Photos of five men

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University’s Distinguished Alumni will be honored at a luncheon at noon Friday, May 7, at the Dakota Event Center.

This event is rescheduled from last spring and will honor the 2020 NSU Distinguished Alumni: William Deng, James Hess, James Klein, John Lopez and Joe Senger.

To purchase tickets and RSVP for the luncheon, please call the NSU Foundation at 605-626-2550.


Read more about the 2020 Distinguished Alumni below:




William Deng

William Deng

William Deng graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international business in 2010 and a master’s degree in banking and financial services in 2014.

Deng, recipient of the South Sudan Humanitarian Award, is founder of the Deng Foundation. His foundation’s goal is to provide children in his hometown of Aweil East, South Sudan, with access to clean water, basic health care, and proper educational infrastructure.

Deng left his home and family in South Sudan at age 14, walking for nine days through the jungle to escape civil war and to seek an education for himself.

Deng lives in Aberdeen, where he works as CDFI coordinator for Homes Are Possible Inc.












Dr. James Hess

James Hess

James Hess received his bachelor's degree in 1973 and master's degree in 1975 from NSU, and his doctorate from UNC in 1994.

Hess has presented at state and national conferences on topics such as school district accountability, transportation safety and developing legislative action plans. He has helped lead the efforts to establish/expand three community preschools and regional professional training centers for Reading Recovery. He has helped develop the national award-winning "Students First Program," pairing students with community success coaches, and the Bemidji Career Academies, which provide real-life career experiences for high school students, earning them high school and post-secondary credit.

His numerous awards include the Minnesota Association of School Administrators Polaris Leadership Award, Regional Administrator of Excellence, District 29 Administrator of the Year, Colorado Elementary Principal's Department Service Award, and National Coca Cola Foundation Educator of Distinction.

Hess was elected President of both the Minnesota Association of School Administrators and the Colorado Elementary Principal Association. He served on the National Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators, and as State Treasurer of the Colorado Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development. He has been a local club officer with Rotary and Lions Club and participated in many community development activities such as Bemidji Leads and the Joint Economic Development Commission.

Hess currently lives in Bemidji, Minn., where he retired after serving 14 years as Superintendent of Schools. He and his wife Nikki have two daughters: Jackie lives in the Twin Cities, where she works for Wells Fargo Corp., and Jayne Ann lives in Idaho, where she teaches deaf preschool children.




James Klein

James Klein


James Klein received a B.S. in social science in 1969.

Klein was named Financial Services Champion of the Year in 2011 by the U.S. Small Business Administration. He earned the Smart Leader Award (Smart Business Magazine), and he received the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award/Advanced Management and Leadership (Said Business School, University of Oxford).

He has received the following master’s level awards: Performance Management and Strategic Perspective (Harvard Business School); and Advanced Management and Leadership (Oxford, Said Business School). He is also an Oxford University Press published author (Global Business/2018).

Klein, who received his MBA in 2002, works as principal of J.R. Global. He and his wife, Lola, live in Columbus, Ohio. They have two children, Johann Klein and Amadeus Klein; and four grandchildren, Kylee, Faith, Alexsandra and Braden.








John Lopez

John Lopez


Sculptor John Lopez is a product of a place. His people’s ranches are scattered along the Grand River in northwestern South Dakota.

Lopez’s forte lies in gentling colts and perfecting their bloodlines—and he started his celebration of them by sculpting in clay. His sculpture studio is located in Lemmon, S.D.

Lopez, who received an associate degree in commercial art in 1993, discovered his gift for sculpture at Northern. He is the creator of the Wolf statue that stands in front of the Jewett Regional Science Education Center. The life-sized sculpture is fabricated out of found objects and shapes of steel that Lopez cut with his plasma cutter.

Lopez’s work reflects generations of a life that’s fading into history. It’s a life lived in barns and grain elevators, workshops and pastures. It’s the life of the land he loves.









Joe Senger

Joe Senger


Joe Senger, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1972, is CEO of Dacotah Bank.

Previously, Senger coached and taught from 1973 to 1976 in Eureka. He was active in the coaches’ association and president of the local teachers’ association.

Senger is past president of the following organizations: NSU Wolves Club and Alumni Association; Aberdeen Development Corporation; Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce; Roncalli Booster Club; and St. Mary’s Church Council. He also served as United Way Campaign Chair in 1992, and has been United Way Rails Club Chair since 1992.

Senger was a Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary) and the recipient of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce George Award and the Sertoma Club’s Service to Mankind Award.

Senger and his wife, Cindy, live in Aberdeen. They have three children: Michelle (Mark) Azure, Todd (Laura) Senger and Brian (Julia) Senger; and eight grandchildren: Michael Azure, Anna Azure, Olivia Senger, Gwyneth Senger, Reese Senger, Audrey Senger, Emma Senger and Everett Senger.





About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and, soon, an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $120 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.