2009 Outstanding Alumni Chosen

6 outstanding alumni will be honored by the Dakota State University Alumni Association on Saturday, September 26 during the Trojan Days homecoming celebration. These individuals were nominated by their peers and have been selected to receive recognition from their alma mater for their accomplishments and achievements. They join over 80 alumni as Dakota State Outstanding Alumni. They are honored in three categories, Outstanding Young Alumni, Outstanding Professional Achievement, and Outstanding Educator.

Honored as Outstanding Young Alumni are Molly Knutson and Chad Knutson.

Molly Knutson graduated in 2005 with a degree in physical science and business management. She started working as a lab technician at Valero Renewable Fuels (formerly VeraSun) in Aurora, SD, one week after graduation. She was promoted after less than a year she was promoted to Environmental Lead, and shortly after, promoted again to her current position of Health, Safety, and Environmental Manager for the plant.

The plant is one of the largest dry mill ethanol production facilities in the United States, producing 127 million gallons of ethanol each year. Knutson’s position includes reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the South Dakota DENR, among other government agencies. She establishes and oversees healthy and safe work policies and procedures for employees of the facility. She also ensures environmental compliance during operation of the facility.

Knutson also manages the plant’s security practices in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security standards. She also oversees the plant’s compliance with OSHA’s programs.  Originally from Irene, SD, Knutson is married to fellow alum and honoree Chad Knutson. They live in Madison.

Chad Knutson graduated with a degree in computer information systems in 2004 and a master of science in information assurance in 2006. He has been working for Secure Banking Solutions (SBS) since 2004 and was recently promoted to Vice President. SBS is an information security consulting firm located in Madison, which has over 300 contracts in 31 states.

SBS is hired by banks to legally break into their systems before a hacker can. Knutson established a penetration testing and vulnerability assessment practice at SBS, which is used during the testing process. He is now considered a regional expert on technical issues associated with information security, and speaks nationally on the process.

Knutson has given presentations in several information security classes at DSU since his graduation, and spends time with researchers at the National Center for the Protection of the Financial Infrastructure.  Originally from Porter, MN, Knutson is married to fellow alum and honoree Molly Hansen Knutson, and lives in Madison.

Honored for Outstanding Professional Achievement are Susan Collignon-Hodgen and Dr. Jay Trenhaile.

Susan Collignon-Hodgen graduated from DSU in 1997 with a degree in English for Information Systems and was hired as a technical writer for CIGNA Tel-Drug. She worked for CIGNA for 9 years and during that time held positions as a Systems Administrator, Project Manager, and Director of the Project Management Office & Production Support. Prior to leaving CIGNA, Collignon-Hodgen was the overall Information Technology Director for the Sioux Falls and Pennsylvania mail order facilities. In 2007she took a position at Avera as the Director of Information Technology Project Management with a primary focus to develop a formal project management office and assist with coordinating the rollout of the electronic medical record for the Avera Health System.

Along with her career, Collignon-Hodgen is involved in many volunteer activities including as a Sioux Empire United Way Executive Cabinet Member, Loaned Executive, Employee Campaign Manager and Heart Club Plus Member. In 2009 she was named Volunteer of the Year by the Sioux Empire United Way. She has also been a volunteer for Junior Achievement and the March of Dimes, and served as the Chair of the 2008 SD Humanities Council Big Read. In 2003 she was awarded the Multiple Sclerosis Society Leadership Award as well as serving on the advisory council in 2004. She also received the 2003 Renberg Elementary Mentor of the Year as an LSS School Based Mentor and is a graduate of the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Sioux Falls program. She is also a mission leader for Avera McKennan.

In 2005 Collignon-Hodgen married Max Hodgen, also a DSU graduate. Max is currently a Math and Science teacher at Madison Central High School and an assistant football coach. They live in Sioux Falls.

Dr. Jay Trenhaile is a 1986 graduate of Dakota State. He is Professor and Department Head of the Counseling and Human Resource Development Department at South Dakota State University and starting his 11th year as a faculty member at SDSU. Trenhaile is also serving as Acting Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences at South Dakota State University. This newly created college is home to 2300 students at SDSU. Under Jay’s leadership SDSU created the regions first nationally accredited Rehabilitation Counseling program. 

After graduating from Dakota State in 1986, Jay worked in student affairs positions at colleges in Kansas and South Dakota and also completed graduate degrees from Kansas State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of South Dakota. Jay is a licensed psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, and a certified school counselor and teacher in the state of South Dakota. Jay has successfully authored over $100,000 in grant funding, two book chapters, 12 journal articles, and 10 national or international presentations. In 2002 Jay created and published “Creating Solutions”, a therapeutic game to use with children that has since sold over 700 copies.

In 2006 the South Dakota Counseling Association awarded Jay the E. Gordon Pohling Administrator Award and the Mavis Booze Mentoring Award. Jay was also recognized as the South Dakota School Psychologist of the Year in 2006.  Dr. Trenhaile resides in Volga with his wife, Kelly, sons Thayer and Westin and daughter Kara.

Honored as Outstanding Educators are Stacy DeCorsey and Jon Gonsor.

Stacy DeCorsey graduated from Dakota State in 1993. She is principal of Jordan Elementary School in Jordan, MN, where she has served since 2003. She was recently named Minnesota’s 2009 National Distinguished Principal.  DeCorsey has been in the Minnesota education community since 1998 and has her superintendent and K-12 principal licensures as well as a masters degree in Education from ST. Mary’s University in St. Paul.

She was nominated for the National Distinguished Principal award by her peers. The nomination cited her creation of the Blessings in a Backpack program which sends home food-filled backpacks with kids who qualify for free and reduced meals on a weekly basis. Her belief that student learning requires the school to recognize the whole child led DeCorsey to starting the program.  DeCorsey is also known for setting a standard for professional accountability with her staff, and for requiring data-driven decision making. She follows a systematic approach to assessing and reviewing instructional methods and materials.

DeCorsey was a Minnesota National Distinguished finalist in 2008, received the Jordaness Lion Membership Excellence Award in 2007, and has been a member of the National Association of Elementary School Principals for 10 years. She is also a member of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals, and a MESPA Elementary Principal Action Committee representative. She was named the ARC Suburban Inclusion Teacher of the Year in 1994. De Corsey lives in Jordan.

Jon Gonsor graduated from Dakota State in 1979 with a degree in biology education. He taught in Salem from 1979 to 1984, and moved on to Pierre Riggs High School, where he has been teaching for the past 23 years. Along with teaching duties, Gonsor has coached wrestling, football, and track. He is currently coaching freshman track and football.

Gonsor has been the past secretary and past president for the South Dakota Science Teachers Association and served as the program chair for the National Science Teachers Association Convention held in Rapid City. He has been a member of the North Central Accreditation Review Visitation Team and past-President of the Pierre Education Association. Gonsor was actively involved in setting science standards for South Dakota as a writer for the South Dakota Science Benchmarks, and has served as a member of the South Dakota Science Revision Committee.

Throughout his education career, Gonsor has received recognition from peers. Among his awards are: 1984 Salem Public School Teacher of the Year; Who’s Who in American Education; Tandy Technology Teacher 1998; South Dakota Science Teacher Association Service Award, 2000; T.F. Riggs National Honor Society Teacher of the Year 2005; Teacher of the Year Award from Wal-Mart, 2006. Gonsor was also recognized at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology 56th Annual Honors Convocation with the “Mines Award for Outstanding Teaching.” Gonsor lives in Pierre with wife Nancy.

Last Updated: 8/12/11