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Legislative commemoration to honor longtime Mitchell educator

PIERRE -- More than 45 years of public service earned the late Roger Allen a place in history. State Sens. Stace Nelson, of District 19, and Joshua Klumb, of District 20, introduced the legislative commemoration this week "honoring, commending an...

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The late Roger Allen poses for a photo with Diane Sandhoff, director of the Dakota Wesleyan University nursing program. Allen is being honored with a legislative commemoration during this year's session for his years of services as an educator (Photo courtesy of the Dakota Wesleyan University Archives)

PIERRE - More than 45 years of public service earned the late Roger Allen a place in history.

State Sens. Stace Nelson, of District 19, and Joshua Klumb, of District 20, introduced the legislative commemoration this week “honoring, commending and remembering” Roger Allen for his more than 45 years of service as an educator in the Mitchell School District and Dakota Wesleyan University.

Allen graduated from Mitchell High School in 1956, and from there, he received a bachelor’s degree in teaching in 1960 from Dakota Wesleyan. Three years later, the Mitchell native began a 37-year-long career at Mitchell High School, eventually becoming the chair of the English department.

To Terry Aslesen, a science teacher at Mitchell High School, Allen was a “classy person.” Aslesen had known Allen since 1972 as a student, colleague and a supervisor.

Aslesen said Allen, along with Robert Ellingson, were key to starting musicals at the high school. And what he remembers most about Allen is his love for theater.

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“He practiced what he preached as he performed in several plays and musicals and was a very talented actor,” Aslesen said. “As a teacher, Roger Allen had a passion for education. He loved helping his students, whether they were high school students, college students or colleagues in a performance.”

Aslesen said Allen also had a “knack” for seeing what could be improved in performances, speeches or other related activities, caring “deeply” for each of his students.

When thinking of Allen, Aslesen said there’s one thing that comes to mind - puns.

“Roger was the master of puns; most of them actually good puns,” Aslesen said. “He always had a joke to share with others and puns just seemed to roll out of him when he was in conversations, whether it was a classroom, with a group of colleagues or virtually any setting.”

Following his long tenure at the high school, Allen taught for eight years at Dakota Wesleyan as an assistant professor of communications.

The commemoration states that Allen “demonstrated a lifelong tireless love for his community and profession,” as he served in various roles for Mitchell Education Association, the South Dakota Education Association, Association of Classroom Teachers, National Education Association, the Corn Palace Committee, Mitchell Elks, Mitchell Centennial Committee and the Mitchell Area Community Theatre.

The commemoration states that Allen be remembered for “his many years of dedication to educating young South Dakotans and ensuring the bright future of this great state.”

On top of his many years as an educator, Allen also received the DWU Outstanding Educator in 1991, Outstanding Young Educator in Mitchell in 1968, Community Leader of America in 1969 and Outstanding Young Man of American in 1966 and 1969.

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For these reasons, the legislative commemoration was created.

Klumb said he hadn’t met Allen, but knew of him, and when approached by Nelson about the commemoration, he gladly signed.

“Commemorations are widely used here and generally celebratory in nature and/or honoring someone and so I signed it,” Klumb said. “I like to honor people worthy of honor and commendation and Mr. Allen had a large impact on the community as an educator.”

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