Distinguished Alumni honoured during DWU’s Legacy Banquet


Dakota Wesleyan University recognized three alumni with Distinguished Alumni Awards during its annual Legacy Banquet Thursday.

The Legacy Banquet honors alumni, friends and donors of DWU who have generously supported the mission of the university. Each year DWU honors distinguished alumni who have demonstrated their commitment to “Sacrifice or Service” through personal achievement and/or contributions to society, as well as DWU.

Receiving distinguished alumni awards this year are: Posthumously, from the College of Leadership and Public Service: Mike Rogers ’90; from the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences: Audrey Van Genderen ’59, ’65; and from the College of Arts and Humanities: Paul Carlson ’62.

A full list of events for Blue and White Days can be found here: www.dwu.edu/bwdays 

Mike Rogers, formerly of South Sioux City, Nebraska, posthumously received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Leadership and Public Service.

DWU lost a valued friend and alumnus, and the entire community of Sioux City, Iowa, lost a distinguished leader this year when Mike Rogers lost his battle with cancer on March 7, 2019.

Rogers graduated from DWU in 1990 with an individualized major and received his Master of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and earned a Doctor in Education from the University of South Dakota.

He was a highly respected school administrator in the Sioux City Community School District for 26 years. He also served on the DWU board of trustees for 12 years and was named to the DWU Athletic Hall of Fame for his success on the Tiger basketball team, scoring 1,050 points in just two seasons and being selected to the SDIC All-Conference Team as a junior and senior. Rogers was also named the 1990 Scotchman, which is the most prestigious university award given to a graduating male senior.

In 2005, he was named one of the Alumni of the Year by Central Community College in Nebraska. In 2016, Rogers was named the Iowa After School Program Principal of the Year, and in 2017, received the Courage to Teach Award.

He was a youth sports coach and “all-time quarterback” at recess, a Sunday school teacher, a children’s program leader and an active church member. Rogers also continued to support DWU through his experience and counsel, and his giving to the university for the past 24 years.

“He was a man of deep faith with a commitment to serving those most in need,” said DWU President, Amy Novak. “I fondly recall countless conversations with Mike where he advocated and relayed stories with pride of students who overcame challenges and found success through education. To have known Mike was to know generous love and radical hospitality. His patience was boundless, and his spirit was filled with deep hope for all whom he encountered.”

Audrey Van Genderen, of Stickney, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.

Van Genderen enrolled at DWU in 1958. By taking a heavy course load, she earned an Associate of Arts degree in education just one year later. She taught in area rural schools for five years and returned to DWU to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965, graduating cum laude with majors in biology and education, and minors in government and psychology.

She was honored with the E.O. Lawrence Medal in Biology. She also earned a Master of Science degree in zoology from the University of South Dakota.

Van Genderen spent 39 years teaching high school science in Mount Vernon, Plankinton and Stickney and served as an adjunct professor at DWU. She retired in 2004 but was summoned to return to the high school science classroom a few years later to teach upper-level science courses and direct the local science fair at Stickney. She entered her second retirement in 2014.

She is a 40-year member of the South Dakota Education Association – serving as president for 20 years. She also served as the Aurora County commissioner, is a past member of the DWU Alumni Association board and directed her church choir.

She is a member of the DWU Heritage Roll of Honor for including DWU in her estate plans.  She is also a member of the President’s Circle and has given to DWU for the past 30 years.

In 2012, she established the Kuyper Van Genderen Endowed Scholarship to be awarded annually to South Dakota students with majors or minors in biology or government. She believes that education is the key to achieving one’s goals in every area of life and hopes to assist future generations in their pursuit of knowledge and success as contributing citizens.

Paul Carlson, of Ransom Canyon, Texas, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Humanities.

Carlson is a retired history professor and a noted Western historian with 23 published books and more than 240 articles, essays and book reviews.

After graduating from DWU in 1962, he went on to obtain a Master of Science degree from Mankato State University in 1967 and a doctorate from Texas Tech University in 1973.

He began his teaching career at Texas Lutheran University and was the history department chair when he left in 1985.  He then accepted a position at Texas Tech University, where he served as the associate department chair, as well as the founding director for the Texas Tech Center for the Southwest, which dissolved a few years following his retirement. He has received six university teaching awards and retired from teaching in 2008. He is a professor emeritus at Texas Tech.

Carlson’s research and writing have received numerous awards. Just this year, he received the Rupert N. Richardson Prize for his work, “Comanche Jack Stilwell: Army Scout and Plainsman.”  He received the same prize in 1998, 2001 and 2011 for other works.

He is a member of the DWU President’s Circle, as well as Texas Institute of Letters, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and Phi Alpha Theta and Pi Kappa Delta national honor societies. He has also been named a West Texas Historical Association fellow and a Texas State Historical Association fellow.