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MTI honors donors

Jeff Nelson, third from left, and his wife Trudiann, second from left, pose for a photo with Mitchell Technical Institute President Greg Von Wald, far left, and President of East River Electric Board of Directors Jim Ryken, far right, during MTI's annual Donor Recognition event Tuesday at the school's Campus Center. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

Jeff Nelson has certainly impacted Mitchell Technical Institute.

Tuesday night at MTI’s annual donor recognition event, held at the school’s Campus Center, MTI returned the favor.

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Nelson, CEO of East River Electric Power Cooperative, is a founding member of MTI’s Strategic Advisory Council and a member of the MTI Foundation Board of Trustees. He was presented with MTI’s Donor Legacy Award while representing East River Electric.

Then Nelson and his wife, Trudiann, were honored by having an endowment scholarship established in their names.

“What a great honor for us to associate ourselves with a great school that’s committed to making such a positive impact in the workforce,” Nelson said. “We are both very touched.”

The endowment scholarship, set up by East River Electric and four other contributors in honor of Nelson's impending retirement, was announced by East River Electric Board of Directors President Jim Ryken. The other four contributors were CoBank, the Cooperative Finance Cooperation, Rushmore Electric and the South Dakota Rural Electric Association. The total amount contributed was $25,000.

The Nelsons will help decide the criteria for who receives the scholarship each year, when $1,000 total will be given out annually to students at the school. It will be called the Jeffrey L. and Trudiann Nelson Rural Electric Endowment Scholarship.

“We know your work will live on in this endowment,” Ryken said.

Nelson’s contributions to MTI include securing a $100,000 commitment from East River to MTI’s capital campaign. MTI President Greg Von Wald — who presented all of the awards — explained Nelson and East River Electric donated MTI’s first bucket truck with a boom high enough for students to reach the 55-foot level. That was important to teach students power transmission, Von Wald said.

MTI’s Donor Legacy Award is given to a donor that has consistently supported the MTI Foundation since its founding in 1999.

East River Electric also donated transmission equipment for the construction of MTI’s training substation for its Electrical Utilities and Substation Technology program.

To date, East River Electric has awarded $13,000 to students in the MTI Power Line program and has also served as an internship site and has employed MTI’s graduates over the years.

“In 30 years, we’ve trained a lot of linemen,” Von Wald said. “East River Electric Power has been a big part of that and has left a lasting legacy on the industry.”

Von Wald thanked all of the donors who attended the event. MTI Director of Marketing and Public Information Julie Brookbank said about 110 people attended.

“We simply could not do it without your support,” said Von Wald, who explained the $135,000 in scholarships handed out this year is an all-time high. “What you have done to further the education of these students is amazing. We couldn’t do what we do without your help.”

Two exiting members of the MTI Foundation Board of Trustees, Doug Fuerst and Jon Schmitz, were recognized for their service. Fuerst joined the Foundation board in 2006, serving seven years as a representative of the staff and faculty. Schmitz became a member in 2007, serving six years. He also served as president from 2010 to 2012.

Here is a look at the other awards handed out Tuesday night.

Individual Donors of the Year: George and Violet Kostelecky

Melissa Eich  George and Violet Kostelecky endowed a scholarship fund for $25,000 in memory of their son, Rick, who died in 2012. They received the Individual Donors of the Year award, which is given to an individual or family who has made a single or multiyear commitment to an MTI Foundation initiative, program or scholarship.

Rick, a native of Lemmon, was a graduate from MTI’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance program in 1982. He died at his home in Sturgis in August 2012. The endowment will fund two scholarships each year for students in the same program that Rick took. The first two Rick Kostelecky Endowment Scholarship recipients will be announced in March.

The Kosteleckys were represented Tuesday night by their daughter, Melissa, and son-in-law, David Eich, of Bridgewater. George died Oct. 5 while doing chores in his barn during the blizzard in western South Dakota, and Violet was unable to attend the event.

Corporate Donors of the Year: Innovative Systems

Roger Musick  Innovative Systems founder Roger Musick has been a longtime supporter of MTI and serves as a founding member and president of the MTI Strategic Advisory Council. He represented Innovative Systems for the Corporate Donors of the Year award. It is given to a company that has made a single or multiyear commitment to an MTI Foundation initiative, a program or scholarship.

Kyle Musick assisted MTI with its capital campaign and Ryan Tupper, an MTI alumnus, served on both the MTI Foundation board as past president and as a member of the Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

Those three have committed $90,000 to help sponsor the development of a leadership academy at MTI focused on providing education to young technicians.

Innovative also donated technology to the telecom program, valued at $125,000.

“Sometimes we don’t have to look further than our hometown to find a valued supporter and partner,” Von Wald said.

Volunteerism and Service Award: Lance Koth

Lance Koth  Lance Koth is a 1972 graduate from MTI and is president of First Dakota Bank in Mitchell.

Early in the development of MTI’s capital campaign, the school reached out to Koth to get his insight on the agriculture industry. Von Wald said Koth organized a campaign that was successful in raising funds and developing relationships with supporters for MTI.

Koth was honored with the Volunteerism and Service award. It is given to someone who has given his or her time and talent to MTI, the MTI Foundation or to the MTI Alumni Association.

“He’s a great example of what should come from MTI,” Von Wald said.

Industry of the Year Award: Energy Production and Transmission

The Industry of the Year award is given to an industry that has come together to support an MTI program with donations of cash, equipment, supplies, training or provided internships or employment opportunities to MTI graduates.

Several representatives from a variety of utility companies were present, including Basin Electric; Black Hills Corporation; CoBank; East River Electric Power Cooperative; Montana-Dakota Utilities Company; NorthWestern Energy; Otter Tail Power Company; South Dakota Rural Electric Association; and Xcel Energy.