Lake Area Technical Institute has kicked off a year-long celebration as the school marks 55 years of providing post-secondary education in Watertown. Established in January 1965 as South Dakota’s first technical institute, Lake Area Tech is proud to continue the tradition of offering pathways to success for our current students as well as all of the future students to come.
One of the first happenings planned for the celebration is to begin highlighting Lake Area Tech alumni. Watch for 55 Alumni Highlights throughout the year on our social media channels and here on the website.
Lake Area Tech planned to celebrate throughout the year during public events, however with the current COVID-19 situation, we will celebrate by posting memories from Alumni, Faculty, and Staff. We hope you enjoy them! More will be posted as they come in.
Lake Area Tech Alumni Highlights
Josh is currently working as an Environmental Project Manager at Western Technologies, Inc. in Flagstaff, Arizona. His memories of his time at Lake Area Tech include participating in a wide variety of hands-on projects completed outside of the classroom setting.
Thanks for sharing, Josh!
Lake Area Tech Environmental Technology Class of 2015
Hometown: Watertown, SD
Our class size was similar to that of my high school and I always felt like the instructors wanted to see you succeed and would do whatever they could to make that happen.
I started working for Dacotah Bank in Watertown just a few months prior to attending Lake Area Tech. At that time I was working part-time as a teller and 20 years later I hold the position of Market President in the same location. I’m very fortunate to work for such a great organization and it won’t have happened without making the decision to attend Lake Area Tech.
Troy Zebroski, Hometown: Onida SD
Lake Area Tech Financial Services Class of 2001
My name is Cory Geffre and I currently live in Ames, Iowa. I have lived here since 2019, prior to that I was in Aberdeen, SD since 1998.
I graduated from the Lake Area Tech Practical Nursing program in 1997
I have several great memories from my time at Lake Area Tech. From the orientation day celebration (in which I won an award for being the best at the Macarena dance), to the school coordinated social events and the multiple intramural sports. All of my memories from Lake Area are great, yet the most memorable for me was having the privilege to be the student commencement speaker. I remember standing there in front of my peers and our families and sharing about how great my time at Lake Area Tech was and what I wished for us all in the future. That was one of the highest honors for me to have that opportunity with my fellow graduates. Interestingly, last December, I was once again a commencement speaker for a graduation of a Technical/Community College and most of the graduates were nursing students. It is funny how life sometimes comes full circle.
Today, I serve as the Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige Award winning and Magnet Designated Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa. I love to share with my staff and colleagues about how I started my healthcare career as a nurse’s aide, then became an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and eventually an RN (Registered Nurse). After Lake Area, I went on to get my Associate’s Degree from University of South Dakota (at that time on the Lake Area Campus). Then after a long break from school, I went back to school and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master’s Degree in Management, Strategy and Leadership from Michigan State University. Over the last 25 years, my journey has included work both in and out of healthcare including owning several small businesses, working as a consultant and developing a leadership training program. Even though I have four diplomas hanging on my wall, I have not forgotten where it all began … Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD. I am honored to call myself a Lake Area Tech alumnus.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my Lake Area story!
My name is Dwayne Van Emmerik from Salem, SD, and I’m a 1974 graduate of the Agri-Business program.
What memories of your time at Lake Area Tech stand out?
Not being part of the main school. Classes were held in an old Coke or Pepsi building along Highway 212. We did go to the main building for one class, I believe it was English. (Very long time ago). The class trips were to Minneapolis and Pierre. Our teachers were Larry Nelson, Roger Carlson and Myron Johnson, great group of guys. I remember playing city league basketball with Rich Hetland, who was an instructor at the school. I also played basketball for the LA Lakers and traveled around to play other schools. Aaron was our coach, but I cannot remember his last name. Housing was a bit of a problem, we had a basement apartment in an elderly lady’s house. We would go home for lunch every day. I also remember Gary Williams, who kept us on the straight and narrow.
Where are you employed today?
I’m still actively farming, raising corn and soybeans. For the last 24 years I have also been employed in the crop insurance industry. The positions I have held are, crop adjuster, area claims supervisor and regional claims manager. I’m currently employed by Diversified Crop Insurance Services, a division of CGB, (Continental Grain and Barge). I have been married for almost 43 years, have 3 children, and 10 grandchildren.
I have many memories of my time at LATI, but when I come back to speak to the marketing class now, or when our company gets involved with the Festival of Trees event, it takes me back and reminds me I was a part of something really special. It’s amazing how much the campus has changed and grown, and how much they have expanded their offerings in just the 20 years since I graduated.
After graduating from LATI in 2000, I moved back to Aberdeen to be closer to family. Still not sure what I wanted to do, I toyed with the idea of going back to school. Instead of spending more money, my father Jim sat me down and challenged me to get into the work world for five years. If after five years I didn’t like my career path, I could change it or go back to school.
In 2001, I made the decision to start Dial-A-Move, Inc. with my family. Dial-A-Move is a full-service moving and storage company, now servicing over 750 residential and commercial moves annually, with offices in Aberdeen, Watertown and Huron, SD. A far cry from our humble beginnings with a gutted conversion van and grass roots marketing campaign for small local jobs, we now travel all of the lower 48 states. In 2011, my brother Dan and I shifted our vision for the future of the company and purchased our father’s shares. We have since opened two additional locations, tripled our annual sales, created 15 full-time positions, and been recognized by the American Moving and Storage Association with the Enterprise Award for small movers. The Enterprise Award is given to one mover nation-wide each year, and is based on sales, employee relations, community involvement, and innovative operations. Dial-A-Move is the only company to ever be recognized twice for this prestigious award.
While the growth of the business was definitely an uphill battle of a lot of sweat equity and sacrifice, its success has allowed our families to enter into other entrepreneurial ventures, such as the building of climate-controlled storage facilities, real estate investments and most recently, the building of the new DQ Grill and Chill in Aberdeen, SD. The DQ in Aberdeen was the highest grossing Dairy Queen in the state of South Dakota in 2019, and ranks very high for National Miracle Treat Day revenues. We are a true example of a family business, which is probably what I most love about the career path I chose. I not only work with my older brother and partner Dan, but I get to work with my wife Paige and my younger brother Andrew, a fellow LATI alum, on a daily basis as well.
My education with LATI empowered me to take the risk of starting a business, raise a family, and feel like I could pursue both of those dreams right here in South Dakota. They gave me the education I needed at a cost that I could afford, without feeling financially burdened after graduation. I am very grateful to the faculty of LATI and the city of Watertown for the opportunities I have been given, and will always cherish the memories, and be grateful for the foundation they provided me with for the life I have today.
Barry Wood, Warner, SD
Lake Area Tech Marketing/Management/Sales class of 2000
While I was in school, I worked evenings at a local company called Dynamic Engineering. After Lake Area, I took a job for approximately one year as a Proto type machinist at Hub City Inc. in Aberdeen. Then I jumped over to a company called Control Data as a tool room machinist for approximately 10 years until Control Data decided to move out of the USA. I then worked for Sheldahl Inc. for approximately 10 years until they decided to move to Mexico and Canada. The last two years I traveled back & forth to the facility in Chihuahua Mexico. Since 2001, I have worked at Midstates Printing Inc. in Aberdeen. I currently oversee the Maintenance & Facilities Department.
While at Lake Area, I enjoyed the smaller class size we had. Our teacher was Jim Tellinghuesen, he was an awesome teacher! I learned a lot from him. I remember going to several dances at the Casino Ballroom out by Kampeska Lake. Good times were had by all! In 1985, I started to take classes at NSU as a non-trad and graduated with a Manufacturing degree. I married my high school sweetheart. We have three children and six grandkids.
Lake Area Tech Machine Tool Technology Class of ‘79
Hometown: Aberdeen, SD
It all started with a dance…the LAVTI “get acquainted” dance the first week of classes. Laura and Stacy attended the event and were approached by Guy, Cody and Spencer. Little did we realize the significance of that particular moment.
We thought we were starting programs to help us “adult” but we also started a friendship that evolved into a marriage that has celebrated 25+ years, three children (ages 23, 21 and 18), and great careers.
Along with the dance we have wonderful memories of our time in Watertown.
The nursing program was an interesting mix of traditional and nontraditional students and one of the things that I have pondered while raising my family was the nontraditional ladies who I went to school with while they were in the middle of raising their families, keeping a house in order and studying to be a nurse. What determination they had! Cooking a meal, helping your children with their homework while they were studying, writing out care plans and balancing clinicals and school schedules. Hats off to all those individuals. My experience was the other end of the spectrum, my life balance was school and socializing.
When Spence was attending the Aviation Maintenance program, they were a close-knit class and had a lot of fun with too many memories to share. He vividly recalls the sense of relief after taking the school final test at the end of the first year of the program and realizing that he did learn some things and had a chance at passing the FAA written test. Spence now volunteers at the Aviation Maintenance program on his day off and enjoys helping the students understand concepts and how they apply to actual job situations.
Little did we know what foundation was set during our time at Lake Area Tech. The start of our love story but also the education we received help us succeed in our work environments. After graduating, Spence joined the Air Force and his career moved us from North Carolina to California. Then he was employed with Sun Country Airlines in Minneapolis. And finally, back to South Dakota where he has been employed with FedEx Express as an airplane mechanic in Sioux Falls. I have always been able to find a job wherever Spence’s job took us with the flexibility to work as little or as much as we needed while raising our children. We are grateful for so many things in our life but it all started almost 29 years ago at a dance.
Hometown – Pierre, SD
1993 graduate of the Aviation Maintenance Program
Currently living in Dell Rapids, SD
Stacy (Dagel) Tisher
Hometown -Lake Benton MN
1992 graduate of Licensed Practical Nursing program
1993 USD graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing attended at Lake Area Tech
Currently living in Dell Rapids, SD