Dakota Wesleyan University celebrated its employees’ years of service while announcing the official retirement of two longtime employees Thursday – Dr. Diane Sandhoff and Vicki Welch.
Sandhoff and Welch were recognized during the Employee Recognition Breakfast Thursday for their years of service, receiving special gifts from the college, President Amy Novak, and a song written about them by math professor and musician Dr. Mike Catalano – which and ongoing tradition at DWU.
Sandhoff is retiring from her positions as administrative chair and professor of nursing for the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing at DWU, joined the staff in 1989. She received her RN diploma from St. John’s School of Nursing (formerly in Huron) and later earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from South Dakota State University, Brookings. She most recently earned her Doctorate in Education from Northcentral University. Sandhoff is involved in several DWU committees, the DWU nursing advisory board and the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship advisory board. She is currently the chair of the Avera Queen of Peace Board, serves on the Avera Board of Consulters, and the Avera St. Benedict Foundation. She was the past chair of the Avera St. Benedict Hospital Board. Before becoming an educator, she worked at St. Joseph Hospital and the Methodist Hospital in Mitchell and at a family practice clinic in Parkston.
“Diane had a deeply personal way of connecting with people,” Novak said Thursday. “Her relationships were once again evident in the countless advisees she hooded at the Baccalaureate ceremony this past weekend.”
Novak said that Sandhoff’s students described her has highly invested in their future, committed to helping them become nurses, and one student told Novak, “Diana Sandhoff is the singe reason I made it through this program … she had a relentless faith in me and in my abilities.”
“On an administrative level, Diane worked tirelessly to continually improve the DWU nursing program,” Novak added. “In 2005, she spearheaded the first LPN-RN program in Sioux Falls, along with Nancy Sonne. In 2008, she led the effort to develop a degree completion program for nurses with the eventual creation of the RN-B.S. in nursing. Her final goal was the development of a four-year baccalaureate nursing program, and this year DWU graduated its first class.”
Welch has taught at Dakota Wesleyan for 27 years. She is retiring as associate professor of communications and the chair of the communications department. She began her career teaching general education courses in communication and English. She also spent many years coordinating local oral interpretation contests that brought thousands of high school students to campus. During her years at DWU, Welch has seen the DWU student population double in size and nearly every student has taken a communication course.
“Over the years, Vicki demonstrated an ability to take a student’s fear of public speaking and make him or her become both comfortable and confident with addressing individuals and groups,” Novak said.
Throughout the years, Welch has served the university in a wide range of capacities including serving as the longstanding chair of communications and theatre, serving as the faculty adviser for many years to The Phreno Cosmian student newspaper and The Tumbleweed yearbook, and serving on a variety of committees and taskforces. She has also been active with oral interpretation judging both locally and regionally.
“But perhaps Vicki’s students captured it best when they described her, in a recent senior exit conversation, as a cross between a mom and a talk radio host,” Novak said. “Offering an occasional empathetic ear, but more often than not challenging students to think for themselves, settle their own disputes, and learn from their failures and mistakes. Countless students appreciated her humor, her political commentary and her continual support of DWU.”