Employees honored, retirees recognized at DWU breakfast

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dakota Wesleyan University took time Thursday to honor and recognize employees for their years of service, their credit to the university and to say farewell to those moving on to the next phase in their lives.

During the employee recognition breakfast, DWU awarded Professional Excellence Awards for spring; the winners are Karen Knoell, university registrar, and Dan Miller, associate professor of communication and theatre director.

Knoell, winner of the Professional Excellence Award for staff, was described in her nomination letter as dedicated and dependable, willing to work extended hours and volunteer for committees.

“She is very much respected by faculty and staff which is so important to holding the role she does,” states the nomination. “Karen is thoughtful, detailed, and prompt in her work.  She allows the academic registration process to flow smoothly, with solid planning and wonderful problem-solving abilities.”

Knoell has also taken on the responsibility as co-chairman of the program prioritization committee on campus, which includes reading and assessing reports from every program and department on campus.

“Weekly meetings and nightly reading have become the norm for her this year as she remains dedicated to meaningful outcomes of the process. It takes a dedicated, respected and unbiased approach to carry out such a charge.  She has put in many hours to ultimately help the university’s mission.”

Miller, winner of the Professional Excellence Award for faculty, has brought musical theatre back to campus with huge productions like “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and this year’s “Les Miserables.” In fact, for “Les Mis,” Miller dedicated his entire spring break to building the set in the Sherman Center, with the help of several students. He is also responsible for creating a Bachelor of Fine Arts program, making DWU the only private school in the state to offer a B.F.A.

“Dan has cultivated a loyal and able cadre of students who do incredible work both on and off the stage,” stated his nomination. “Many of these students, often without being enrolled for credit, are involved in multiple productions over their careers, showing incredible growth, and demonstrating amazing dedication and a willingness to sacrifice by fulfilling multiple duties, often in the more unsung aspects of theatre.

“Even for students who are not majors, theatre provides students with incredibly valuable experiences in taking personal risks, gaining confidence and leadership skills, appreciating the value of being part of a larger team with well-defined roles in which you must learn to depend on each other, …  Dan does an excellent job in bringing these aspects to the forefront of students’ minds, and mentoring students both on and off the stage to achieve excellence.” 

Other Professional Excellence Award winners this year were: Monty Bohrer, associate business professor and director business, and Dan Bonte, assistant director of admissions, for the summer term; and Diane Sandhoff, dean of the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences, and Malik Stewart, talent adviser, for the fall term.

The Presidential Award for Outstanding Service was awarded to Leah Rado, sports information director.

“Behind the success of Dakota Wesleyan University this past year have been countless individuals whose commitment to excellence makes the stories of our students possible.  However, few are probably aware of the many hours behind the scenes of one individual.  Well beyond midnight and on most weekends, Leah Rado is writing press releases, figuring the stats sheets, submitting reports to the GPAC – all in an effort to tell the compelling story of accomplishment by not just our athletic teams, but the story of our student athletes,” said DWU President Amy Novak when presenting the award.

Rado balances multiple work duties for the athletic department as well finding time to chaperone three past DWU mission trips in and out of country.

“Today, we recognize Leah Rado as a true servant leader of Wesleyan; why? Because, each and every day, Leah puts everyone else’s story above her own,” Novak said. “Today we recognize her for just that – serving so that others may shine – serving that so others may know the compelling story of DWU athletics, and serving with a level of excellence that is the envy of the GPAC.”

Service Awards

Length of service awards were also presented to the following employees: five years: Mark Halling, assistant professor of education, administrative chair; Curt Hart, athletic director; Carol Lazenby, comptroller; Joan Lubben, assistant professor of math; Terry Lundeen, director of residence life; Mari Olson, public relations specialist; Brian Patrick, assistant professor of biology; Wim Rosendahl, systems administrator and programmer; Mark Steichen, biology instructor; and Jeremy Tosaya, head men’s soccer coach.

The following were recognized for 10 years: Elwin Hohn, McGovern Library custodian; John Husmann, associate history professor; Amy Novak, university president; Cherie Ramsdell, assistant professor of graphic design; and Cara Weise, enrollment services administrative assistant.

The following were recognized for 15 years: Lori Essig, vice president for university relations; Sean Flynn, history professor; and Donna Gerlach, campus nurse.

The following were recognized for 20 years: Missy Herr-Valburg, director of admissions; and Lori Solberg, bookstore manager.

The following were recognized for 25 years: Linda Hofer, day care director; Judy Lehi, circulation, acquisitions supervisor; Tim Mullican, biology professor; and Diane Sandhoff, nursing professor, director of the R.N. program and dean of the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.

The following employee was recognized for 30 years: Wyonne Kaemingk, nursing A.A. program director.

The following employee was recognized for 35 years: Michael Farney, mathematics professor and department chairman.


Two DWU employees announced their retirement, Adele Jacobson and Nancy Sonne.

Jacobson, a professor in the nursing department, has worked for Dakota Wesleyan since 2005. Jacobson retires from the position as administrative chairman of the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing.

Sonne, an assistant professor of nursing at DWU, has worked for the university since 2002.

Kim Mohr, assistant professor of nursing at DWU, worked with Jacobson and Sonne for the past seven years.

“Both of these women have been servants for DWU,” Mohr said when asked to share a memory of her coworkers. “To make a great life, one must think about how you make the most of the time spent ‘in between’; where you were and where you are going. These small details are really what has made both Nancy and Adele great people and coworkers. I so appreciated the personal cards of encouragement and recognition from Adele. I also received many emails and hugs from Nancy of the same sort, since we weren’t on the same campus. They are in service to others, which is truly what we are all about. 

“Adele has been an extremely hardworking, committed leader who led by example and showed her commitment to DWU nursing every day,” Mohr continued. “She has a great way of encouraging others and is committed to excellence every day. Nancy has been a quiet leader in our faculty who I consider to be a mentor and friend, encourager, great team player, and committed to the success of each and every one of her students. She is one of the kindest and most sincere people I know, but also has a balance where she will stay true to her values and speak her opinion when asked. That is why I respect her so much.

“There is a saying that you become great by helping others become great and that is so true with both of these women.” 

Campus pastor Brandon Vetter isn’t retiring, but he is stepping down from his position at DWU this summer to lead the Fusion worship services full time. Vetter, who is a 2003 alumnus of DWU has been at the college since 2006. DWU recognized his service to the campus, to the First United Methodist Church and the community on Thursday as the campus wishes him luck on his next venture.

“Brandon Vetter leaves a remarkable spiritual leadership legacy at DWU,” Novak said. “When he first came, chapel attendance was near 25. Today, worship has grown to nearly 150 students, faculty, and staff and the campus is more deeply involved in regional and international mission work than ever before.

“From planting the new Fusion worship community to supporting global mission trips, from building discipleship programs to invite people to come to know Christ, to introducing Jesus through media, Brandon has witnessed the evangelical spirit of Christ, who said, ‘Go out and make disciples.’ We are grateful for his passion, leadership, energy and the truly remarkable spiritual transformation he brought to our campus.”

Categories: News
Dakota Wesleyan University was named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Dakota Wesleyan University is proudly affiliated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Members of any and all faiths are welcome and encouraged to experience an education based on learning, leadership, faith and service.
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