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Graduates attitudes 'critical to success'

Taylor Risse, right, receives her diploma from Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak Sunday during DWU's graduation at the Corn Palace. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

Sunday marked a new beginning for Dakota Wesleyan University graduates.

Encouraged by commencement speakers and DWU faculty to view Sunday's graduation as a beginning, rather than an ending, 236 graduates received diplomas at the Corn Palace.

And keynote speaker Dusty Johnson told graduates it won't always be an easy journey moving forward into the "working world," but if they battle through the difficult days, they are bound to be successful.

"There will be times that you want to give up, but those are really the days we make our presence on this planet known. ... You can be trampled down by that challenge, or you can choose to rise above it," said Johnson, a candidate for the 2018 race for South Dakota's lone seat in the United States House of Representatives. "Every single day for the rest of your life, you have an opportunity to make that decision and to answer that question, and how you answer it will be critical to your success on that day."

Entwined with a story about a negative experience while working with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Johnson urged graduates to keep embracing the hard times and rejoice in the good. Because in a world seemingly riddled with bad news, Johnson said, there's always a silver lining somewhere. And, Johnson said, attending college at DWU has prepared each of the graduates for the future.

"The one thing that you have power over is your attitude," Johnson said. "And you may not believe this today, but your time at Dakota Wesleyan has prepared you to tackle those challenges to a far greater degree than you imagine. ... You have chosen to go to school at a place that embraces fate. Don't ever give up."

Following Johnson's speech, students were awarded bachelor degrees while others were presented master's degrees.

DWU President Amy Novak said the group of graduates were comprised of a record-breaking number of students furthering their education by attending law school, medical school or graduate school, among other endeavors.

Also recognized during Sunday's ceremony was Clinton Desmond, who was awarded the Clarke Award for Teaching Excellence for his commitment to DWU music programs.

Desmond joined the staff in 2010 and is the chairman for the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music, conducts the Dakota Wesleyan Choir, The Highlanders, The Singing Scotchmen and teaches.

He was nominated by members of The Highlanders, who described him as "extremely passionate."

"Over the time that we have been in the music program here we have seen him push himself to be the best conductor and teacher that he can be so that, in return, he can push us to be the best students that we can be," the nomination leader from The Highlanders' nomination letter said.

Honorary degrees

Two community members also received honorary doctorate degrees from DWU on Sunday.

• A Nebraska native, John Clarke was given a Doctor of Business Administration degree for his commitment to the community of Mitchell. In 1984, Clarke purchased Bennett's Market in Mitchell, and created County Fair Foods. Clarke has served as president of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, the Mitchell Area Development Corporation, the Friends of the Middle Border and the South Dakota Retailers Association, and has been a member of various other organizations. Clarke also served a 12-year term on the Dakota Wesleyan University Board of Trustees.

• Denny Kaemingk, the South Dakota Secretary of Corrections and a former Mitchell police officer, was granted a Doctor of Law by the university. Kaemingk worked at the Mitchell Police Division for 24 years, helping organize the James Valley Drug Task Force and Mitchell Area Crime Stoppers. Adding to his lengthy resume, Kaemingk served on the Task Force on Corrections after being appointed by then-Gov. Mike Rounds. From 2001 to 2011, he shared his experience and passion for service and law enforcement with students as a part-time instructor at DWU.

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