Honorary doctorate, speaker announced for DWU’s 2014 Commencement - Dakota Wesleyan University 360 WebCMS - News

Honorary doctorate, speaker announced for DWU’s 2014 Commencement

Friday, April 25, 2014


DWU alumnus to give Commencement address

Dakota Wesleyan University will celebrate commencement Saturday, May 3, with a baccalaureate service and graduation, and an honorary degree will be conferred posthumously upon a former faculty member.

Baccalaureate will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 3, at the Sherman Center on campus, and Commencement is set for 1 p.m. at the Corn Palace with 209 graduates.

Dr. Terry Grindstaff will be the special speaker for Commencement and Dr. Kenneth Novak will offer the Baccalaureate message. An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters will be awarded posthumously to Ann Mitchell.

Grindstaff, of Omaha, Neb., is a 1999 Dakota Wesleyan graduate and assistant professor at the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb. His Commencement address is titled “Appreciating Opportunity.”

Grindstaff studied sports medicine at DWU and was an NAIA National Wrestling Tournament Qualifier in 1999. Following DWU, he obtained a Master of Science, Health and Physical Education from Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro; a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Belmont University in Nashville, and a Doctor of Philosophy, Kinesiology from the University of Virginia. He is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist.

Grindstaff has over 45 publications in the areas of sports medicine and physical therapy. He has been the recipient of over $1.2 million in research grants, and is a regular presenter at professional association meetings.  He has served as a medical volunteer with USA Wrestling, Special Olympics, Project Homeless Connect Omaha and various sports tournaments.

He and his wife, Jill, have three children: Jackson, Greyson and Pierson.

Novak will deliver the sermon, “The Culture Made Me Do It!” during the Baccalaureate service.

Novak earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  A published author, Novak’s professional background also includes 13 years of service to the U.S. Air Force, including roles as a military acquisition specialist, teacher of the year at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the chief speechwriter for the U.S. Air Force Command in Europe.

As an English professor at the United States Air Force Academy, he received the Academy Outstanding Educator Award. As a stay-at-home dad to eight children, he volunteers on many fronts in the Mitchell community, with a special commitment to Dakota Wesleyan University as the school’s First Gentleman. 

Novak is married to DWU President Amy Novak and they have eight children: Peter, Isaac, Luke, Mark, Seemela Grace, Marianna, Elijah, and Zechariah.

Mitchell, a Boston-area native, taught children’s literature at Dakota Wesleyan from 1973-2001, and her love for the written word was infectious.  She inspired students and affected generations through her passionate teaching and bag of books, which was her constant companion.  Regularly she would pull out a children’s book or two and read to her students.

Mitchell was born in 1939 in Canton, Mass., and attended Cornell University in New York, earning her bachelor’s degree. She later obtained her master’s degree in education from Harvard University.  It was at Cornell that she met Dave Mitchell, a New York native.  They were married on Sept. 8, 1962.

They spent the first few years of their marriage in Cincinnati, where she taught elementary school, until returning to Boston, where she also taught.  It was back in her home city that they met Don Messer, the man who would bring them to South Dakota.  Messer, a Dakota Wesleyan alumnus and future college president, invited them to teach in a city by their same name, Mitchell, S.D.  Mitchell’s adventurous spirit supported the move and they would, to their surprise, make Dakota Wesleyan and Mitchell their permanent home.

One of Mitchell’s greatest interests was reading, especially helping children access literature.  She was active in the local reading council, assisted the Dakota Wesleyan library and the Monhegan Memorial Library select new books for their collections, and helped develop the book giveaway program for the Love Feast at the First United Methodist Church. Her collection of more than 3,000 children’s books was donated to DWU.

Mitchell was an active church member all her life. Among her most significant contributions to the First United Methodist Church was her involvement in the founding of the Love Feast. 

She was also a devoted community servant, balancing her commitments to family and teaching with significant involvement in volunteer activities.  She was a longtime leader in the local Democratic Party and called hundreds of volunteers yearly for fundraisers and get-out-the-vote efforts.  A skeptic regarding electronic communication, she believed in the importance of the personal touch. She received the Goldie Wells Award for lifetime achievement from the state party for her efforts in grassroots organizing.

After a six-year battle with cancer, she died on July 20, 2012, at the family home she loved so much on Monhegan Island, Maine. She is survived by her husband, Dave Mitchell, DWU professor of business administration and economics, and her daughters and their families, Patti Duffy, Fort Pierre, and Nancy Mitchell, Philadelphia.



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Dakota Wesleyan University was named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Dakota Wesleyan University is proudly affiliated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Members of any and all faiths are welcome and encouraged to experience an education based on learning, leadership, faith and service.
Dakota Wesleyan University has been honored as a College of Distinction through demonstration of excellence in these areas: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes.
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