Winter 2012/13
Where Leaders Are Born
The University of South Dakota prepares
students to do many grand things.
More than that, it prepares them to lead.
Across all academic and professional disciplines,
graduates of USD go into the world and guide
others, taking lessons from where their careers began
to the top positions across the spectrum of success.
It started from USD’s beginning: Early leaders like
Anna Johnson Pell Wheeler went from graduation
in 1903 to lead the Bryn Mawr University’s
mathematics department. Edith Reeves Solenburger
’06 directed suffrage efforts while championing
children with disabilities. Carl Gunderson graduated
in 1890, and later became the first alumnus
governor of South Dakota.
School of Law graduate and Sioux City, Iowa
native Col. George “Bud” Day ’49, a Medal of
Honor recipient, served as a U.S. Air Force pilot and
was imprisoned for six years in the “Hanoi Hilton”
during the war in Vietnam. What Day endured
would seem to strip out any impression that his time
at USD played an important role in his resistance
against his captors while leading men on the edge
of insanity and death.
“My training in the law school in South Dakota
was always a factor,” he said. “I was trained to be
thorough and persistent, on how to reason, and the
faculty taught us legally what was right and wrong.
It played a role throughout my military career,
including during those six years in North Vietnam.”
Leaders in the arts and humanities face
challenges of another sort. Dell Rapids, S.D. native
Janet Brown ’73, ’03 completed degrees in theatre and public
administration, and as the CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts, a
national association of private and public funders of arts and
culture with offices in Seattle, she credits USD for preparing
her for achievement. Under faculty such as
Dr. Warren M. Lee and Dr. Wayne S. Knutson,
she was able to ply her skills and inspiration
at the Black Hills Playhouse. “Drs. Lee and
Knutson expected professionalism, and I took
that to heart. My peers played a key role in my
development, and I’m still best friends with
many of them,” Brown said. “Producing plays
and handling all aspects of a production, those
were binding experiences where we were together
all day and all night, exposed to deadlines
and collaborating together to solve problems.
Ensemble work is critical, and I was well-versed
in it by the time I graduated.”
From a one-room grade school in Alexandria,
S.D. to senior management in a Fortune 500
company, College of Arts & Sciences alumna
Sylvia Wagner ’71 points to friends as well
as her passion for writing, and draws a line
back to where her success began: At USD. An
executive vice president of human resources and
development with Assurant, a specialty insurance
provider with international offices, Wagner truly
found her stride through a variety of examples
in Vermillion. “The leadership in the Chi
Omega sorority served as examples for my career.
Women like Sylvia Belatti (now Moisan, ’69)
and Nancy Carlsen (’69) challenged me not only
to do well academically but to think beyond
academics to leadership roles on campus,”
Wagner said. “Those relationships impacted my
career in ways I did not anticipate, but they were
priceless interactions. At USD, I gained skills that helped me
to craft my role in human resources. Finding motivation—like
finding one’s major—requires a wide range of experiences. If that’s
not a liberal arts take on business, I don’t know what is.”
USD serves as leadership laboratory
and training ground
By Jarett C. Bies
Col. George “Bud” Day
Janet Brown
Sylvia Wagner
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