bolivian university earned their doctorate at SDSU while another earned her master's degree here this spring.

According to Tim Nichols, dean of the SDSU Honors College and Smeltekop's nominator, "Hugh has chosen to apply his tremendous talents not for his own personal benefit, but for the well-being of others. Even as the university's director general, Hugh chooses to live simply in one small room — with a mattress on the floor, a few changes of clothes and a stack of good books — in an old house he shares with other university staff and volunteers.

"He is truly of the people he serves and shares all that he has with his students, colleagues and communities."

Smeltekop, who speaks Spanish, English, French and German, served in the Peace Corps in Benin, Africa, in 1994-96.

Jane McKee Smith

Professional Achievement

Jane SmithSmith, originally of Bloomington, Minn., has achieved international acclaim in the field of coastal engineering during her 30-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

She is the waves group leader at the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory of the Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. The redesign of the New Orleans levees, based in part on a wave model she co-developed, was successful in protecting the city during Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Smith also worked with emergency managers in Hawaii and the National Hurricane Center to implement fast and accurate forecasts for hurricane inundation in Hawaii and her expertise has been sought for reviewing design standards following Hurricane Sandy.

A measure of her worldwide renown can be seen in the 428,000 Google hits for "'Jane McKee Smith' coastal," according to James Houston, director emeritus of the Engineering Research and Development Center with the Corps of Engineers and the person who hired Smith in 1983.

He calls her "a remarkable researcher" with a "worldwide fame for outstanding contributions to engineering and science in coastal hydrodynamics, three-dimensional structure of near-shore currents, wave-current interactions and shallow-water wave transformation."

At age 26, when she was just four years out of college, Smith became the youngest person to receive the Waterways Experiment Station Woman of the Year Award in 1987. In 2010, she was named Government Civil Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers.Her honors at SDSU included being named outstanding civil engineering student her freshman (1980) and senior (1983) years.

905 Medary Ave., Brookings, SD, 57007
(605) 697.5198 or toll-free (888) 735.2257

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