College of Arts & Humanities
Jim McLaird was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Humanities. He was born in Lake Benton, Minn. In 1958, he came to Dakota Wesleyan as a student, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 1962. It was also while at DWU that Jim met his wife, Donna Hillman ’63.
He attended Boston University School of Theology for one year before enrolling at the University of Wyoming, where he completed his Master of Arts degree in history in 1966. McLaird studied history for two more years at Wyoming, and he did additional graduate work at South Dakota State University and Utah State University. In 1967, he returned to Dakota Wesleyan University, where he taught history until retiring in 2004. And in 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from DWU. He is now professor emeritus of history at Dakota Wesleyan.
He has become an authority on South Dakota history, authoring and co-authoring numerous articles and publications since 1967. He published “Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend” in 2005, and “Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends” in 2008. “Calamity Jane” won The Best Book Award from Westerners International in 2006. He also spent two years researching and writing about Dakota Wesleyan from the students’ perspective – complete with legends and lore, alumni biographies and funny anecdotes – which was published this fall as “The Dakota Wesleyan University Memory Book, 1885-2010,” in honor of the college’s 125th anniversary.
Jim has been recognized for his achievements with two Schell Awards for best article in the South Dakota History Journal in 1989 and 1994, and the Outstanding Educator Award in 1995 from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. In 1997, he was presented the Dakota History Conference Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Preservation of History of South Dakota and Dakota Territory. And, in 1999, he was awarded the Outstanding Service to Alma Mater Award. In 1999 and 2004, he received the DWU Clarke Award for Teaching Excellence, and in 2004 he was awarded the Presidential Award for Outstanding Service. In 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Amelita Grace Gonzalez Cajiuat
Amelita Grace Gonzalez Cajiuat accepted the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Humanities. She was born in the Philippines and through her godmother, the Rev. Dr. Grace Huck, she found her way to Dakota Wesleyan University, where she excelled in music and was awarded the Bishop Armstrong Peace & Justice Award in 1986.
Throughout her life, two things have been prevalent: her love for music and her deep faith. She has directed choral and orchestral activities for colleges and conducted several choirs. She served as assistant and later principal conductor of the Studio Lirico Opera Program in Italy where she also studied language, voice and conducting.
She is currently an elder in the United Methodist Church Wisconsin Conference where she serves as pastor of Salem United Methodist Church in Salem, Wis., and she holds leadership positions at the conference level, working toward the understanding of the mission of God in the global church. She is married to Chris E. Herigstad ’86.