• SD Space Grant Consortium
    Remembering our dear friend, Dr. Dan Swets

Dr. Daniel Swets served as Associate Director of the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium at Augustana College and on the Consortium’s management team since 1996.  He brought with him an unprecedented enthusiasm and vision on how to instill the spirit of exploration and discovery in students and educators with a special focus in the fields of science, math, and technology supported by NASA.  Dan actively promoted the Space Grant program among the students of Augustana who have been awarded NASA funding over the years to conduct educational and research projects that are essential for the development of the nation’s workforce.

Dan not only brought incredibly good ideas to the table, but he also was tremendously talented in, and dedicated to, bringing these ideas to fruition.  One example was his vision for bringing one of the Consortium’s educational programs, namely robotics, to a whole new level of growth.  He founded the SD Robotics Association and served as its president for the past two years, and he co-founded the SD FIRST Lego League.  Dan saw the value of robotics for recruiting students into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at an early age.  He strove to provide those opportunities for students throughout their educational career.  He successfully proposed and was awarded a highly competitive grant from NASA two years ago titled “Pathways to STEM” where students in South Dakota are first exposed to robotics programs at the elementary school level and have opportunities to excel in the subject through graduate school.  Not only does that help young people in science and engineering in general, but it also produces high quality students that NASA is looking toward to help fulfill its mission to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. 

In addition to the educational programs that Dan brought to the Space Grant Consortium, he also served as Chairman of the Steering Committee for the NASA South Dakota “Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research” (EPSCoR).  The NASA EPSCoR Steering Committee selects the proposals that South Dakota submits to NASA for research funding.  There are 29 states within the U.S. that receive EPSCoR funding.  Over the past five years, South Dakota has been the #1 recipient of NASA EPSCoR funding in the nation.  No other state received as many major research grants as South Dakota, which received seven over the past five years, each for $750,000.

On behalf of the remaining eight members of the Space Grant Consortium’s management team, Dr. Ed Duke (Director) and Mr. Tom Durkin (Deputy Director) express the entire team’s memory of Dan, most of all, as a dear friend.  Dan was tremendously gifted and had an incredibly positive influence on our team and on our daily operations.  His sincerity of heart, his enthusiasm, and his humor made our monthly meetings and trips together something that we all looked forward to every time.  The quiet leadership that Dan provided to our organization for over 15 years will not be replaceable.  We will greatly miss our most generous and hospitable friend.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with Dan’s wife Robyn and his children, as well as with the families of the other three gentlemen who tragically lost their lives in the crash; Kevin Anderson and Joshua Lambrecht who both worked closely with Dan on the robotics program, and pilot Brian Blake.

With our sincere condolences,

Management Team, NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC)

·     Ed Duke – Director of SDSGC (SD School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City)

·     Tom Durkin – Deputy Director of SDSGC (SD School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City)

·     Kevin Dalsted – Associate Director of SDSGC (SD State University, Brookings)

·     Gregg Johnson – Associate Director of SDSGC (USGS EROS, Sioux Falls)

·     Diane Melvin – Associate Director of SDSGC (The Journey Museum, Rapid City)

·     Kristie Maher – Associate Director of SDSGC (SD Discovery Center, Pierre)

·     Brennan Jordan – Associate Professor, University of South Dakota, Vermillion

·     Gary Johnson – System Vice President of Research, SD Board of Regents, Pierre


Augustana College, Students, and Colleagues Pay Tribute to Dr. Swets

(December 2011)