Inaugural Speech

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Thank you, Jack and welcome everyone to Dakota State University. 

Also my thanks to the Inauguration Planning Committee.  Please stand.

And, special thanks for all her love and support…my wife Mady!

I am honored that you have joined us here today for this historic event.  Dakota State University has a rich and fascinating history and even though many of you are familiar with it, it is appropriate to review parts of it as a way to remind us of how this university has emerged to become one that attracts the finest of faculty, staff and students.

From its early beginnings, the University has blossomed into the prestigious educational institution it is today… and there were many people along the way to serve students, provide quality education and help people learn and earn the skills they needed to graduate and succeed in their professional endeavors.


DSU began as a Normal School on March 5, 1881.  It was referred to as Dakota Normal School.  The mission was to educate teachers in the Dakota Territory.  In what was a forward looking approach at the time to charging tuition, students could come for free as long as they agreed to teach for two years after they graduated…. Does that sound familiar?  This is what we do today with our Cyber Corps scholarship students. They receive 2 – 3 years of tuition and then work as an IT professional for the same amount of time for a federal, state, local or tribal organization. 

Our University has had nine name changes since 1881, the latest in 1989 when it became Dakota State University. 

Dr. Charles Richardson was our first president. The first building on campus was built in 1885, which was also the year of our first graduates…all two of them!  General William Henry Harrison Beadle became our third president in 1889 and with the exception of a one year leave of absence from 1901-02, served until 1905.  From 1947 to 1969, the school was named General Beadle State Teachers College after this visionary leader.

And who will forget 1984 when then Governor Janklow, with the help of many local and state officials, changed  Dakota State College, as it was known then, and Madison, forever by rewriting our mission to provide education and instruction in computers.  There are a number of you in the audience today who were here in 1984, including then President Richard Gowen,  so I could never do justice talking about the change from a historical perspective because you lived it.  What I can tell you, because I have heard and read the stories, is that it was a difficult time in Madison and at DSU.  Many people did not know what computers were, never mind want to teach or learn about them.  Some people left while others were retrained.  What I do know is that the beginnings of a very important partnership with CitiBank occurred at that time.  That partnership provided Dakota State College with a President from Citibank, Mr. Charles Luke, and a vision for the future of our university.  Mr. Luke, who served in 1983-84, sent me a personal letter last week and unfortunately could not join us here today.  
More about partnerships in a few minutes.

Why spend time on the history of DSU? The first reason is because to know where you have been helps significantly to plan where you are going.  We have educated thousands of students in this university, providing them with an education that has helped them find careers and jobs, raise families and be productive members of our society.  The second reason is about change. 


Throughout DSU’s history, change has been our middle name.  Twenty-two presidents, nine name changes, new buildings, a fire in 1963 that left 350 students without a classroom building which led to the renting of the old hospital, now known as Heston Hall which is our current administration building…and the biggest change of all…our mission change in 1984.    Embracing change, and understanding why it is important to accept change, helps an organization to grow…just as DSU has done since its early beginnings.  Think about the four areas that have the majority of our students….computer science related programs, education, exercise science and business. There are other equally important programs and majors, but these are where most of our students (78% of all degree-seeking students) are enrolled.  Let’s look more closely and briefly at the four and how change is paramount to the success of these programs.

Computer science – We all know that the IT world changes every month, or week, or day. To teach or learn in this field, you must be accepting of change.  Who would have thought even two years ago that cyber security would be an important skill or in such high demand? Some folks did, but the majority of us likely did not.  Who would have known that VPNs and Clouds and penetration testing would be subjects that students would learn about and use to find jobs and launch careers?  Who could have known that agile approaches to computer software development would or could be a whole course unto itself?  And then there is BIG data or analytics and the desire by so many companies to learn how to better use data to analyze their company in order to make better decisions and be more successful.   A prominent businessman in town told me that his company, which happens to be an agricultural company, has 15 years of data and does not know how to analyze it or what to do with it.  Technology has so changed the ag world and DSU is in a prime position to help with all of those changes. The changes and advancements are immediate and we must have the knowledge to respond and to be on the cutting edge.

Education – Many of us here would not recognize the teaching methods and styles of today compared to when we were in college. The old sage-on-the-stage approach just isn’t conducive to the current style of learning.  Education may not change as frequently and quickly as technology, but if we don’t learn more effective ways to reach and teach students, our students will fall behind other graduates. We can never let this happen. Whether we are incorporating white boards, flipped classrooms, having students do individual or group projects, developing a math center or a writing center or an advising center, we need innovative ideas to help students better learn.  These models also help those who will be our next wave of teachers to better understand how to help their students.  Our education faculty teach our students to teach.  No one doubts how effective faculty must be to be in the classroom to facilitate learning.  Helping our younger students learn means dealing with constant change.

Exercise Science – And, exercise science. Wow, has THAT changed over the years, and arguably daily.  Not only is the change about exercise, but about nutrition, health and the way we live. Remember in the not too distant past when cigarette ads were all over T.V. promoting health, vitality and personal appeal.  But now, no longer.  Our faculty do an excellent job teaching our students the most current trends and best practices in exercise science.  Our students learn to use appropriate exercises to help their clients when they do personal training, learn to help their clients understand metabolism and what foods and liquids are best for the body. There is much ongoing research and knowledge about this subject area and it is important to keep up.  The information changes regularly and fill our students’ learning daily concerning best practices in exercise science.

Business – who would disagree that business practices and models change rapidly? We are bombarded daily with the latest marketing techniques and advertisements to buy products.  TV and radio advertising just doesn’t reach buyers as much anymore, especially young buyers.  How many of you regularly read a newspaper anymore? Social media and the Internet have taken over as the best way to reach people.  Management style has changed over the years as well. There are so many different types of learners and workers that a manager really needs to know more about people to ensure collaboration among employees for the organization’s greatest opportunity for success. 

Something else we teach our business students is the important role of planning in business, especially strategic planning of all kinds…..In education it may take the form of strategic enrollment management planning, IT planning, or campus master facilities planning.   The key to success is to work the plans and to ensure they are constantly updated because with the pace of change, organizations can morph… rapidly... even in our business…education... We have to be ready for change, to be better than our competition, and never lose sight of our mission to better educate students in all areas.  

As someone once said, the only constant is change.  And, our faculty successfully teach our students to understand and embrace change, and maybe most importantly, to lead change.


So, what better way to handle and deal with change than with the reciprocal benefits of partnerships. Partnerships are a major emphasis for me as your 22nd president. They are important to Dakota State University and Madison for the following reasons:

  • They create potential opportunities for enhanced student experiences.
  • They create possible internship and future employment opportunities for students.
  • They keep DSU employees in touch with the world of work and the communities we serve.
  • They offer the opportunity for potential economic development for Madison and its surrounding regions.
  • They offer partners the opportunity to work with our students while they are still in school to determine if they have the skills and are a match for the company long-term.
  • They help increase student enrollment and retention.
  • They offer the potential for further University Foundation fundraising and friendraising.

Partnerships come in all forms.  I am pleased that all of you in the audience today are partners with DSU in some way.  Some of the results of our variety of partnerships are widely publicized, such as our success in the State Legislature this past year securing funds to expand computer science programs thanks to our wonderful partners, Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson and Representatives Scott Parsley and Les Heinemann. Others are not as public, yet offer our students opportunities that they might not have envisioned when they arrived here as freshmen.  Our very own Alec Nilsen, a junior with a double major in computer system security and network administration worked through four interviews before being accepted for a prestigious year-long internship with Google in Ireland.  Another example, which some of you may not know about is with the Rapid City Regional Hospital.  The hospital gives the University not only space for instruction but also access to professional respiratory therapists who help our students learn right at the hospital in real live situations, once they are ready.  Our successful respiratory therapy program there has resulted in DSU graduates filling over 60% of all the respiratory therapist positions at the hospital.  These are just a couple of examples of the benefits derived from the dozens of partnerships that we have at Dakota State University.  Other noteworthy partnerships are the City of Madison, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, NSA, the Madison and Sioux Falls School Districts, the Madison and Sioux Falls Chambers of Commerce, all of our regental universities, Forward Sioux Falls and the Madison Community Center, to name a few. The success of our partnerships is dependent on the work of our faculty, staff and students and their willingness to engage business, industry, and organizations in our mission.  My personal thanks to all of you who work tirelessly to make partnerships an important and successful part of who we are.

A tai chi master once said, “Humility is the proper face of power.”  Clearly I am humbled by this ceremony and your willingness to join me on this special day in my life and in the history of Dakota State University.  My promise to you is that I will work feverishly to continue the success of this University and our students by promoting partnerships, leading appropriate change and remembering the important history lessons of those that have come before me.  Thank you again for having the faith in me to be selected as the 22nd president of DSU.

Last Updated: 11/6/13