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2022 DAH Awards Honor Outstanding Contributions to the Humanities

October 15, 2022

2022 DAH Awardees: Lawrence Diggs, Marilyn Mendenhall, Michelle Vande Weerd, and Jane Taylor

In 1976, the South Dakota Humanities Council  established an award to honor and recognize those who make outstanding contributions to the study and understanding of the humanities, and thus created the Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities (DAH) award.

Each year, the DAH awards honor the unique spirit of an individual, a librarian, and an organization for their great support and lasting contributions to the humanities in South Dakota.  SDHC seeks to celebrate literature, promote civil conversation, and tell the stories that define our state.  The 2022 DAH award winners, recognized at an award ceremony during this year’s Festival of Books celebration, have presented vibrant programs, hosted diverse events, and provided essential leadership, funding, and partnership to sustain a vibrant cultural landscape in South Dakota.

“The humanities work of these four people is astounding and humbling,” says Ann Volin, Executive Director for SDHC. “They have made an impact from the youngest to the oldest in our communities. We are grateful for that lifelong gift from their hands.”


Recipient of the 2022 DAH Individual Award is longtime SDHC Scholar and educator, Lawrence Diggs. Diggs partnered with SDHC to create and host a program to unite people during divisive times through genuine conversation. “Brainstorming: The Human Connection” is a weekly discussion series led by Diggs with a focus on forging human relationships. Diggs has also been a longtime scholar for the Speakers Bureau, providing humanities work to prisoners in the statewide system. Lawrence has expressed through his work as a scholar that the three “M”s in representative democracy are all about “doing the most good, for the most people, the most often” – and those who know Diggs will agree that that is what he does best.


Recipient of the 2022 DAH Librarian Award is Jane Taylor, who was with Siouxland Libraries for 31 years. Taylor was the Ronning Branch Librarian for Siouxland Libraries until she retired in October 2021. During her 31-year tenure with Siouxland Libraries, she worked with the SDHC book festival events held in Sioux Falls as well as The Big Read events. At the library, she started the Book Club To-Go collection, which included the South Dakota One Book titles. These books can now be interlibrary loaned throughout the state. Taylor also created the annual One Book Siouxland program to reach readers in the Siouxland Libraries service area which is now in its fifth year. When KELOLAND Living approached the library to conduct a monthly on-air book discussion, Taylor was tapped to bring more literature to a larger audience.


The 2022 DAH Organization Award recipient, Brookings School District, is represented by employees Michelle Vande Weerd and Marilyn Mendenhall, who have centered the district’s involvement with SDHC.

Michelle Vande Weerd is the 6-12 Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Continuous Improvement for the Brookings School District. Vande Weerd has supported the South Dakota Festival of Books and Young Readers Festival for the past several years, coordinating participation in the Young Readers Festival for students and staff in the Brookings School District. She is an avid reader that looks for opportunities for students and staff to connect with books at all levels.

Marilyn Mendenhall is currently the K-12 Librarian at Crow Creek Tribal School. At Brookings, Mendenhall partnered to present the Young Reader program to its students since its inception, suggested authors, helped other educators to understand how to teach the Young Readers One Book titles, and welcomed authors for classroom visits. She volunteers for the Festival of Books, is a member of South Dakota Library Association, and serves as a Wookiye Teacher with the office of Indian Education. She was selected to attend the Library of Congress “Teaching with Primary Sources” workshop this summer in Washington, DC. Mendenhall enjoys seeing the world through the eyes of the children she is fortunate to teach.


On the October 20th episode of “Brainstorming: The Human Connection,” all four honorees will engage in conversation about the various ways they have been involved with the humanities over the years. They’ll talk about the benefits they see that occur because of that involvement as well as the humanities programs they are currently involved with. For more information and the event link to interact directly with this years’ DAH awardees, visit the Brainstorming page on the SDHC website.

Learn more about humanities programming in South Dakota by signing up for SDHC e-Updates!