Zeno Van Erdewyk

Zeno Van Erdewyk grew up on the eastern plains of South Dakota. His first eight years of formal education were spent in a one-room schoolhouse about a mile from his family's home. He attended high school in Brandt, South Dakota, where there were twenty-six students in grades nine through twelve, including ten in Zeno's graduating class.

His parents always said that Zeno would attend college some day. It was a part of his culture growing up. One of his high school teachers, Mr. Robert Backer, not only helped him commit to the idea of going on to college, he helped him decide what field to pursue as well. Mr. Backer encouraged his young pupil to go into something "where they will pay you for talking"; and Zeno's career path was set.

In 1955, there was not a men's dorm on the GBSTC campus, so male students were given a list of townspeople who could provide "approved housing". Men could eat their meals served family style, in the campus dining room located in the basement of East Hall. East Hall at that time served as a dormitory for the young ladies on the campus. The men's dormitory, Lowry Hall, was built in 1958. Zeno recalls dressing for dinner and says, "We didn't dare come in after the Dean of Women had taken her seat…we quickly learned which table to sit at so we could get seconds…some girls ate less than others, and that meant more food for us."

Zeno graduated from General Beadle in 1959 and began teaching in Trent, South Dakota. In 1960, he married Carol Toft and together they had four children. By 1967, Zeno had completed his master's degree from South Dakota State and earned an Ed.D from the University of North Dakota. Lorence Flaum hired him in 1967 to return to his alma mater and teach psychology. He taught at Dakota State University full time until 2002, and then part time until he retired in 2004.

A unique experience presented itself in 1972 when Zeno's proposal for a student teaching program at the American School in London was accepted. The Van Erdewyk's spent a year living in London, where Zeno oversaw student teachers from Dakota State College, South Dakota State University, and Northern State College. Students from these schools would sign up to do their practice teaching at private schools in London, with Zeno as their resident supervisor. He set up the same type of program with the Caribbean Consolidated School in Puerto Rico, which accepted its first student teacher in 1992. Zeno returned to London and to Europe many times over the years, as the director of student tours for Dakota State. Over 275 people have gone to Europe on these tours, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 81.

All four of Zeno's children graduated from Dakota State in the 1980's. Carol herself had graduated in 1977 with a degree in elementary education; son Michael graduated in 1983; son John in 1984; daughter Mary (Vogel) in 1985; and daughter Julie (Streff) in 1986. Michael is living in Minnesota where he is CEO and founder of Bioverse, Inc. a biotechnology company with headquarters in Bloomington. John received his M.D. from University of South Dakota and is an anesthesiologist at Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell, South Dakota. Mary is a stay at home mom of five children. Julie is also at home near Salem with three children.

In the early 1980's, Zeno chose to increase his service to the worldwide educational community by becoming a presenter at international conferences and seminars. Zeno credits a positive and supportive administration, including the dean of the College of Education, Dr. Tom Hawley, with giving him the tools he needed to be successful in his career. Since 1984, Zeno has presented papers at nearly thirty national and international conferences and has done consulting work for both private and military organizations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, England and Europe.

Zeno was on his way home from one such consulting job when his most memorable moment of the 1980's occurred. The year was 1988, and the plane Zeno was aboard was returning to Miami from Puerto Rico when it suddenly started to descend from the air. Assuming it was a mechanical problem, Zeno and the other passengers awaited word from the captain. When the word finally came, it gave small comfort to the 121 passengers. The captain, it seemed, had made an unscheduled stop, for reasons that became obvious later, in "Havana, Cuba". It did not take long for Zeno and the others to realize that the plane had been hijacked, and that they had landed on Grand Turk, Island off the east coast of Cuba. The hijacker was a young Cuban, apparently distraught over the recent death of his mother. Through the interpreters he told authorities that he didn't want to hurt anyone; he just wanted to go back to Cuba. After hours of negotiations, the hijacker gave himself up. The passengers and their luggage were thoroughly searched, and the flight continued to Miami.

By 2000, Zeno was entering his sixth decade of affiliation with Dakota State University. During those six decades one of his classes had been general psychology, a required course for most majors, and populated mainly with freshman. By the year 2000, Zeno estimated over three thousand freshmen had taken his classes, including his wife, his four children, his granddaughter, and the mother of Tom Hawley, the Current Dean of Education.


Source :

The Alumni News. 2002