Kurtenbach named Distinguished Engineer


Reece Kurtenbach

Reece Kurtenbach, head of the world’s largest scoreboard and message board manufacturer and Brookings’ largest private employer, is this year’s Distinguished Engineer as chosen by the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering at South Dakota State University.

A 54-year-old Brookings native, Kurtenbach has been president and CEO of Daktronics since 2013.

The 1982 Brookings High School graduate and 1987 South Dakota State graduate in electrical engineering will be honored at the April 24 Distinguished Engineers and Scholarship Banquet at Club 71 in the Dana Dykhouse Stadium. Tickets, available through the college for $20, may be requested by calling 688-4161 or online.

His selection brings to 141 who have been selected since the honor was begun in 1977. His father, Aelrud, was among those selected 28 years ago.

Electrical engineering faculty members Al Kurtenbach and Duane Sander filed articles of incorporation with the State of South Dakota Dec. 9, 1968, and had its first stock offering the next year. Its first product, a voting machine for the Utah Legislature, was produced in 1970 and it has been in the sports scoreboard business since introducing the Matside wrestling scoreboard in 1971.

Reece Kurtenbach’s formal ties with the company began in 1982, when he started working the night shift there while attending South Dakota State.

Kurtenbach began his full-time career at Daktronics in January 1991 after beginning his professional career in Colorado. He began at Daktronics as an applications engineer. After three years, he was promoted to manager of video products, a position he held for more than 10 years. It was at this time Daktronics pursued full-motion video.

As the technology was perfected, Daktronics’ sales quadrupled from $30.5 million in 1993 to $123 million in 2000 with boards popping up at numerous professional sports stadiums.

In 2004, Kurtenbach became vice president for video systems and in 2007 vice president for the live events and international business units. He spent a year as executive vice president under Jim Morgan in 2012-13 and then succeeded him a president and CEO in 2013.

Under his leadership, sales have topped $500 million, a manufacturing plant was started in Shanghai and a production facility was purchased in Ireland as the international market has grown for this Brookings-based firm.

In fiscal year 2018, Daktronics had all-time highs in sales ($610 million) and gross profit ($146 million). It has 2,400 full-time employees and 300 part-time or student employees with the majority of each category working in Brookings. The employees are split between manufacturing (881), sales and marketing (567), customer service (575), engineering (431) and general and administrative (259.)

Lew Brown, the former dean for the Lohr College of Engineering, said he nominated Kurtenbach because “Reece has had an incredible career since he graduated from SDSU in electrical engineering in 1987. … Daktronics is recognized around the world as the leading designer and manufacturer of LED message and video displays. Reece Kurtenbach has played a key role in leading the company to its present position.”

Kurtenbach and his wife, Kami, have four daughters, three of whom are graduates of Lohr College of Engineering.