WAHPETON — The North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Alumni/Foundation will recognize a group of distinguished alumni and friends at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 during the Alumni and Friends Awards Ceremony in the Hektner Student Center on the NDSCS campus in Wahpeton.

The public is invited to attend the recognition ceremony to celebrate the honorees. Information and registration for the event, as well as additional information about the honorees, can be found online at ndscsalumni.com/homecoming.

The 2021 NDSCS Homecoming Honorees include:

Vanessa (Hackey) Kummer, Alumnus of the Year, is a 1976 graduate, originally from Litchville, North Dakota, and was the first women to be inducted into the NDSCS Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987. During her time as a student, she helped lead the 1976 women’s track team to place in its first national meet.

Through the years Kummer has continued to be a strong supporter of NDSCS’s mission, the Alumni Foundation and Wildcat Athletics. Throughout the years, she has also given back to the college through her service on the Foundation Board, hosting events and gatherings, generously donating to various programs, and being a loyal member of the NDSCS Catbackers Club. Kummer has also shared her leadership skills and talents through serving on various national and local community boards, coaching athletics, and volunteering. Kummer and her husband actively farm and reside near Colfax, North Dakota.

Smith Motors has been selected for this year’s Friends of the College Award for their continued support and dedication to the Alumni Foundation. Smith Motors prides themselves on a tradition of excellence in customer service and satisfaction. Their dedication to creating a strong community is evident through their nearly 20-year history of supporting NDSCS. They currently have 35 full time employees and five part-time employees (including two NDSCS students).

Owners Joel Sirek and Jason Sirek are dedicated volunteers and have served the NDSCS Alumni Foundation and the NDSCS Catbackers in various capacities throughout the years. Smith Motors also generously supports the college financially. They are a Foundation sponsor, a Catbacker sponsor, donate annually to the DREAMS Auction, and provide a vehicle for the annual NDSCS Catbacker’s Car Raffle every third year.

Ardeith (Juven) Richter will be the 2021 Parade Grand Marshal. For 27 years, Richter was an instructor in the Legal Administrative Assistant Program and has continued to be a true NDSCS ambassador into retirement. Throughout the years she undeniably touched countless students – and still enjoys visiting with former students during homecoming. In 2004 she established an endowment in memory of her husband, Larry, that will positively impact students well into the future. Richter’s dedication and passion for NDSCS is remarkable.

Tana Erbes has been selected as a recipient of this year’s Commitment to Excellence Award. Since 2016 Erbes has served NDSCS as a Program Outreach Specialist – focused on increasing enrollment in academic programs that are experiencing low enrollment – but are in high-demand by business and industry partners. She appreciates the many opportunities she has, to help students find their right path; bringing a positive energy and a desire to share the endless opportunities NDSCS has to offer. Erbes’s passion for NDSCS is easily seen and felt through interactions with students, families, and fellow staff members. Erbes is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota, and currently resides in Breckenridge, Minnesota.

Leslie Shirek has also been selected as a Commitment to Excellence Award recipient. Shirek joined the NDSCS community in 2016 as a Program Outreach Specialist. In her role, she is focused on increasing enrollment in academic programs that are experiencing low enrollment – but are in high-demand by business and industry partners. Whether it is updating classrooms and labs, helping to mentor a new faculty member, or reaching out to students, her impact on NDSCS is felt in a variety of ways. Leslie also serves the NDSCS Community on Staff Senate, serving as President for the 2021-2022 year. Shirek, a native of Warren, Minnesota, currently resides in Barnesville, Minnesota, and serves her local community as a school board member.

Kara Gruenberg, Wildcat of the Year, is an Associate Professor in the Academic Services Center (ASC) and Electrical Department at NDSCS, also serving as department chair for the ASC. As a long-time member of the Catbacker Club, Gruenberg can often be found cheering on student-athletes and enjoying NDSCS performing arts events. A native of Wolverton, Minnesota, she has worked at NDSCS since 1992 and credits her success inside the classroom to the many mentors that showed her how to be an effective instructor – but also the importance of creating connections with the students. Gruenberg reflects that “everyone works here for the right reason, it’s the personal connections at NDSCS that make a difference and that’s what I love about working here.”

The Louis and Mary Ann Keller Family has been selected to receive the Family Tradition Award. Nine of the ten Keller children earned degrees in seven areas from NDSCS. The patriarch of the Keller family, Louis Keller, was a true innovator. From their machine shop in Rothsay, Minnesota, Louis and his brother Cyril invented the “Keller Self-Propelled Loader” a compact 3-wheel machine, to clean local turkey barns. In 1958, Louis and Cyril awarded Melroe Manufacturing, Inc. of Gwinner, North Dakota, rights to the patent and joined the company. Together, they would develop the Bobcat Skid-steer Loader. Eventually Cyril transitioned to sales, while Louis remained at the factory, continuing to design new and improved models of the skid-steer. It is likely that the hands-on nature of Louis’ work and innovative personality influenced his children to attend NDSCS. The NDSCS tradition continued with their children, spouses, and grandchildren attending NDSCS.

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