Bob-Sutton.jpgDSU spring commencement May 4th

Dakota State University spring commencement is May 4, at 10:30 a.m. in the DSU Fieldhouse.

Dakota State will award 190 baccalaureate, 37 masters, 4 doctor of science, and 53 associate degrees. The baccalaureate and associate degrees awarded also includes summer graduates. Graduate Rebecca Arleen Woelfel from Wabasso, Minn. will be speaking on behalf of the graduates.

Bob Sutton, pictured on the right, serves as this year’s commencement speaker. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, both from the University of South Dakota. He is currently vice president for community relations with Avera Health. He previously served as president of the South Dakota Community Foundation, president of the South Dakota Bankers Association, and executive director of the South Dakota Association of County Officials. He was appointed in April 2013 as the newest member of the South Dakota Board of Regents by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Dr. Harlan and Vianne Stensaas will be receiving the distinguished alumni award. Harlan Stensaas and Vianne Schooler Stensaas were students at General Beadle State Teachers College (now DSU) when they married in 1954 and launched professional careers that reached far into retirement.

Harlan earned his bachelor’s degree in English education from DSU in 1955, an M.S. in Journalism at South Dakota State University and a Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi. Vianne completed the two-year teacher certification program in 1954 and returned for the junior year in 1956. She later earned a B.A. in English and Art at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1965.

Harlan served a short time as publicist for the state highway commission, promoting the proposed Interstate Highway project. He then taught journalism and photography at SDSU for several years before becoming Public Relations Director for Dakota Wesleyan University. He later held faculty positions in Washington, Illinois, and Oklahoma before entering the Ph.D. program.

After years of teaching elementary school, Vianne changed her focus to adults, becoming a VISTA volunteer in adult literacy. She earned accreditation as a certified Laubach Literacy Tutor-Trainer, and later became a certified tutor of English as a Second Language. She also received a certificate in Pastoral Counseling from Tulsa Bible Seminary.

The Stensaas’ took their love of education international when they became educators in Chinese colleges and universities. From 1994 to 2006, they taught in three teacher-training institutions and a medical university. While retired and living in Oklahoma, the couple remains involved in Chinese education. They assist Chinese scholars with language issues for dissertations and other writing projects, and they continue to provide guidance and counsel.

Harlan and Vianne’s family consists of four daughters, twelve grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren residing in five states and China.

The ceremony will also be streamed live online and can be accessed through the DSU website (

Last Updated: 5/1/13