ABERDEEN, S.D. – Twenty-five years after his own graduation from Northern State University, Dr. Darryl Tonemah will be back on campus to speak to 2014 graduates.
Tonemah will deliver the commencement address at the ceremony, set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 10, in the NSU Barnett Center. He said he is honored at the opportunity.
“NSU is such an integral part of my personal history,” said Tonemah, a 1989 graduate. “I hold it in such high regard; to be asked to give the address is amazing to me.
“Plus,” he joked, “the students have already finished, so I can't really mess them up too bad!”
When he was asked to speak at NSU, Tonemah said he thought back to his own graduation day. His family came from Oklahoma and New York for the ceremony, and they had a big picnic at Wylie Park.
“I remember a lot of details about that day,” he said. “Ironically, I don't remember the speaker!”
What he does remember are all the good memories of his time attending NSU, which he said are too numerous for a short response.
“I’ve had conversations with others who were at Northern the same time I was; they make similar statements,” said Tonemah, who double majored in psychology and sociology and minored in gerontology. “Maybe every class feels this way, but I believe I was at Northern at just the perfect time. It was a great combination of people, and activities, and music … oh yeah, and classes! It just made for great memories.”
Tonemah, who has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and cultural studies, is of Kiowa, Comanche and Tuscarora heritage. He is an advocate for American Indian affairs, and sits on state and national boards addressing disparities in education and health care in native communities. Tonemah recently joined the Stephen Covey group as a trainer for “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” He also is an actor and award-winning recording artist.
Tonemah’s recent work with Northern included a “Be U” tour to area schools last fall. On this tour, he encouraged students to say "yes" to challenges and see how they can bring positive changes into their lives. He also shared the impact that attending Northern had on his life.
Tonemah said he looks forward to continuing his work with the university.
“NSU has such amazing potential as an academic, athletic and multicultural institution,” he said. “My work with the ‘Be U Tour’ just reinforced what we have known all along: that many people are looking at Northern as a reflection of the possibilities that exist within themselves. It’s an exciting time to be part of Northern!”