Karen Sweetland

Karen Sweetland has lived in five states during her lifetime. She feels that Marshall, Minnesota is her favorite location.

Sweetland is a familiar face within the Mustang Family, first as the wife of the late SMSU President Doug Sweetland, and, more recently, as an active member on several boards and committees and an avid supporter of the University. Her commitment to SMSU has not waned since the death of her husband on July 21, 2009.

She grew up in Clear Lake, S.D., and received a teaching certificate from Northern State before going on to teach in Huron for two years. She would then return to Northern for her BS degree. It is there that she met Doug Sweetland, who attended Northern after being discharged from the Navy.

“We were both juniors, and non-traditional students when we met,” she said.

A student in her early teaching years who suffered a brain injury from a horseback fall drew her into special education. She earned her undergraduate degree in special ed, and her master’s in Learning Disabilities.

Doug was interim president from 1994-97, and permanent president from 1997-2000. Karen continued to teach, first with the RTR district in Ruthton for three years, and later, teaching Special Education for the Marshall district, at Holy Redeemer School. She taught for 30 years before retiring.

Doug was at LaCrosse, Wis., and, later, Winona prior to coming to SMSU. The move from the river bluffs to the prairie “felt like coming home to me — the wind and the prairie,” she said.

“I was familiar with Marshall, traveling between Wisconsin and Clear Lake, plus I had visited campus with my son Shane, who graduated from SMSU.”

Karen has been active on many boards over the years, including the SMSU Gala, SMSU Foundation, Lynd School and Marshall-Lyon County Library boards. She is an avid supporter of GOLD College since its inception, and she was recently paired with a Little Buddy, as well.

“I remember when Doug was president, we attended so many functions — games, plays, speakers. We were so involved with the community. Marshall and SMSU have a very unique relationship, and we made so many friends at the university, in the community, and the region.”

Karen is able to see her three children often. They include Angela, Shane, and Celine Nelson. Her five grandchildren bring her joy, she said.

The Alumni Association award is unexpected, she said. “I’m very surprised, and honored.”