BROOKINGS – The Al and Irene Kurtenbach family of Brookings was recognized as the 2019 Philanthropic Family of the Year by the SDSU Foundation.

The award, created in 2012, “acknowledges exceptional generosity to diverse causes by a family that serves as an inspiration to others to support South Dakota State University.” It was announced April 25 at the SDSU Foundation’s annual donor celebration in the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center.

President Barry Dunn focused on the family’s enormous legacy they have built at SDSU. 

The Kurtenbachs were honored by the Alumni Association as SDSU’s Family of the Year in 2002. All five children earned degrees from SDSU; three of them married SDSU alums. Three of their 12 grandchildren graduated from State. Four of the five children – Carla, Paula, Reece and Matt – earned electrical engineering degrees; Lisa majored in mathematics and physical education. Combined, the family has earned 14 degrees from SDSU, nine in the field of engineering.

“If SDSU mapped out its family tree, the Kurtenbachs would command a very sizable branch,” Dunn said.

Al co-founded Daktronics with Duane Sander in 1968. He served as chairman of the board until 2014. Throughout that time, Daktronics has been a great source of work experience for students. Annually, about 200 students work there part-time while attending class. Today, at least 1,000 SDSU graduates are among the company’s 2,700 employees.

Three children – Carla, Reece and Matt – are in the company’s leadership from CEO to vice president.

Al and Irene have provided more than $3.7 million in support to SDSU. Daktronics, through strategic investments the Kurtenbach family members have helped determine, has contributed another $4.8 million to SDSU.

Those investments, personal and corporate, have impacted countless areas of campus. Most significantly is in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering. Gifts by Al and Irene, Daktronics and two other company leaders – Jim Morgan and his wife, Dorothy, and Duane Sander and his wife, Phyllis – were joined by the extraordinary generosity and vision of the college’s namesake, Jerry Lohr, to help transform that college and the university.

Al and Daktronics were the drivers behind the Duane Sander Endowed Professorship in Engineering for Entrepreneurship that is almost fully endowed. Daktronics and the Kurtenbach family were significant investors in the athletic department with the scoreboards in Frost Arena and the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

Al has served on the SDSU Foundation’s council of trustees since 1995 and was co-chair of the $255 million comprehensive campaign, It Starts with STATE, completed in 2013. 

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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