SMSU Briefs for April 26

Carmody is Cowan Award winner

Southwest Minnesota State University Registrar Pat Carmody is the 2017 recipient of the Cathy Cowan Award.

The award goes to a faculty or staff member who has made great contributions to SMSU and the region. It is named in honor of Catherine Cowan, the popular SMSU psychology professor who died in an auto accident on Dec. 22, 2001. It is the most prestigious award presented by the university.

Carmody will be honored during commencement exercises May 6 with the presentation of a medal by SMSU President Dr. Connie J. Gores.

Carmody is just a few months shy of 32 years at Southwest Minnesota State. She has been the registrar since July 2004. She started as an admission counselor for six years, then was coordinator of transfer students for three years. She was then registration/assistant director of enrollment services for student records for 10 years before she became registrar.

Carmody maintains the academic records of all students and implements the registration process for classes. She keeps records of all college classes and curriculum prerequisites, determines students’ graduation eligibility, helps coordinate commencement activities and prepares information such as honors lists, transcripts and class rankings.

She is the perfect example of the “above-and-beyond” person that so many students refer to when they talk about their SMSU experience. One, James Buell, a 2012 alumnus, recalls transferring from southern California to play football and arriving just in time to register for classes. Carmody approached him and walked him through the process. They developed a good relationship.

“She became like a second mom to me. Pat Carmody is the single biggest reason for my success at SMSU,” he said.

Another, Bilal Louzati, is a senior from Morocco and grew up in Madison, Wis.

“All the progress I made at this university is all thanks to Pat Carmody,” he said. “She assisted me in overcoming my homesickness, helped me set up my priorities and showed me the meaning of advising.”

She is a 1980 alumna and majored in both history and psychology.

“I am humbled by this award,” she said. “I am joining an illustrious group of people who have won in the past. I think the thing I’m most proud of is my work with our students. SMSU is student-oriented, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Thomas is SMSU commencement speaker

The 2017 commencement speaker, Dr. Dene Kay Thomas, is a Southwest Minnesota State University success story.

Dr. Thomas is the president of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where she is in her seventh year as president. Prior to that she was president at Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho, for nine years.

Dr. Thomas began her higher education career at SMSU as a 30-year-old single mother of three. She wanted to get a degree to better her life, and thus, the lives of her children. Little could she have imagined where her talents and tenacity would take her.

She is a 1978 alumna with a degree in English and compares SMSU with Fort Lewis College.

“Both provide a private college experience with a public-school cost. Both specialize in personal attention, in getting to know students. Both provide a quality education, and both have small class sizes,” she said.

Dr. Thomas juggled the responsibilities of being a single parent and a full-time college student while attending SMSU. She earned her degree in just three years, with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

After that it was on to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a doctorate in English and met her husband, Gordon, while they were in a class study group together.

The two later accepted positions as English professors at the University of Idaho before

“I crossed over to the dark side, administration,” she said with a laugh. She eventually became vice provost at Idaho before being named president at Lewis-Clark State College and, later, Fort Lewis College.

Her commencement address is inspired by a small poetry chapbook written by one of her influential professors during her time at SMSU, William Whipple. She’ll relate how the Oregon Trail is not only a symbol for moving west, but also a symbol for the journey of life itself. “And in this case, professors helping students with that journey of life.”

As for her time at SMSU, “When I think of SMSU, I smile. I’m grateful to have started there,” she said.

The Alumni Association honored her in 2009 with an Alumni Achievement Award.

She and Gordon have been married 33 years. Their grown daughters are Christine (Trageser) Ames, an SMSU alumna; Donna Bintz; and Vicki Smith. They have five grandchildren.

‘The Mustang’ wine makes public debut Thursday

The public debut of the wine created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Southwest Minnesota State University will be at 3 p.m. Thursday at Tall Grass Liquor in Marshall.

The blend was created by SMSU alumni Scott and Jenny Ellenbecker, owners of Round Lake Vineyards & Winery near Round Lake. They will be on hand to discuss the wine and offer samples.

“I’ve always felt a special association with the college,” said Scott Ellenbecker. “We share birth years.”

The two met while students at SMSU in 1986, “and sharing the fruits of our labor with the university, so to speak, is a great honor. We think this is a great partnership.”

The wine is called “The Mustang.”

Proceeds from the sale of the wine will be contributed to SMSU for student scholarships.

The wine is a red blend of a trio of wines, including a 2013 California Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak; a 2014 Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in Minnesota oak; and a Marquette, made from grapes from the first plantings at the vineyard back in 2007.

A group of SMSU personnel traveled to Round Lake Vineyards & Winery on March 21 and bottled 672 bottles of “The Mustang.” Those will be used throughout the next academic year at various events associated with the university’s anniversary.

The wine will be available for purchase at Tall Grass Liquor, at the Worthington Liquor Store and other regional off-sale outlets. It is also available at Round Lake Vineyards & Winery.

Round Lake Vineyards & Winery sits on land formerly owned by Jenny Ellenbecker’s grandfather. There are 30 total acres of grapes planted so far — 21 on site, seven near Heron Lake, and two in Iowa.