BHSU alum to receive honorary doctorate during fall commencement ceremony

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, December 3, 2015/Categories: 2015

Black Hills State University alum Jerome Greene who will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate during the Fall BHSU Commencement will give a public presentation on Friday, Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in Clare and Josef Meier Hall.

When Black Hills State University alum Jerome A. Greene was a young boy in New York State he would search for arrowheads, pottery fragments and other American Indian relics along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Greene's keen interest in American Indian history only grew and he has created a lifelong career studying, writing and educating others on the lives and culture of American Indians across the United States.

Now a retired curator, historian and award-winning author, Greene will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters and Literature Degree during the 170th BHSU Commencement Ceremony Saturday, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. in the Donald E. Young Sports & Fitness Center. Greene also will address graduates during the commencement ceremony.

"It's a terrific honor and especially nice coming from Black Hills State University," Greene said. "It's a testament to what I've done in my life and career and I feel very honored."

This is the second honorary doctorate BHSU has awarded accomplished alumni. Michael Shann was awarded an Honorary Doctor in Public Service Degree during the 2015 spring commencement ceremony for his work producing the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

In addition to his commencement address, Greene will give a special presentation on Friday, Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the Meier Recital Hall in Clare and Josef Meier Hall. His discussion will focus on his most recent book "American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890." The presentation is open to the public.

Greene will give a brief history of the Wounded Knee Massacre and offer a reading from the book, which shares the Lakota perspective of the attack on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Greene has always been interested in American Indian history. He was a longtime National Park Service employee, and professor, serving as a research historian and manager with the National Park Service over the years. However, Greene credits BHSU with cultivating his interest in history and providing him the expertise to create a lifelong career as a historian and curator.

Greene enrolled at Black Hills State College in 1964, after serving with the United States Army in Libya. As he looked for colleges, he read about Black Hills Teachers College and was interested in the beauty and history of the region. He applied and was accepted.

"I still have the letter of acceptance from the director of admissions at the time," Greene noted.

Greene, along with his wife and newborn daughter, moved to Spearfish from New York. A student with a family to support, Greene worked at Safeway when he wasn't studying.

"I worked part time. I earned scholarships. I really applied myself," Greene said.

Greene thoroughly enjoyed his courses at BHSU and recalls the educators that made a significant impact in his learning.

"The teachers at BHSU were most inspiring for me, particularly my history professor, Dr. Lura Camery," he recalled. "She recognized in me my love of history, but was not an easy professor at all."

Greene added that some of his professors invited him to come on weekend jaunts, studying historical sites throughout the Black Hills.

"What I learned at Black Hills State enabled what I was able to do in my career. The interest was there, but the University cultivated it and formalized it," he said.

After earning his bachelor's degree in history education, Greene worked for the summer with the National Park Service at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana before beginning classes for his master's degree. He earned his master's degree and also completed graduate work before becoming a college instructor.

Greene taught American Indian history at Haskell Indian Nations University for two years before beginning a 30-plus year career with the National Park Service. His time spent as an educator, however, provided some valuable experience.

"I learned a great deal in those two years," Greene said. "You really learn a subject when you have to teach it. I applied myself and all in all, it was a rich and rewarding experience."

Greene took his education and teaching experience and secured and secured a position as a research historian with National Park Service during the nation's Bicentennial.

"It was all hands-on history," Greene said. "I was doing studies dealing with all kinds of subjects-Bicentennial research on the Siege of Yorktown and several other projects related to colonial and Revolutionary War history," Greene said.

He also completed several projects with Fort Laramie and Indian war sites across the United States.

He held several positions with the National Park Service over the years, as a research historian, curator and cultural resources manager in Denver.

"I was in hog heaven. I couldn't have had a more desirable career than what I had," Greene said.

Greene's work didn't stop with curating exhibits and researching historical events. He also has authored 17 books, many of which focus on American Indian history in the United States. Four books focus on South Dakota history.

His most recent book, "American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890," received the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Nonfiction and was a finalist for the 2014 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Award. Greene is a past council member of the Western History Association and has served on the editorial boards of South Dakota History, Montana The Magazine of Western History and The Western Historical Quarterly.

Now retired, Greene continues to write and enjoys spending time with his family. He has six children, all who will be present at the commencement ceremony to see their father honored.

As Greene returns to campus, he looks forward to reminiscing about float building during Swarm Days, working at the pavilion dances in downtown Spearfish and visiting the classrooms where he achieved an even deeper love for history.

"I can't imagine what else I would have done in my life. As I say, I feel blessed I was able to study and pursue a career as a historian," Greene said. "What I learned at Black Hills State enabled me for what I did in my career. BHSU cultivated my interests and allowed me to run with it."

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