Originally from New Underwood, Steve joined the Army in 2009, one year after he graduated from high school. He served on active duty for four years as a cannon crewmember with the 4th Infantry Division.
“I deployed in March of 2012 at the age of 20 to Kunar Province in Afghanistan. My first son was born during that deployment and I didn’t meet him until he was six months old,” said Steve.
Following his service to the Army, Steve enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard where he continues to work as a budget analyst. He said he started taking college courses at BHSU-Rapid City because of the convenience in location.
“The classes at BHSU-Rapid City fit my job schedule perfectly. I never would’ve been able to attend classes if this place didn’t exist,” said Steve.
Steve was inspired to select accounting as his major because of Laura Prosser, assistant professor at BHSU. Prosser said Steve immediately stood out in class because of his fun sense of humor and for his way of making the class feel like a close-knit community.
“Steve is a very hard working student but I didn’t realize how much he had going on until one evening when he arrived at a group advising session with his three year old son. Steve has continued to do well in his courses and has tremendous potential to move forward in his chosen field,” said Prosser.
Prosser isn’t the only one who noticed Steve’s potential for success. One of the 70 motorcyclists in the BHSU Jacket Ride, plastic surgeon Dr. Juris Bunkis of Los Angeles, Calif., announced after the ride that he was donating an additional $1,000 scholarship to Steve.
“I was completely shocked. That is a truly generous man and I can’t wait until the day that I can pay that forward and help someone else get through school,” said Steve.
Steve credits his wife, Michelle, who graduated with an elementary education degree from BHSU in May, his family, and his bosses for understanding his goals and supporting him in accomplishing them.
Steve will graduate from BHSU-Rapid City in December 2018. He then plans on becoming a commissioned officer in the South Dakota Army National Guard and says he’d like to work for an accounting firm in Rapid City.
Now a father of three, Steve reflects on his time in the Army with an attitude of gratitude. He says he didn’t go far from home after he finished his Army service, but that he felt the Black Hills were the place he wanted to raise his children.
After many summers of working for his grandfather on his ranch just south of New Underwood, Steve still finds the time between college coursework and his job to help out on his family ranch on the weekends.
“If I’ve learned anything from the Army it is to be grateful for every day that you get with the ones you love and to never take time for granted. And call your grandparents. They won’t be around forever,” said Steve.
In addition to Steve, veterans Daniel Etter, history education major from Rapid City; Hrair Palyan, general studies major from Northridge, Calif., and Bryan Vandersloot, business major from Box Elder also received BHSU Jacket Ride Scholarships this year.