Left to right: Dr. Micheal Zehfus, Penney Williams, Laura Turner, Steve Peep, Micheline Nelson, Dr. Rod Custer, Deborah Balding, Dr. June Apaza. Not pictured: Dr. John Dixson, Dr. Dan Durben, Paul Kohler, Sarah Nelson, Rhonda Wolff.
Black Hills State University celebrated 13 retiring faculty and staff members during the Employee Recognition Reception held on campus recently. Altogether, this year’s retirees gave approximately 226 years of service to the University.
A tree will be planted on campus in honor of each retiree. They also received a historical framed print of BHSU, a discount at the University Bookstore, a complimentary lifetime activity card for admission to University events, and a gift certificate for Killian’s Tavern provided by Killian’s and the BHSU Foundation.
This year’s retirees include:
Dr. June Apaza: Director of the Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) and Education and Outreach for the Sanford Underground Research Facility, 13 years of service
Dr. June Apaza joined BHSU in 2006 as Deputy Director of the Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education, becoming Director in 2010. Starting in 2015, June was also appointed Director of Education and Outreach for the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Among her many projects, June led the statewide elementary and middle school math initiative called South Dakota Counts, was co-director of South Dakota GEAR UP, and was co-principal investigator for three grants from the National Science Foundation. On behalf of a collaborative project between BHSU and Rapid City Area Schools, June accepted the Christa McAuliffe Award for Teacher Education from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. June was also instrumental in BHSU’s Bush Prize award for Community Innovation. Early in her career, June spent 20 years as an elementary classroom teacher. Throughout her career, June was a staunch advocate for students and a gifted teacher. In her retirement, June is happy to be able to spend more time with her family and friends.
Deborah Balding, Office Supervisor, Residence Life, 17 years of service
Debbie started her tenure at Black Hills State University in the Cashier’s Office in 2002. After three years of service, she transitioned to her current role in Residence Life, serving as the Office Manager for the last 14 years. Before coming to BHSU Debbie worked for the Spearfish School District for eight years. Debbie sees the value in every student interaction. She enjoys mentoring and guiding our students through her own experiences. In her retirement, Debbie plans on spending her time at Sheridan Lake in her newly built cabin near Hill City, with her husband, and daughters, when they visit. Debbie and her husband also plan on traveling during the winters, visiting family and friends.
Dr. Rod Custer: Chair, School of Education; Professor, Education Technology & Leadership, 8 years of service
Dr. Rod Custer joined BHSU in 2011 as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Most recently Rod has served as the Chair of the School of Education from 2017-2019, and as an Academic Affairs Researcher, supporting the HLC accreditation and working on a book for the National Science Teachers Association. Prior to BHSU, Rod served as Associate Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies, and International Studies and prior to that, as Department Chairperson of Technology at Illinois State University for 14 years, and as faculty eight years at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and six years at McPherson College. Throughout his career, Rod has received, managed, and coordinated grant funding and projects through the National Science Foundation, in 2011 securing $2.9M to support science teachers. As a former minister, Rod’s expertise and interests are far-reaching; including skills as a master craftsman of woodworking, an avid five day a week runner for over 40 years, and his passion for motorcycling, music, theatre, and attending athletic events. Rod looks forward to woodworking full-time, in between travel and spending time with family.
Dr. John Dixson: Associate Professor, Chemistry, 12 years of service
Dr. John Dixson joined the faculty in 2007 as an Assistant Professor after a 21-year career in industry as a research and development chemist at FNC. He holds several patents for work he developed as a research and development chemist. In his years at BHSU, he has built up a successful research program, redesigned the entire organic chemistry curriculum, and helped grow the chemistry program into what it is today. His current research has involved isolating, testing and developing new compounds for antimalarial activity. John Dixson’s contributions have helped a large number of students achieve their goals of getting into medical school, dental school, graduate school and other programs. He intends on continuing his research program offering students research opportunities into his retirement, but much of his time will be spent with his wife Mary on their farm. He is looking forward to getting to all the things he has not had a chance to get to and enjoying his retirement getting his tractor stuck in the corn field.
Dr. Dan Durben: Professor, Physics, 26 years of service
Dr. Dan Durben joined the university in 1993 and has been a model faculty member since. During his time at BHSU he taught the majority of the physics curriculum in addition to the physical chemistry course. He has even taught ENGL101 during his tenure at BHSU. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008 and promoted to Professor in 2016. As a researcher he published more than twenty papers on topics ranging from particle physics to sports science to aquaculture. Many of these papers have undergraduate students as coauthors. Dan has also served the university as the NCAA representative and has been an ever-present figure at athletic events around the conference. His advocacy for student-athletes at BHSU will be missed. Dan is retiring from BHSU to become the newest coach of the US national rifle team. An accomplished shooter himself, Dan also competed on the rifle team in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. He also served as coach previously, from 1997-2000, coaching the team during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Paul Kohler: Facility Worker, Facilities, 10 years of service
Paul Kohler joined Black Hills State University as a Facility Worker in 2012. During these 7 years, Paul worked at the Donald Young Center on the night shift taking care of our athletic facility. He was very dedicated, hardworking, extremely reliable, friendly, and always committed to doing the best job he could do every day. Paul was responsible for cleaning and sanitizing fourteen locker rooms and bathrooms along with up keeping the common areas during all events. Additionally, Paul cleaned the varsity weight room in the fitness center and tackled various maintenance issues that arose during these events. Each week, thousands of visitors and competitors who attended that DYC noticed that the building was well cared for by a devoted and pleasant facility worker. With the extra time in his retirement, Paul plans to spend more time with his family and friends. The Facilities Services staff will miss Paul and wish him a successful retirement.
Micheline Nelson: Director of Field Experience; Assistant Professor, Math & Science Education
20 years of service
Micheline Nelson joined the faculty at BHSU in August 1999 in the area of mathematics and science education. Prior to coming to BHSU, she worked nine years on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation as a teacher. She brought her experience working with non-native speakers from her years of teaching in Belgium and working two years with students from refugee families. Her most recent role has been as Director of the Field Experiences and Certification Officer where she has been responsible for placement of over 700 students in 70+ schools annually. She has also provided valuable leadership through two highly successful accreditation cycles. In her retirement, she will remain active with organizations providing services to veterans and education. She looks forward to travel.
Sarah Nelson: Facility Worker, Facilities, 17 years of service
Sarah Nelson joined Black Hills State University as a Facility Worker on July 1, 2006. During these 12 years, Sarah worked in many buildings but her primary responsibility was taking care of the Jonas Academic building. She played a big role in keeping students and faculty healthy. From vacuuming carpets in the classrooms to disinfecting toilets in the restrooms, she made the students a priority and made a positive impact on everyone that passed through the building. Many of the faculty who worked in Jonas love Sarah’s laughter and smile and appreciate all that she did. Additionally, Sarah provided tremendous assistance with some of the bigger summer cleaning projects on campus. The Facilities Services staff wish Sarah success and happiness in her retirement.
Steve Peep: Grounds Keeper, Facilities, 11 years of service
Steve Peep began his career at BHSU in 2008. He is an Alumni of BH, graduating in 1990 with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and minor in Sociology. He has taken care of our grounds around many of the numerous changes across campus, including the construction of Bordeaux Hall, the Hillside project, and the new Stadium. He built all of the dry-stacked stone walls around the trees at the Softball Complex. He has plowed snow from many, many miles of sidewalks over the last 11 years, always showing up at 4am without a wake-up call! He has been instrumental in training and incorporating work-study students into our daily work flow of the Facilities Services grounds crew. His cheerful and caring demeanor has created an atmosphere in which we all enjoy working in. He has received the “You Make a Difference” award twice, once personally from former President Kay Schallenkamp. Steve plans to spend time with his grandchildren in the coming years and hunt and fish when Nancy lets him.
Laura Turner, Instructor, Computer Technology, 22 years of service
Laura Turner joined the faculty at BHSU 20 years ago teaching in the area of computing and educational technology. She has developed and taught most of the educational technology courses in the School of Education during a time when the world of computing has completely changed. She has also provided valuable service to the university, college and school serving on a variety of technology-related committees. Of particular note is her exceptional work providing leadership to the School of Education’s scholarship committee. In this role, she has screened candidates for over 70 educational scholarships and has worked with donors to generate and manage new and existing scholarships. She also created an educational web portal with thousands of online sites for teachers, which is now accessed by teachers all over the US. In retirement, Laura plans to travel, quilt, and spend time with her family, grandchildren, and her horses.
Penney Williams, Senior Secretary, Student Health Services, 28 years of service
Penney joined Student Health Services in the fall of 1991 as a temporary, part-time employee. She proved to be so valuable, we hired her back as the senior secretary in August of 1992. For 28 years, Penney has coordinated students’ schedules, made appointments with physicians and counselors, and has kept countless file cabinets full of records. She has ensured the safety of campus by being our immunization guru and enforcer. There have been many times when she has offered a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on to students who need a mom figure in their lives. Now, it is time for her to spend her time with her granddaughter, Dakota. Penney plans to retire this summer so she can make plans to spend her winters with family (her son, Blaine and his family) in Florida and then come back to South Dakota where she loves to volunteer, play Bunko and spend time with her South Dakota family and friends.
Rhonda Wolff, Program Assistant, Field Experience, 21 years of service
Rhonda Wolff started in 1991 as a Secretary in the Records Office. She transferred to the College of Education as the Senior Secretary for the Dean. She took a four-year leave to stay home from 1997 through 2001, when she came back to take the position in the Office of Field Experiences. She was employed in that office going through three accreditation cycles and retired December 2018 as a Program Assistant. In retirement, she is taking care of unfinished home projects. She is on a family Amtrak extravaganza trip this March, and hopes to spend more time with family, especially her great granddaughter, Kaprie, who just turned five.
Dr. Micheal Zehfus, Professor, Chemistry, 21 years of service
Dr. Micheal Zehfus joined the science faculty at BHSU in 1998 as an Assistant Professor. During his first ten years at BHSU he built the chemistry program, teaching the General Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Instrumental Analysis, and the Biochemistry I/II courses. He was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2002 and again promoted to the rank of Professor in 2008. Over the past 20 years, he has engaged students in an active and vibrant research program, publishing papers on topics such as quantifying alpha and beta acids in hops, deep underground water analysis, or biochemical analysis of great lake fish. He has been able to turn experiment into publication and in doing so gave opportunities for students to benefit and grow from the experience. Mike is also an accomplished musician, playing saxophone for the Cowboy Band for the Round Up in Belle Fourche, pep band for BHSU and he will continue to play with the Northern Hills Band in his retirement.