Watertown native recognized for her big heart

Watertown Public Opinion


Presentation College alum Katie Tuff talks about the heart transplant she had in April during a ceremony in which she donated her old heart, which is wrapped in the jar in the foreground, to the anatomy lab at the college. (Dakota Media Group photo by John Davis)

Katie Tuff, of Sioux Falls and originally from Watertown, has been recognized by the South Dakota Hall of Fame for its Act of Excellence (AOE) program.

The AOE is a way to recognize and share everyday stories about excellence. These real stories can inspire and influence the pursuit of excellence throughout South Dakota.

Tuff is being recognized for donating her heart to Presentation College in Aberdeen. Tuff, age 30, was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer at age 6. She eventually went on to graduate from Presentation College with a nursing degree and had been working in the Brain and Spine Institute at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Tuff’s heart issues began in 2009 as a result of chemotherapy and radiation treatments she encountered fighting cancer as a child. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She took medications following the diagnosis but they stopped working, which is when she found out she needed a new heart.

Tuff was then diagnosed with a restrictive cardiomyopathy, the rarest form of cardiomyopathy — a condition in which the walls of the lower chambers of the heart are abnormally rigid and lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood.

Tuff then received a heart transplant and was in the hospital for three months. She decided to donate her heart because she “always tries to find something good out of the bad things that happen.”

The heart was eventually wrapped up and rubber-banded in a jar of preservative and had been with her family since it was removed.

Trisha Waldman, Associated Dean at Presentation, removed Tuff’s heart from the jar and handed it to Tuff, who then posed for pictures with her heart before officially delivering it to the college.

Tuff is going to try to go back to work before the predicted year of recovery is up.

Mary Olinger submitted the Act of Excellence to the South Dakota Hall of Fame for Tuff.


We invite you to join us on Thursday, January 18 in the State Capitol Rotunda for an Acts of Excellence Celebration. We will recognize eight recipients who represent everyday acts of excellence through their trials, tribulations, and perseverance. These recipients embody our mission of Championing a Culture of Excellence: One Act at a Time, and we are honored to acknowledge their outstanding acts of excellence.

Location: State Capitol Rotunda, 500 E. Capitol Avenue, Pierre

When: January 18, 12:15 pm program

Recipients (click on each title below for additional information):

  1. A Mission to Save Lives
  2. Ft. Pierre 200th
  3. Historical Society Press Preserves, Promotes State’s Heritage
  4. In Honor of Veterans, the Leadership of Jerry Wattier
  5. Keeping Historic West River Trails Alive
  6. Mansour Karim Gratitude in Giving
  7. Native Hope Mission: A Voice to Young Native Americans
  8. Houck Ranch Brings Buffalo to the South Dakota Prairie


Do you know an individual or group deserving of recognition for their Acts of Excellence? Nominate them today here.




2012 Inductee Larry Ness Named Banker Of The Year

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan
Larry Ness

MINNEAPOLIS — Larry Ness, chairman and CEO of First Dakota National Bank of Yankton, has been named 2018 Banker of the Year by NorthWestern Financial Review magazine.

Bell Bank partners with NorthWestern Financial Review as program sponsor to honor the 72-year-old banker. Ness started working at First Dakota National Bank when it was on the verge of failing and turned it into one of the nation’s leading agricultural lenders and one of South Dakota’s leading financial institutions.

“As chairman and CEO, Ness is reaping the rewards of a lifetime of work,” says NorthWestern Financial Review publisher Tom Bengtson. “Ness shares many leadership traits with previous Banker of the Year selections, including having a knack for innovation, aggressively recruiting talent, recognizing opportunities in tough times, being engaged in helping the community, and gratitude.

“In nearly 35 years at First Dakota, he has hired the right people, strung together a series of savvy acquisitions, built a culture of decisiveness and fun by leading and delegating, brought his three sons into the bank, built the nation’s 38th largest ag loan portfolio, won the respect of his community by giving back time and treasure, and encouraged employees, customers and students to make the most of what they have.”

Prior to landing the presidency at First Dakota National Bank in 1983, Ness worked four years as an examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and he worked as a banker in Mitchell for seven years and in Volga for two years.

Rob Stephenson, who joined First Dakota National Bank in 1996 and became its president in 2010, said Ness, “regularly provides the inspiration needed for things to happen in the Yankton community.” Stephenson cited the Yankton United Way and Yankton Area Progressive Growth fund drives as examples.

Ness is the magazine’s 30th Banker of the Year selection. His is only the third selection from the state of South Dakota.

Graduate Dick Muth of Mitchell Tech and Spouse Darlene Give Back in a Big Way!

Mitchell Daily Republic: Holding back tears, Dick Muth proudly told the crowd he’s a graduate of Mitchell Technical Institute.

Standing by his side was his wife, Darlene, and together they thanked the technical institute for all it has done for their family. But now it’s their turn to give back.

Dick and Darlene Muth, along with Muth Electric, are gifting Mitchell Tech $1.1 million — the single-largest contribution to the technical school in its soon-to-be 50-year history.

The $1.1 million is a combination of endowed funds, past donations and in-kind contributions. The announcement, which was made Thursday night on Mitchell Tech’s campus, also declared the school’s Technology Center be named the Muth Electric Technology Center and the commons in the MTI Campus Center be renamed Muth Electric Commons.

“We’ve had close ties with MTI for all these years, and MTI has given us a lot,” Dick Muth told The Daily Republic earlier this week. “And I could almost say we owe our success to MTI. It’s time that we give back.”

Dick and Darlene began Muth Electric in 1970, shortly after Dick graduated from Mitchell Tech. Forty-seven years, 12 locations and 390 employees later, the company has grown beyond the couple’s wildest dreams. And it couldn’t have been done without the Mitchell institution, they said.

Of the company’s nearly 400 employees, approximately 100 have come from Mitchell Tech. And of the remaining 290 employees, nearly all are technical school graduates. Eight Muth Electric employees hold four-year degrees.

“Basically our company is run by tech school graduates,” Dick said, adding that their dedicated employees have also helped the company grow to success.

Along with Dick being an alum of Mitchell Tech, four of his brothers and two of his sons have also graduated from the school.

“We believe in technical education. MTI is near and dear to us,” Dick said.

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