Alumni Fellows

The Alumni Fellows Program was implemented in 2003 to recognize alumni who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers. This program brings outstanding alumni to campus to share their experiences with students, staff and faculty.

Mr. Reese has been an Agriculture Teacher for 19 years. He lives in Hillsboro, North Dakota with his wife Katie and their 6-year-old son, Mack."The staff and students that were at DSU when I attended from the Fall of 1999 to the Spring of 2002 gave me some of the most valuable experiences that I can remember and will last a lifetime" -Levi Reese '02

Choosing a college close to home was important to Dustin Elkins.  When the Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies added the bachelor’s program, it was only natural for Dustin to attend Dickinson State.  Professors like Dr. Doug King and Toby Stroh taught the fundamentals and made an impact on him.  He uses a lot of what they taught him still on a daily basis.  One of Dustin’s favorite college memories was working on his Senior Capstone Project with Toby Stroh.  It was such a great experience that it helped him choose his career.  Today, Dustin is the Sales Manager for CHS Nutrition. He is involved in the community by serving as the President of the Stark County Fair Association Board as well as a member of the Dickinson Research Extension Center Advisory Board.  Dustin is married to Mandi Elkins and they have three daughters:  Bailey, Sydney, and Carley.  He enjoys helping them with their 4H and sports activities.  

Following in the footsteps of a good friend has brought many transfer students to Dickinson State University. Thankfully for Cody Chytka, his idol was Beni Paulson, and we know Beni is very persuasive. Cody was born and raised in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. After graduating from high school, like Beni, he attended Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to rodeo, serve on the livestock judging team, and get his associate degree. He came to Dickinson State and was involved with the Blue Hawk rodeo team and ag club and attained his degree in ag business in 2003. He credits the ag department for having an important role in shaping who he is today and for the success their students receive. Dr. Doug King inspired Cody to learn more about ruminants and nutrition.

Today, Cody is the manager of the liquid feed division for Penny Newman Grain Co. based in California. He oversees trading molasses and liquid products domestically and internationally as well as production of range, feedlot, and dairy supplements. Cody currently serves as a member of the American Feed Industry Association and was the recipient of the 2014 AFIA Information Technology Innovation Award. Cody resides outside of Boise, ID, with his wife, Lini, and daughter, Payton. His father, Gary, is still a positive influence in Cody’s life by reminding him to go after the things he wants in life. 

“All of the DSU staff played an important role in shaping all of us for success. One definitely sticks out in my mind, and that is Dr. Doug King. He fed my desire to learn more about ruminants and nutrition. He was very influential in me starting a career in the livestock supplement industry.”

The rodeo program was the primary reason Seth Arndorfer chose to attend Dickinson State University. “The education I received [at DSU] has been the foundation for my personal and professional achievements,” he related. While at DSU, he was a competitor in team roping and steer wrestling. In 1997, under head rodeo coach Tom Nelson, the DSU men’s rodeo team, which included Seth, Joe Blankenship, James Thompson, Jeremy Crane, Beni Paulson, and Chad Smith, placed third in the nation. Seth earned an Associate in Science in farm and ranch management in May 1997 and a Bachelor of Science in business administration in December 1997. Raised on a fourth-generation family farm/ranch in Hettinger, North Dakota, he now is the CEO of DCN (Dakota Carrier Network). Seth and his wife, Ali, live in Bismarck, North Dakota, with their sons Jace and Reese. 

“DSU will always be my ‘true’ alma mater. It was a great place to make the transition from kid to adult. The atmosphere was always friendly and promoted team spirit. The friends I made during my time at DSU are still some of the closest friends I have today.”

Carrying on the family tradition as well as the affordable cost of a quality education is why Tina Transtrom Kincaid decided to attend Dickinson State University. As the fourth child of Gene and Nancy Transtrom of Arnegard, North Dakota, Tina attained her Bachelor of Science in agricultural studies with a concentration in natural resource management. Having instructors like Dr. Chip Poland, Dr. Doug King, Dr. Pat Carr, Jarri Newton, and Toby Stroh made Tina push to look outside the box. Their influence led her to go on to attain her juris doctorate and master’s degree in environmental natural resources from the University of Wyoming. She was one of the first two people to complete the dual-degree program offered by the University of Wyoming - School of Law. She is a member of the Natural Resource chapter of the Utah Bar as well as the Young Lawyers division. Today, her life is focused on raising her family. Tina and her husband, Justin, have three children: Hayden, Rhys, and Gabryelle. 

 “DSU afforded me the ability to obtain a four-year degree without a huge debt load and gave me the opportunity to develop friendships that I will have for the rest of my life.”

Having older siblings who all attended Dickinson State University, it seemed like a natural choice for Jay to continue the tradition. Jay continued in Tina and Tim’s footsteps by pursuing a degree in agriculture with an emphasis on natural resource management. Instructors like Toby Stroh, Dr. Doug King, and Dr. Chip Poland were big influencers in his education. They all taught the students to think and defend their reasoning rather than just memorize what they had read in the textbook. In fact, Jay still uses the “Toby Method” of unit conversion in chemistry. It’s a skill that Jay uses every day as he works as a mud engineer for Anchor Drilling Fluids. Besides getting his degree from DSU, Jay also met his wife, Kari. Together, they are raising their four children: Jayden, Hadley, Bodey, and Londyn.

“My parents gave up a lot to raise us in a Godly home and teach us how to be a good spouse, a good parent, and most importantly to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m definitely a work in progress, but they’ve always been there for me no matter what.” 

A family man is one way to describe Tim Transtrom. Tim chose to attend Dickinson State University so he could still go home on the weekends to help out with family chores and functions. He credits his parents, Gene and Nancy, for teaching him the importance of having his priorities in order. God, family, country, and a good attitude and work ethic, if you have those things, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

While in college, Tim was a member of the Ag Club as well as Campus Crusade for Christ. Professors like Dr. Chip Poland, Dr. Doug King, Dr. Pat Carr, and Toby Stroh made him realize the importance of a college education. Each of them instilled in Tim why he was getting a degree and how he could apply what they taught him in his everyday life once he graduated. 

Tim is a rancher and also works as a fluid engineer for Anchor Drilling Fluids USA, LLC. He resides on a ranch with his wife, Deana, and their five children: Elden, Kali, Hannah, Leah, and Elsie.

“I guess I don’t really expect to be remembered for anything, but I do hope that I have had a positive impact on most of the people that have been in my life. I guess if there is anything that I hope to be remembered for it would be as a man of integrity.”

Living in the wide-open spaces on a farm near Arnegard, North Dakota, Nikki Darrington knew at a young age that she wanted to major in agriculture. She loved that Dickinson State University had smaller class sizes and the “home” feeling that the ag building offered. During her college career, she was involved with the PAS Ag Club, Collegiate 4-H, and the Homecoming Committee. A highlight of her college career was receiving first place in the Impromptu Public Speaking Event at the National Post-Secondary Agricultural Student Conference in Albany, New York. She also met her husband at this conference.

Today, Nikki is back in her hometown community and works as a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). She volunteers at her local church, serves on the church council, and is the leader of the Star 3 4-H Club. She’s happy to be back living close to her parents, Roger and Kay Thompson, and is married to Patrick. They have three children: Gracyn, Gavyn, and Graham.

“I love this place. Every time I get the opportunity to come back to Dickinson, I still walk the campus. It is home to me. DSU helped me achieve my goals and aspirations and helped me enjoy each moment as well. The staff is absolutely amazing, in my book. Each one cares and loves you, especially with the small classroom setting. The alumni also are so amazing, always giving back and helping future students reach their goals. The opportunities DSU presents are second to none, and I will always hold that close to my heart.”

Growing up on a ranch in eastern Montana, the decision to attend Dickinson State University was easy for Joe Blankenship. Joe came to Dickinson State to rodeo and rodeo he did. A highlight of his collegiate career was winning two go-rounds at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) finals and finishing the 1997 season in fourth place for bull riding. Looking back at that team, his teammates were like brothers. Perhaps that’s why the team finished third in the nation in 1997 and second in 1998. Today, they’re all still friends. At the time, Dickinson State didn’t have a four-year ag program, so Joe got a Bachelor of Science in university studies with a concentration in agriculture.

Today, Joe works for Woody’s Feed & Grain and travels around to rodeos all across North Dakota and Montana as a pickup man. He values his Christian beliefs as well as his relationship with his parents Bill and Kitty, wife Robin, and their five children: Hayes, Boon, MacKenzie, McKayla, and Ireland.

“I received a really great education from DSU. I have very fond memories and created lifelong friendships.”

Beni Paulson ’99 was born and raised in Dunn County, North Dakota, and attended school in Killdeer, North Dakota. Growing up on a ranch, he was very active in the ranch way of life and enjoyed rodeos and riding bulls. He came to DSU after he attained his associate degree from Laramie County Community College in Wyoming. Dickinson State offered Beni the opportunity to rodeo at the collegiate level while still building up his cow herd on the side. While at DSU, he was active in the Rodeo Club and as a bull rider on the rodeo team. Beni’s greatest accomplishment was being a two-time Great Plains Regional Intercollegiate Champion in bull riding as well as having the men’s team place as the reserve national champion and third place at nationals.

After his college graduation, he rode the professional bull riding circuit for five years while adding to his cow herd. Beni has now built up his operation to include a 3,500-acre spread for both farming and ranching. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his family and friends in their local band, Outlaw Sippin’. Beni is married to his wife, Michelle, and they have one son, Cheyden.

“DSU means a better future for North Dakota and the people that live here. I can’t imagine western North Dakota without Dickinson State University and all it offers not only to students, but also to all the residents in the form of extended learning, entertainments, sports, and other activities.”

Ben Hetzel grew up in Lemmon, South Dakota, where he attended Lemmon High School. The biggest highlight of his pre-college youth was playing sports and bullfighting for high school and 4-H rodeos. Ben attended DSU because his brother and his wife graduated from DSU (Heath and Kris Smith Hetzel). In addition, his sister, Sally Hetzel Hoover, and cousin, Billie Jo Lorius, were also attending DSU at the time. Ben received a sponsorship award from Southwest Grain Division of CHS Inc., which allowed him to work while attending school and stay close to home. He majored in agriculture and received an associate degree in farm and ranch management, graduating with honors. While at DSU, Ben was elected as an Off Campus Student Senator and later became the NDSA State Student Affairs representative. As a student senator, he was selected to serve on Faculty Senate as the student representative for one semester. The highlight of his DSU experience was meeting his wife, Holly Kling Hetzel. They were married in 2001 and have three children—Jacob (10), Sarah (8), and Drew (5)—and will be blessed with a new addition near Thanksgiving.

After graduation in 2001, Ben spent six weeks doing missionary work in Uganda, Africa, with a college friend. He acquired his Series III license and was hired as the assistant grain manager and started a branch office for Country Hedging in Lemmon, South Dakota. Ben spent one year working as an ag/business loan officer with Wells Fargo in Bowman, North Dakota, from 2004-2005 and then returned as the grain department manager for SWG in Lemmon. In July 2010, he was promoted to location manager.

“DSU will always be considered an important steppingstone for me as it allowed me to meet many people that still have an impact in my life, most importantly my wife. My experience in the classroom, the rodeo arena, and in the community all helped to guide me to my success, but it has always been the people that God has put in my life that have had the biggest impact.”

Perry Boespflug, a native of Richardton, North Dakota, graduated from Dickinson State in 1979 where he obtained his Associate in Agricultural Studies with an emphasis on agricultural sale/service. He received the “Top Salesmanship” award in the Ag Sales Collegiate Division in 1978, which would remain prevalent in his career.

After a few years as an oilfield roughneck and then five years with the City of Dickinson, Perry moved into the family business managing the feed sales and trailer parts/repair in 1989. By 1992, he had helped grow the Hubbard, Feeds portion of the business into one of the largest volume producers in the Dakotas and had become a partner in the business.

It was in 2003 when Perry and his wife, Annette, purchased complete interest in Boespflug Trailers and continued to grow the business. Five years later, they decided to disband the feed portion of the business and focus their efforts on the trailer industry. This turned out to be a great idea as they have since grown to one of the largest stocking trailer dealers in the Upper Midwest.

In 2010 and 2011, Boespflug Trailers was named the #1 Volume Dealer of Featherlite Trailers in the United States and has been the Highest Volume Livestock Dealer for five years in a row. These are just a few of the many prestigious rankings that Boesflug Trailers has earned over the past 29 years of operation.

Perry and his wife have three children: Tyler, Cole, and Kayla, and one grandchild.

“DSU provided the basic educational skills that broadened my technical knowledge of agriculture and animal science. The program was in its infancy at the time, but it sparked enough interest in me to continue to learn about the ag industry.”

Roger Myers graduated from Dickinson State University in 1960 with a B.S. in secondary education, majoring in social science with minors in history and English. While attending DSU, he was president of the student body from 1959-1960 and was selected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. After graduation, he returned to the family ranch in Medora, North Dakota, and operated it for 51 years, retiring in January 2011.

Roger was a member of the Billings County School Board for nine years and served as its president for five years. He served on the Board of Directors of the Medora Grazing Association for 12 years, on the Billings County Zoning Board, and on the Billings County Weed Board. He was a member of the Medora Lutheran Church Council for 50 years, serving as its president for 25 years and as a member of the Belfield Lutheran Parish Council for 25 years.

Roger married Peggy Hogoboom in 1959, has four children and nine grandchildren. After Peggy’s death, he married Sandy Tjaden. Roger and Sandy spend time between Bismarck, Medora, and Destin, Florida.

Steven Heger graduated from DSU with degrees in farm and ranch management and ag sales and service. While at DSU, he played on the offensive line for the Blue Hawk football team, was a member of the Ag Club and, in the fall of 2000, was a member of the homecoming court. That same year he was also honored with the Academic All-American award and was First Team All-Conference.

Steven grew up in Underwood, North Dakota, and currently resides and farms with his family on a third-generation farm where he raises winter and spring wheat, corn, oil sunflowers, pinto beans, and peas. Steven’s time and experiences at DSU are a key part to the success of his farming operation. In addition, Steven serves on the Falkirk Farmer’s Elevator board, the McLean County Farm Bureau Board, and the North Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee. The Heger’s have also hosted Horsch Anderson Days twice and hosted and presented to participants at the 2008 National Association of State Departments of Ag (NASDA) annual meeting. Steven has been featured in the Minot Daily News and Farm & Ranch Guide for his farming practices. He is married to Katie, and they have four children: Ben, Libby, Christian, and Nellie Jo.

Dr. Jerry Volesky grew up on a family farm in Billings County and has spent his educational and professional career dedicated to range science. He has extensive research experience and currently conducts grazing management research and develops forage management programming at the University of Nebraska. He is the associate editor of Arid Land Research and Management and has authored and co-authored 45 scientific research papers and 30 extension publications.

Brad Gjermundson received his associate degree in farm and ranch management from DSU in 1986. A talented saddle bronc rider, Brad has won four PRCA titles from 1981 through 1985 and qualified for the National Rodeo Finals eight times. In 1983 and 1988, he captured the NFR saddle bronc title and was inducted into the Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. Brad is a rancher from Marshall, North Dakota.

Gary Wingenbach, College Station, Texas, received his associate degree in agricultural sales and services from Dickinson State University in 1985. He then went on to receive his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oregon State University, and he completed his doctorate in agriculture education from Iowa State University. He is currently an associate professor of agricultural communications and journalism at Texas A&M. Gary excels at teaching, research, and scholarly activities. He has contributed over 40 articles to national journals and has been named one of the Top 10 Most Prolific Authors. He is also a recipient of the Outstanding International Agricultural Education Award.

Anthony and Karen (Hoerner) Messmer, of Richardton, North Dakota, are owners and operators of Messmer Red Angus. They have owned and operated a registered Red Angus cattle ranch near Richardton since 1974. The Messmers host the DSU livestock class every year for discussion because of their progressive use of technology such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer in their herd management. They have received the National Red Angus Breeders of the Year Award and were named the Ag Family of the Year by the West River Ag Expo & Livestock Show.

Frank is a retired rancher from Dickinson, North Dakota. He owned and operated Kubik Polled Hereford Ranch.

Joanne (Wherley) Beckman has been the assistant to the commissioner for the North Dakota Department of Agriculture in Bismarck, North Dakota, since 1997. She promotes the Agriculture in the Classroom program, serves on the steering committee for Marketplace for Entrepreneurs, and is the chair of the steering committee for Marketplace for Kids. Prior to this position, she was an English instructor for grades 8-12, along with speech and theatre, journalism, mass media, and career education teaching duties from 1972-1997. Joanne and her husband, Dale ’72, reside in New Salem, North Dakota. They have two daughters, a son-in-law, and three grandsons.

Since graduating from Dickinson State Teachers College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1955, Milt has been farming/ranching in the Mott area. He has been a former president of the DSU Alumni Association, member of the DSU Foundation Board, member of the Blue Hawk Booster Club, member of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education, and, in 1969, received one of four Outstanding American Farmer awards. He also received Dickinson State’s Chief Award in 1978.