Every year the South Dakota State University College of Engineering selects an individual for the SDSU Distinguished Engineer Award. This year’s recipient is Reece Kurtenbach, Daktronics President and CEO.
This prestigious award has been an SDSU tradition since 1976. According to the SDSU website, the award is to “recognize and honor those who have demonstrated eminent achievements in a field of engineering.” Since its conception, SDSU has awarded 125 distinguished engineers, with Daktronics co-founders, Al Kurtenbach and Duane Sander in 1990 and 2000 respectively and retired Daktronics CEO Jim Morgan in 2004, among the past recipients.
Kurtenbach graduated from SDSU in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He commented on the honor of receiving the Distinguished Engineering Award.
“It’s quite an honor and there have been a lot of people who have been successful from SDSU, especially engineers,” Kurtenbach said. “Distinguished usually means that you have some grey hair! There have been tremendous changes in engineering from when I started. The tools that are available today are much more improved and readily available than before. As project sizes grow, it’s important to have more than just engineering skills; people skills are an important part of the equation for success.”
When asked about receiving this honor from his alma mater, Kurtenbach said, “I think it’s important to judge myself and how I’m doing as an engineer based on the problems I’m working on today.”
He explained, “How we are going to solve those problems and help make them better is what I find most important. This is not the pinnacle of my career, because there is so much left to do, but as I look back at my career as an engineer, it is nice to have these milestones and honors.”
Kurtenbach continued, discussing his journey from SDSU to Daktronics.
“In the rearview mirror looking back on your life, you can track your decisions, but when you’re looking forward, it doesn’t look like a clear path. You make what you feel is the best choice at the time,” he said. “Daktronics has had a lot of influence on me. We had to work hard to prove ourselves when we started manufacturing video displays. Around 2002-2003, we really had proved ourselves and were seen as equivalent, if not better than, our competitors.”
Kurtenbach said it’s important to never stop striving for excellence in your career.
“We’re in an exciting business and there will be a lot of change over the coming years and Daktronics will be at the forefront,” Kurtenbach explained. “It will be challenging and different, but that is what makes it exciting.
There was a ceremony recognizing Kurtenbach as a SDSU Distinguished Engineer on May 2nd. An engraved photo plaque of Kurtenbach will be permanently displayed on the SDSU Distinguished Engineer Wall of Fame, found in the Student Commons of Crothers Engineering Hall on the university’s campus.
This article is by Erin Smith
in Employee Communications.