When Gene Schlekeway was named head football coach at Black Hills State in 1968, he had no idea how impactful the university would be in his life. Gene and his wife, Norma, will lead the 2019 Swarm Day Homecoming Parade Saturday, Sept. 28 as Parade Marshals, in honor of their contributions and support of the university.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. at Jackson Blvd. and Main Street.
“Black Hills State University means everything to me; the only thing in my life that means more than BH is my family,” said Gene.
Gene was associated with Black Hills State football for 20 years, serving as head coach from 1968-1982. Under his direction, the Jackets won titles in 1970 and 1979. He was inducted into the Yellow Jacket Hall of Fame in 1988 and the SDIC Hall of Fame in 1983. A standout athlete at Northern State college from 1951-55, he earned 12 varsity letters, was a member of nine teams that won SDIC titles, and was also inducted into the Northern State College Hall of Fame in 1984.
“Receiving the job of head football coach at Black Hills State was the best thing that ever happened to me largely due to the people I have met,” said Gene. “I have made lifetime friends with my co-workers, student athletes and devout BH supporters.”
Gene retired from BHSU in 1995 with the status of emeritus faculty. In addition to coaching, he served as the director of residence life for a period of time. Over the past five years, Gene has spearheaded annual football team reunions with the BHSU Alumni Association. This fall the 1970s Black Hills State College football teams are invited to a reunion after the Swarm Day football game Sept. 28.
Norma graduated from Black Hills State in 1972 with a degree in elementary education. She taught primary grade levels at West Elementary for 20 years and says third grade was her favorite.
The Schlekeway’s have five children (three attended BHSU – Karen, Jack and Bryan), 12 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
“We thank the university for the topnotch education they continue to offer our students and all the former student athletes we have had the pleasure of knowing. They have gone out into the world and have had successful careers,” said Gene. “I am truly humbled to have worked at Black Hills making a positive impact in people’s lives.”
The Swarm Day Parade this year will also feature royalty from the past. Celebrating 50 years will be the 1969 Swarm Day Queen, Doreen (Kaitfors) Hazledine and the 1969 Miss Yellow Jacket, Judy A.B. Jelbert. Celebrating their 40th Anniversary will be the 1979 Swarm King & Queen, Randy Nicholas & Lori (Hanson) Fiedler and the 1979 Miss BHSC, Marla (Hershey) Barnard.
For the last time, veterans from Rapid City are bringing “Jo Ann the Duck” to Spearfish for the Swarm Day Parade this year. The duck was created by the BHSU Vets Club in the late 1960s and it appeared in Swarm Days Parades throughout the 1970s. The duck represents the comradery Vietnam-era veterans felt after returning to America, and especially to college campuses, following their military service.
For the full BHSU Swarm Week Homecoming schedule, visit www.BHSU.edu/SwarmWeek