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Majors & Degrees

Giving back

March 18, 2019

At Dakota State University we’re more than technology. We’re a university who takes pride in our campus, students, and local community. We always search for ways to lend a helping hand.

In addition to their role at DSU, several university employees donate to scholarship funds or create endowments at Dakota State University.

Dr. Zeno Van Erdewyk, Dr. Chris Olson, Kelli Koepsell, and Dr. Mark Hawkes are just a few DSU employees who have created scholarships and endowments to help students continue their education.

Dr. Zeno Van ErdewykFormer faculty member, Zeno Van Erdewyk, attended DSU in 1955 when it was still called General Beadle State Teacher College. After graduating college, he taught high school, and earned his master’s and Ph.D. Van Erdewyk then returned to Dakota State in 1967 to teach for 37 years.

In his last 15 years as a faculty member, Van Erdewyk became involved with scholarships and eventually created two endowed scholarships, the Van Erdewyk Family Endowed scholarship and the Zeno and Carol Van Erdewyk Endowed scholarship.

Van Erdewyk stressed the importance of scholarships for students as student debt continues to climb, citing a KSFY report from August of 2018 which identified a study that ranks South Dakota number one for overall “student loan indebtedness.”

“Any financial assistance they can get is appreciated by the students,” Van Erdewyk said.  

Dr. Chris OlsonA current faculty member has experience as a DSU scholarship recipient when he attended Dakota State from 1996-2001. Chris Olson received a four-year academic scholarship, which inspired him to give back and help support current students.

“Having that scholarship really helped me so I could focus on my academics and not have to work to try and earn money in other places,” Olson said.

Olson also gives back because “we’re here because of the students.”  

Olson was in an accident in 2001 in which his girlfriend at the time, DSU student Tana Thompson, died. Olson began donating to the scholarship fund set up by her parents.

A few years later, in 2005, Olson was hired as a DSU instructor and continued contributing to scholarships.

Recently, he and his wife, Stacy, started the Joshua Lambrecht endowment to honor Stacy’s first husband, who died in a plane crash in Sioux Falls in 2011. Lambrecht was a very skilled computer programmer, but wasn’t able to go to college due to the cost.

“His life may have been dramatically different if he would have had the resources to go to college and fund an education, but he had to teach himself,” Olson said.

Olson sees these memorial scholarships as a way to pay tribute to what they may have accomplished had they not passed away early in life.

“I see so many benefits for creating those scholarships and donating to them,” Olson said. “We want to make sure anyone who wants to go to college can.”

Olson is not the only DSU employee whose giving is inspired from personal experiences. Kelli Koepsell, director of marketing and communications, battled breast cancer five years ago. This motivated her to start a scholarship for students touched by cancer.

Kelli KoepsellKoepsell began her career at DSU in 1993 as director of marketing and public relations, which she held for 10 years, before taking a job with Sanford Health for 15 years. When the director of marketing and communications opened at DSU, she decided she wanted to come “home.”

During her first employment at DSU, Koepsell gave regularly through annual donations and upon her return she has set up a scholarship.

“It’s always been important to me to give back to the organization I work for,” she said. “I carried that through when I worked at Sanford Health.”

Koepsell’s life changed five years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The scholarship she has created is available to students who have had cancer or have a close family member with cancer.

“School is really hard anyway, and then to have someone you love battling a terrible disease – it’s just kind of nice to have a little financial burden taken away,” she explained. “I think about my daughter, she was 500 miles away and her mom was going through surgeries and treatments and she couldn’t do anything.”

Her daughter was a sophomore in college when she was diagnosed with cancer and received a similar scholarship, which helped Koepsell feel like her daughter was being thought of by her university.

 “I tried to take that diagnosis and do good with it and one of the ways I want to do that is through this scholarship,” she said.

Dr. Mark HawkesAnother faculty member, Dr. Mark Hawkes, is currently working with his wife, Joy, to create an endowment.

Hawkes was working at a research lab in Chicago prior to joining DSU 20 years ago. He began donating to the college initially and ultimately he and his wife decided to create an endowment. This requires a larger sum of money than a yearly scholarship, so the couple is currently saving for an endowment.

Hawkes is inspired to give by the sense of gratitude he has for being able to work in such a great environment with quality peers and students he has formed lasting relationships with.

“It comes out of the place of a really deep sense of gratitude and a desire to help young people reach their own career goals,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes believes every little bit helps build the scholarship program, noting $25 can go a long way.

“By giving even a small amount you’re a part of an extraordinary story that is Dakota State University, that has a rich history of serving students in the region and has a real amazing future in the things we do well. Even if you live a long ways away, you can still be a part of the DSU legacy by contributing to the scholarship programs of the university.”

This year DSU faculty, staff, and the public have the opportunity to contribute to scholarship funding with the first Day of Giving on Friday, March 22. Watch your email and DSU’s social media to learn how you can participate as the Day of Giving draws near.

For more information on DSU’s Day of Giving visit https://givingday.dsu.edu/info/faq.