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DSU Archives: Distinguished Alumni & Faculty

Gertrude Gill

Gertrude Gill

Gertrude Gill was one of Dakota State University’s most beloved, founding educators of her time.  Ms. Gill was born on March 9, 1890 in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota. She was first contacted to work at the then Eastern State Normal School by Dr. Edgar C. Higbie. 

While at Dakota State University Ms. Gill served as the advisor to the Chapter of Kappa Sigma Iota. This society was viewed as one of the most elite society's to enter into. The society strived for a high standard of excellence in, “maintaining an educational society dedicated to maintaining a high level of scholastic achievement and fostering high ideals of professional fellowship.” After serving as teacher and advisor to the KSI Chapter, Gill decided to retire in 1959. 

After leaving the school she decided to live out the rest of her days in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, passing away in 1983. What people found out later was that Ms. Gill’s estate was worth $275,000 and it was to be sold off and the money given back to Dakota State. Since Gill assisted in establishing the KSI Chapter and advising it, Dakota State decided to make an endowment in her name. The endowment became official in 1985 and the qualifications to enter into the society became; “a grade point of 3.5, leadership skills and a satisfactory effort towards a baccalaureate degree in Information Systems."

Dr. Ray Kellogg

Dr. Ray Kellogg

Dr. Kellogg attended school in Madison in 1931 when the college was known as Eastern State Teacher's College. Kellogg practiced as a physician at New Mexico State University for several years.

He established a memorial fund in 1973 honoring his father Dr. Harold E. Kellogg, who attended the Normal School for one year in 1901 before going to medical school. The elder Kellogg practiced in Eastern South Dakota for thirty years. According to The Eastern newspaper, Harold "was known to be generous to his patients and frequently charged no fee at all for his services. During the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919... Dr. Kellogg went eight full days without change of clothes and slept only while being driven from one call to another."

In the yearbook of Dr. Kellogg's graduating class, a notation reads:

"Ray's cartoons for the Trojan and those he produced in Mr. Peterson's history class are ample proof of his ability as an artist. Ray is another prodigal son. He left Eastern, attended Purdue University and an art school, and has returned to finish work for a degree. He is a member of Kappa Sigma Iota, but quoting him, 'Don't hold that against him'."

Dr. Kellogg is also credited with suggesting the name "Trojans" for the school mascot.

Richard Barrett Lowe

Richard Barrett Lowe

The Lowe family affiliation with Dakota State goes back to 1889, when Edna Beck Lowe, mother of Barrett, graduated from Madison State Normal School. Ms. Lowe taught music at DSU in the 1920s Edna's husband was the first medical doctor in Lake County. Richard Barrett Lowe was born in Madison, South Dakota in 1902 and graduated in 1929 from the Normal School.

During his senior year, he wrote the scenario and directed the motion picture, "Dacotah". "Dacotah" is believed to be the first full-length motion picture ever produced on a college campus. The motion picture was produced by students and faculty from Eastern State Normal School in the spring of 1929 and chronicles the history of South Dakota from prehistoric times to the present. It was completed in six reels with no sound.

Lowe reminisces on this film in his book 20 million acres, writing:

"Of fascinating scenes that stand out in memory the breaking of the oxen was the most humorous, the work of the Flandreau Indians was the most interesting, the prairie fire scene was the most thrilling, the property girl strapping a sword to Beadle for use as a surveyor on the open prairie was the most ridiculous, the bucking horse with delicate and valuable surveying instruments dangling between fore and hind legs was the most profane, and the theft of the jerked beef by hungry students was by far the most tragic."

After graduation, Lowe went on to be an educator and was superintendent of several schools in several South Dakota districts. He also served as President of Sioux Falls College for a short time.

In. 1943, Lowe became commander in the Navy Reserve. There he originated the "Stay in School" program and published the Occupational Handbook. While in the Navy, he became interested in island government. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed him as governor of American Samoa. There, he was successful in bringing stability to the government in a short time. Upon leaving the island, a civilian was selected as his successor. In 1956, he was able to repeat his success in Guam. He left Guam in 1956 with civilian governors in place.

He settled in Washington D.C. where he began to restore old homes. Several of which were quite famous, including one which was rebuilt on the spot of George Washington's Town House that served as his surveying office.

Steve Silva

Steve Silva on People Magazine

Steve Silva, a 1971 graduate of Dakota State College, has been featured on the cover of People Magazine, had his story told in Sports Illustrated, appeared on Good Morning America, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe. 

After graduation, Steve returned to his home state of Massachusetts and began to teach physical education. After college, Steve began gaining weight and in 1979, his weight had reached 425 lbs.

Due to 31 years of unhealthy living, the doctors gave Steve 5 years to live. He had degenerative joint disease in both ankles, gout, and a very bad back. An intestinal bypass was considered but abandoned as too risky. In 1979, Steve became aware of Dr. Lawrence Stifler's of Health Management Resources program which utilized a very low calorie diet with an intensive exercise program. Under this program, he lost 235 pounds.

Steve realized that he "would have regained all that weight in half the time it took to lose it if I hadn't watched the calories and increased my physical exercise. Most importantly, I increased my physical activity."

Steve found that he best method of balancing calories was stair climbing. Running to the top of New York's Empire State building became Steve's three year goal. Steve averaged 30,000 stairs per week along with weight training and aerobics. In 1983, Steve placed 14th in the Empire State "Runup", beating 76 long distance runners, many of whom were world-class marathoners. He was the only non-long distance runner to qualify.

Zeno Van Erdewyk

Zeno Van Erdewyk

Zeno Van Erdewyk grew up on the eastern plains of South Dakota. His first eight years of formal education were spent in a one-room schoolhouse about a mile from his family's home. He attended high school in Brandt, South Dakota, where there were twenty-six students in grades nine through twelve, including ten in Zeno's graduating class. 

Zeno graduated from General Beadle in 1959 and began teaching in Trent, South Dakota. In 1960, he married Carol Toft and together they had four children. By 1967, Zeno had completed his master's degree from South Dakota State and earned an Ed.D from the University of North Dakota. Lorence Flaum hired him in 1967 to return to his alma mater and teach psychology.

A unique experience presented itself in 1972 when Zeno's proposal for a student teaching program at the American School in London was accepted. The Van Erdewyk's spent a year living in London, where Zeno oversaw student teachers from Dakota State College, South Dakota State University, and Northern State College. Students from these schools would sign up to do their practice teaching at private schools in London, with Zeno as their resident supervisor. He set up the same type of program with the Caribbean Consolidated School in Puerto Rico, which accepted its first student teacher in 1992. Zeno returned to London and to Europe many times over the ensuing years, as the director of student tours for Dakota State. Over 275 people have gone to Europe on these tours, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 81.