Honorary doctorate, speaker announced for DWU’s 2013 Commencement

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
MITCHELL — Dakota Wesleyan University will celebrate commencement Saturday, May 4, with a baccalaureate service and graduation, and an honorary degree will be given to the former chairman of the board of trustees.

Baccalaureate will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4, at the Sherman Center on campus, and Commencement is set for 1 p.m. at the Corn Palace with 172 graduates.

DWU President Dr. Robert Duffett will be the special speaker for Commencement and Dr. Boyd Blumer, adjunct professor of religion and philosophy, will speak at Baccalaureate. An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters will be awarded to Jack Billion, of Sioux Falls.

Duffett has been president of Dakota Wesleyan since 2000. Affectionately dubbed “Bob the Builder,” Duffett’s reign at the university has seen the most number of construction projects in the history of any DWU president, including the McGovern Library, Sherman Center, Wagner Chapel, Allen Apartments, Jackson Plaza, Allen Hall renovations and most recently, he was part of the team responsible for securing two gifts of $5 million each and raising the remaining $1.5 million to construct the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center, which will be dedicated this fall.

Duffett’s Commencement address, “Now What?” will reflect on his 13 years as president at Dakota Wesleyan and his plans to begin anew at another institution this summer, much like many of DWU’s graduates who will move on to graduate school or their professional careers. Duffett and his wife, Connie, will move to St. Davids, Penn., at the end of May, and he will assume the presidency at Eastern University.

Blumer will deliver the sermon during this year’s Baccalaureate, “Dreams, Hopes, Visions.”

“Nothing significant has ever happened without someone having a hope or dream or vision,” Blumer said of his speech. “No matter how insignificant or preposterous, they are essential in directing and motivating our lives. My plea will be to believe them, trust them and follow them.  The basis for the thoughts is based on a personal experience.”

Blumer has been an adjunct in the religion and philosophy department at DWU since 2001 and also worked for the physical plant staff since 2002. He announced his retirement from the physical plant this May, but will continue to teach. Before DWU, he spent 37 years as a United Methodist pastor, six as a United Methodist district superintendent and two as the Tree of Life ministry director.

Billion, a native of the Sioux Falls area, and former chairman of the DWU Board of Trustees, will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Billion earned his undergraduate degree at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and attended medical school at Loyola University in Chicago. He completed his internship and residency in orthopedic surgery in Peoria, Ill., and then served two years in the U.S. Air Force. When his military service was complete, he joined the Van Demark Clinic in Sioux Falls in 1971. By that time, he was board certified in orthopedic surgery and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Though his practice was in Sioux Falls, in 1976, Billion became the volunteer team physician for Dakota Wesleyan athletics. He continued in that role for 10 years, near the end of which he was invited to serve on the DWU Board of Trustees.

His career in orthopedics continued at the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic from 1980 to 1989, and at the Royal C. Johnson Veterans Hospital from 1990 to 1993. At McKennan Hospital, he served as chief of surgery and later, chief of staff. In 1992, he founded Northern Plains Orthopedics in Sioux Falls. While at the Veterans Hospital, he served as chief of the orthopedic section of the USD School of Medicine and attained the rank of professor of orthopedic surgery.

In addition to his time in the military, Billion served his community and state through public service. He served two terms in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1992 to 1996. Following his legislative career, he was elected vice chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, and he later served as chairman of the Minnehaha Democratic Party. In 2006, he was the South Dakota gubernatorial candidate for the Democratic Party. From 2006 to 2009, he was the state chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

He served on the boards for Glory House, Southeastern Behavioral Healthcare and the Family Practice Residency, and he was on the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Hazardous Waste. Billion currently serves on the Foundation Board of the Children’s Care Hospital and School.

Billion’s service to DWU has been outstanding. Possibly the longest-serving trustee in DWU history, he served a total of 25 years. During that time, he was the chairman of the Academic Affairs and the Development committees, and he was chairman of the National Campaign Steering Committee for the McGovern Library. He served as chairman of the board from 2007 to 2012, a most successful time in the life of the university, culminating with the two largest gifts in our history, a total of $10 million for the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center.

He is the father of seven children, and he has 15 grandchildren. His wife, Deborah, is the daughter of Frances Blessing Wagner and the late Robert Wagner, alumni and longtime friends of the university and namesakes of the Wagner Chapel on campus.

Categories: News
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