SDSU honors four with distinction award

Ann Kopecky

Ann Kopecky

Their footsteps are difficult to follow. Their career and educational paths have left a distinct impression on the campus of South Dakota State University.

So just who are these super heroes? They’re four women that are on the campus every day and have become positive role models for those around them.

On Thursday, the four women were honored with the 2004 Women of Distinction award at a tea in NFA 232.

The four women honored are: Mary Kay Helling, Administration Category; Suzette Burckhard, Faculty Category; Paulette Heesch, Career Service/Exempt Category; and Melissa Pater, Student Category.

According to Mary Perpich, Women of Distinction committee chair, this year 14 people were nominated for the the award in the four categories.

“Each of the winners must have excelled in her career to be considered for the award,” Perpich said in an e-mail response.

Helling is recognized for her service to SDSU as a faculty member, department head and assistant vice president of academic affairs. As department head of human development consumer family sciences, Helling merged two departments into one, oversaw the remodeling of the preschool and wrote a Bush grant to train those who work with pre-schoolers.

Burckhard, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, was chosen for her role as mentor to women engineering students and advisor to the SDSU chapter of Women in Engineering. She also participates in the Success Academy and advises international graduate students.

Burckhard holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering physics, two master’s degrees and doctorate degree in civil engineering.

Paulette Heesch is honored for her dedication to her career as program assistant in the plant science department. She has worked there for 30 years.Heesch and her husband are licensed foster parents. Heesch is active in her church, teaching Sunday school and serving as secretary of the church council.

“She is the glue that holds the department together,” said Dale Galenberg, plant science department head.

Melissa Pater is honored for her dedication to SDSU as a member of the national champion Jackrabbit Women’s Basketball team in 2003 and her work as a graduate student in supporting the team from off the court.

According to Aaron Johnson, coach, Pater has served as a strong role model to girls and women in sports. She goes out of her way to speak to young people at schools, local organizations and any individual that wants to get an autograph.

Nancy Nieber, senior women’s administrator and a 2001 Women of Distinction award winner, said of Melissa, “In my 27 years of coaching, I have never witnessed a young woman with such determination and drive.”

Others nominated for the awards were:

*Faculty: Karen Cardenas, professor and acting head, modern language department; Nancy Fahrenwald, assistant professor, College of Nursing; Patricia Hacker, professor, HPER; Madeline Rose, associate professor emeritus and coordinator, SDSU science fair; Patricia Smyer, associate professor, College of Nursing; and Kristi Vensand-Hall, associate professor, music.

*Career Service/Exempt: Michele Kemp, program assistant, College of Arts and Science; and Mary Davenport, senior secretary, College of Nursing.

*Student: Suzanne Parker, family and consumer science and dietics major; and Amanda Mattingly, SDSU Students’ Association president.