| Meier and Della Vecchia
Black Hills State University will honor several outstanding alumni during the annual Alumni Awards Luncheon as a part of Swarm Days 2012. William "Bill" Weyer will be honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award; the Excellence in Education Award will be presented to Keith Stover; Jerome A. Greene will be recognized with the Special Achievement Award; and Johanna Meier and Guido Della Vecchia will be honored with the Special Service Award.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is based on long-term outstanding achievements and service or contributions to BHSU. The Excellence in Education Award honors those alumni who have made outstanding contributions in the field of education. The Special Achievement Award is given to recognize particular achievements or contributions to the alum’s society or to their community. The Special Service Award is given to honor those alumni or other persons who have contributed long-term service or exceptional effort in a single program or project to the University.
William "Bill" Weyer, class of '62, earned his degree from BHSU in business education. He received an award from the Wall Street Journal for being the highest scholastic ranking student with a degree in business education or administration.
After graduating he traveled west to California and found a teaching job in Eureka, where Weyer spent the next 16 years teaching math and science.
In 1978, Weyer purchased his wife Sandra's parents’ business, Hensell Materials, and took a different career path. Hensell Materials sells building materials to contractors. Over the next two decades, they expanded the business and increased sales.
Weyer served as chairman of the Board for the Redwood Empire Unit of the California Trucking Association for two years. He also served as president on the Board of the Humboldt Builders’ Exchange. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, which is given to those who have contributed their skills and expertise to the local construction industry for over 20 years.
Weyer and his wife have been supporters of the Salvation Army, Easter Seals, Soroptimist International, and countless little league teams.
Keith Stover, class of ’71, earned his bachelor’s degree in education from BHSU and went on to graduate from South Dakota State University with his master’s degree in educational administration.
Stover is currently the president of South Central College (SCC), a comprehensive two-year community and technical college with campuses in Faribault and North Mankato, Minn. He has served as president for the past 14 years.
Stover received an announcement from the White House press secretary in fall 2011 that SCC was named one of the two colleges in the nation to receive the designation of a “Right Skills Now” initiative by President Obama. “Right Skills Now” is an accelerated manufacturing program designed to market manufacturing careers, embrace students in the occupation, and implement a national credentialing model.
Stover has been a leader in developing relationships with the secretary general of the two-year technical institutes in Thailand in support of the benefits of global education. He served a six-year term on the Faribault Chamber Board and currently serves on the Boards of Greater Mankato Growth and the Southern Minnesota Advocates. He is a member of the Rotary Club and served on the Rotary STRIVE Board.
Jerome A. Greene, class of ’68, enrolled in the United States Army after graduating high school in Watertown. He then went on to further his education, earning his bachelor’s degree in history education from Black Hills State University and his master’s degree in history from the University of South Dakota. He also completed doctoral work in American History at the University of Oklahoma.
Greene has a wealth of experience in careers associated with American History, including most recently serving as a research historian and staff curator for Historic Furnishings at Harpers Ferry Center in West Virginia.
Greene officially retired in 2007 but continues his love of writing and making appearances around the nation speaking about history. He is the author of many articles, books, contributed chapters, reviews, and government reports pertaining to Indian-white relations in the trans-Mississippi West and other aspects of American History and cultural resources preservation.
Greene has been a part of numerous history projects including completing a special reconnaissance study of Indian-U.S. Army Battlefields of the Northern Plains for the American Battlefield Protection Program and conducting oral history interviews with Pearl Harbor survivors for the USS Arizona Memorial.
He is a member of the boards of editors for South Dakota History, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, and the Campaigns and Commanders Series by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Johanna Meier is known for being one of the foremost Wagnerian sopranos of her generation. She is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and began her career at the New York City Opera, which was the start of her major international recognition. She appeared throughout Europe, North and South America in opera, concert, and recital, as well as being the leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera for 15 years.
She was the first American ever to sing the role of Isolde in Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. As a recitalist, she has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and others, as well as throughout Europe.
Meier has twice appeared on PBS Great Performances, the first time in the title role of Vanessa and later in the world premiere of Dangerous Liasons with the San Francisco Opera, as well as in the CBS Special Premiere of The Questions of Abraham with Sherrill Milnes. She sang for a Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC, as well as at the formal dedication of Mt. Rushmore by President Bush. Meier also acted as Mistress of Ceremonies at the concert celebrating the South Dakota Bi-Centennial in Pierre in 1989.
After retiring from her singing career in 1994, she returned home to the Black Hills, where she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from BHSU. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2006 for her work in the field of arts and humanities.
Meier served as director (1991-2008) of the famed Black Hills Passion Play, an outdoor drama presented for 70 years in its South Dakota and Florida amphitheaters.
Each year Meier travels to New York City to give Master Classes for young singers, and has taught at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes Conservatory, and Ithaca College, as well as privately. In 1998 she founded the Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute, which is held annually on the campus of BHSU. Meier teaches the institute, joined by an internationally recognized faculty of former operatic colleagues. She is also currently on the Board of Directors for the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Vice-Regent of the Black Hills Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and owner/curator of the Dolls at Home Museum.
Guido Della Vecchia began vocal studies at the age of 18, and was trained in radio communication during the Korean conflict. He was selected as one of six to go to Germany where he sang as an entertainer in the Special Services. Following his discharge in Germany, Della Vecchia moved to Italy where he refined his musical art by studying with several of Italy’s foremost maestri at the Cherubini Conservatory and at the Florence Theatre, following which he concertized extensively in Italy before returning to the United States.
Beginning in 1961, Della Vecchia made extensive concert and operatic tours throughout the United States, including appearances at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center. His earliest performances were in the demanding role of Fernando in Favorita and the role of Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff in a production staged and conducted by the eminent Boris Goldovsky.
He and Meier appeared together in both concert and opera before moving to Spearfish in 1984, where he acted in and co-produced the Black Hills Passion Play from 1991 to 2008. For three years he served on the Board of Directors of the Rapid City Symphony and has also served on the Boards of Directors of the Spearfish Arts Center and Matthews Opera House and the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish. Della Vecchia has been active in the inception and promotion of the annual Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute held at Black Hills State University.
He was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2003 by the South Dakota Board of Regents of Education in recognition of his distinction within his profession, his outstanding contributions to the community of Spearfish, and his dedication to the advancement of the arts in the state of South Dakota.
Meier and Della Vecchia have been married for 50 years.