Humanities Council Honors Four for Contributions to S.D.

2017 honorees for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities include Jace DeCory (left), Jean Nicholson (middle), William Kent Krueger and United Way of the Black Hills. 

Professor, Charitable Organization, Author, Former Board Member Among Honorees

Three people and one organization have been selected by the South Dakota Humanities Council for 2017 Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities awards for their contributions to humanities in South Dakota.

The individual winners are South Dakota Festival of Books author William Kent Krueger, former SDHC board member Jean Nicholson and retired Black Hills State University professor Jace DeCory. The United Way of the Black Hills has been honored for its Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Initiative and partnership with SDHC's Young Readers Initiative.

The four honorees will receive their awards at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood in September.

About the Winners

  • The Rapid City Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Initiative was created by United Way of the Black Hills in January 2015 to help children become proficient readers by the end of third grade. The community-wide collaborative effort includes a diverse network of 106 community partners dedicated to identifying solutions for improving school attendance, reducing summer learning loss, addressing the school readiness gap, increasing parent engagement, and promoting the idea that healthy development greatly impacts a child's ability to learn. Since 2015, SDHC and the campaign have made it possible for 4,500 second graders to meet the author of a book given to them and give students access to festival authors.

  • William Kent Krueger is the author of the New York Times bestselling Cork O'Connor mystery series, as well as the Edgar Award-winning novel "Ordinary Grace," which was the 2015 One Book South Dakota. His most significant involvement with SDHC began with a One Book South Dakota tour to 10 communities, but he first participated in the South Dakota Festival of Books more years ago than he can recall. His generosity with his time and talents has benefitted readers of all ages across the state, and in 2016 his support helped to bring students from Eagle Butte to the Festival. Home is Saint Paul, Minn., where he has written all eighteen of his novels in a local coffee shop.

  • Jace DeCory is a recently retired Black Hills State University professor and current SDHC Speakers Bureau scholar. The Spearfish resident has served as a South Dakota Festival of Books Subcommittee Volunteer and a scholar/tribal expert in many grants, including Wounded Knee Observance conference at Center for Western Studies in Sioux Falls. DeCory has also worked with the South Dakota Department of Education (SDDOE) and Technology & Innovation In Education (TIE) on their "Listening to the Elders" interviews that serve as a resource for South Dakota educators creating lesson plans to incorporate the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings into their classrooms. She has shared foundational knowledge with SDDOE and TIE that has helped them frame their work and better understand the concept of "wolakota." These programs are supported annually by the SDHC through an endowment raised as a part of an NEH Challenge Grant for American Indian teacher education and tribal programs. She has been an active member of the SDHC's Speakers Bureau for many years conducting programs throughout South Dakota on many different aspects of traditional Lakota philosophy.

  • Jean Nicholson graduated from the University of South Dakota and now resides in Sioux Falls. She is a former South Dakota Humanities Council board chair who has also served as a community leader and volunteer for the SDHC Festival of Books, One Book and Big Read. A longtime donor, Nicholson also has perfect attendance at the Festival of Books, which is in its 15th year. One of her favorite SDHC memories is uniting diverse audiences to discuss "To Kill a Mockingbird," and planning events related to the book so readers could learn from each other. She remains active in the Sioux Falls community as a leader of grade school book clubs. Nicholson is also a Founding Board Member for Sioux Falls Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and has served as Augustana University Library Associates Board Chair.

Pictured above are past awards given to Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities winners. Honorees received their awards at a special presentation each year during the South Dakota Festival of Books

Commitment to Scholarly and Cultural Advocacy

The South Dakota Humanities Council has previously recognized 47 honorees with the Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Awards. SDHC and its board of directors select and approve nominees for the awards each year.

The honorees demonstrate a commitment to scholarly and cultural advocacy around South Dakota. They present humanities-related events and programs, write books and publications important to the humanities and provide funding or partnerships to sustain a vibrant cultural landscape.

For more details, visit the SDHC online at and or call (605) 688-6113.