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Mitchell man named SD's philanthropist of the year

Gopal Vyas thanks the crowd while Lt. Gov. Matt Michels laughs during the Governor's Awards Luncheon at the Highland Conference Center. Vyas was named South Dakota Association of Fundraising Professionals’ outstanding philanthropist of 2017.

Gopal Vyas wants to make a difference.

But in doing so, he turned a few heads and found himself being named the South Dakota Association of Fundraising Professionals' outstanding philanthropist of 2017.

On Tuesday, Vyas — who has lived in Mitchell for the past 40 years — was honored during the Governor's Awards Luncheon at the Highland Conference Center. The luncheon was the ending event of a two-day conference in Mitchell for the association, featuring Lt. Gov. Matt Michels as keynote speaker.

"It's hard for me to believe I was chosen for this award," Vyas said, adding that he's deeply honored and overwhelmed. "I'm just invested in helping the younger generation going through college and making themselves better ... If we can, we have to give the younger generation all the hope, all the push and all I can do."

Vyas, who grew up in India, is the chairman of Tessier's Inc., a mechanical contracting company in Mitchell. But it was his work with the community that earned him the award, specifically with Abbott House where he serves as president of the Abbott House Foundation Board.

On top of the volunteering with the Abbott House — who nominated Vyas for the award — he has been involved with LifeQuest, the Mitchell Recreation Center, United Way, Mitchell School District Angel Fund, Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University.

Vyas was also one of the founding members of the Mitchell Technical Institute Foundation, which assists with student scholarships. He served as the foundation's first president.

But for Vyas, it's all about the Mitchell community, where he has called "home" for 40 years. And he will continuing volunteering his time and money for as long as he can.

"Gopal exemplifies what it means to be a community philanthropist and a servant," said Rick Weber, emcee for Tuesday's event and development director for the Children's Home Foundation in Sioux Falls. " ... Gopal has always been a visionary in making good things happen. He has a compassion for the needs of others."

Additional awards

Other awards given out during Tuesday's event include the following:

• Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy: Lilly Gibson. She was nominated by Northern Plains Eye Foundation.

• Outstanding Philanthropic Community: City of DeSmet. The city was nominated by South Dakota Community Foundation and the Avera Queen of Peace Foundation.

• Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation: Avera Health. The corporation was nominated by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

• Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Jennifer Kirby. She was nominated by Maximizing Excellence, LLC.