Morningside alumni provide free dental care to Sioux City residents

David and Diane Davidson are two Morningside alumni who are making a difference in the world.

As a dentist, David has traveled to 11 countries and performed dental care in them, three as an army dentist and eight as a missionary dentist. He has been president of the Iowa Dental Foundation since 2011. That group organizes the Iowa Mission of Mercy (IMOM), a two-day, free oral healthcare event where patients receive quality dental care provided by dental professionals.

Recently, David and Diane came to Sioux City to help head this free dental clinic.

“I believe this was the Iowa Dental Foundation’s 12th IMOM,” David said. “We do this event annually, traveling to different areas of the state. This is our second time in Sioux City. We generally do $1-2 million dollars of free dental care at each IMOM event.”

David and Diane met as students at Morningside College and have been together ever since. Graduating in 1976, David majored in biology and Diane was a history and political science major. David went on to receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Iowa, and Diane went to the University of Iowa College of Law.

Both were involved in campus activities during their time at Morningside. David sang in the men’s choir, and Diane participated in student government, pre-law, and worked in the communications department and at the college switchboard.

When asked their favorite thing about Morningside, David said, “My first year I met two friends who have been my best friends ever since. I became my own person, and my second year of college, I met my wife of 43 years.

Diane’s favorite things included Dr. Husband’s history class and the convocation classes. “This was the 1/4 credit class where you got cultured,” she said. “It started a lifetime of love for classical music and theatre.”

David and Diane both had advice for current students and alumni. David’s advice for current students was to enjoy your time at Morningside. “Time goes by quickly,” he said “Take classes outside of your major just for fun. Also, learn to be creative and think outside of the box.”

Diane said, “Be safe but look for adventures. Go someplace that doesn’t feel like home. Make friends with someone from another country, another age group or a different religion.”

To young alumni, David said, “Be generous and helpful to people who will never thank you, be philanthropic with your time and money, find your passion and live it, live each day as if it were your last day, have fun in life, do good, don’t be mean to people even if they wrong you, don’t let politics make you weird, find adventures and be faithful.”

Diane said, “Promote yourself! In the Midwest, we are fairly humble and modest, but a job interview is not the best time to let those traits shine.”

Both David and Diane have been very involved in their community since college. David and Diane have traveled to 65 different countries and all 50 states. They both are members of the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, and Diane is an AFS High School exchange program volunteer. Diane practiced law for 30 years and now works as a clinic administrator at Davidson Family Dentistry, the clinic David owns and where he has practiced since 1980. David also has been an adjunct faculty for 19 years at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.







Published in: on October 15, 2018 at 6:48 PM Comments (0)

Student Spotlight: Zulema Alvarado

Zulema Alvarado is a junior at Morningside College from Sioux City, Iowa who chose Morningside because of the strong academic program and her familiarity with the college. 

“One reason I came to Morningside was because of my friends,” she explained. “They showed me bits and pieces of campus and it caught my attention. The other reason I chose Morningside was the psychology department. They were very engaging and had lots of opportunities for me to expand my horizons.”

Alvarado is a counseling and developmental psychology major. She said she likes the personal connection with professors on campus.

“What I like about Morningside is the one-on-one connection with your professors,” Alvarado said. “They are always there to help you and want to get to know you more.”

Alvarado is an active student on campus who takes every opportunity to get involved. Currently, she participates in MAC, the Morningside Activities Council; the Connie Wimer Women’s Leadership Program; and Morningside Choir. She is an Orientation Student Assistant, a student ambassador for the admissions office, and a leader in the Student Success program.

“My favorite part about being a member of these organizations is getting to know people,” Alvarado said. “I like meeting new people and getting to know them because there’s a possibility you might start a new friendship.”

After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school at either the University of South Dakota or the University of Nebraska Omaha for social work.





Published in: on October 11, 2018 at 9:32 AM Comments (1)

Student Spotlight: Kyle Kommes

Kyle Kommes is a senior at Morningside College from Le Mars, Iowa, with many passions, especially accounting and sports. He said Morningside has been the perfect place to pursue his passions.

“When I visited a university, I felt like I was only a number,” he said. “I knew I was much more than that, and Morningside made me feel unique. Everyone on campus knows each other by name. Everyone who I have met has been extremely friendly, and the faculty and staff at Morningside truly care about each student succeeding.”

Kommes is a public accounting major with minors in sports management and religious studies. He said he chose Morningside because of the ability to be involved in so many activities.

“I wanted to go to a college that had a bowling program,” Kommes said. “I also was interested in being a student coach and a choir member. Being able to do all the things that I dreamed of doing in high school is the reason that I chose to attend Morningside.”

Kommes is a very active student who takes every opportunity to get involved. Currently, he is the president of Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honor society; a member of the men’s bowling team; a student assistant coach for the men’s basketball team; treasurer of the Morningside College Choir; the accounting club’s social media executive; and an accounting department peer mentor.

“I am involved in a ton at Morningside, and the best part about all the groups that I am involved in is how supportive they are of me being involved in other activities,” he said. “They are all willing to let me schedule enough time to make an impact on all of my groups and are allowing me to be this heavily involved.”

Since public accounting is a five-year degree, Kommes will graduate in May of 2020. After graduation, he plans to work at an accounting firm in either Le Mars or Sioux City and would like to become a certified public accountant. He also would like to coach high school sports.

“I am truly thankful and blessed that I chose to attend Morningside,” he said. “Everything I have experienced here will be a great story to tell my friends and family later on in my life. I would recommend Morningside to anyone who wants to feel welcome and involved.”


Published in: on September 10, 2018 at 10:37 AM Comments (0)

Japan Mayterm 2018

As many of you may know, members of the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies Program and the Morningside College Choir and alumni and friends of the college ventured to Japan in May for an 11-day trip. For many students, it was their first time outside of the United States, making the experience both memorable and exciting. There were 33 students, 10 alumni and friends, and six staff and faculty that went on the trip.

They visited five different cities, including Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Yamanashi, and Tokyo. They left Sioux City at 2:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17. The first flight took off from Omaha, went to Denver, then headed to Los Angeles, and finally ended up in Osaka after an 11-hour plane ride.

While in Osaka, participants visited Kansai Gaidai University, where the choir performed and students from Morningside College and Kansai Gaidai University mingled. Agriculture students visited an organic farm just outside of Osaka. They learned about the farmer’s operation and the importance of producing organic products through his eyes. Everything that he grows and produces he sells through his restaurant on site, which draws a large crowd from the city every day.


While in Hiroshima, Morningsiders visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum and had the opportunity to visit the monuments, walk through the museum and visit with an atomic bomb survivor who was 8months old when the bomb hit Hiroshima. Everyone was moved and touched by her story of perseverance and the power of forgiveness.

The next stop was Kyoto, where the group saw numerous temples, visited a castle and tried lots of tasty food! Nijo Castle was built in 1603. It was constructed as a demonstration of the shogun’s power and prestige to signal the falling of the emperor. In 1994, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everyone toured the inside of the castle, admiring the artwork that covers the walls and ceilings and experiencing nightingale wood floors, which make chirping noises when people walk on them.

Another stop in Kyoto was the Golden Pavilion Temple. This temple and its location are known for their beauty. It was built in 1397 to serve as a retirement home for the shogun and was later converted into a Zen temple. It is three stories tall, with the top two stories being covered in gold.

In between Kyoto and Yamanashi, the group stopped at St. Stephen’s School, a private Catholic school originally for students with disabilities that now accepts all students. This was a memorable and special stop for everyone. The choir performed, then the students of St. Stephen’s sang a song, and finally the Morningside College Choir and students of St. Stephen’s sang Country Roads by John Denver together. It was very moving.

After the concert, Morningside students, staff and alumni got split into groups. Everyone ate lunch with the St. Stephen’s students in their respective group and then got to participate in an activity. Some got to go down to the beach and collect sea glass, others learned how to do origami, and the final group learned Japanese calligraphy all while interacting with St. Stephen’s students.

Then in Yamanashi, Morningsiders met with Yamanashi Mayor Haruo Takagi, went to a strawberry farm, visited Yamanashi University, toured an ice cream factory, and met the lieutenant governor of Yamanashi. The strawberry farm grows six different varieties of strawberries and uses crushed coconut imported from Sri Lanka for the soil. The berries were delicious!


At Yamanashi University, the choir participated in a music workshop while other students discussed differences between agriculture in Iowa compared to Yamanashi and learned that organic production agriculture means a lot to the Japanese. They place great importance on being eco-friendly. For example, to keep cooling costs down in the hot summer months, professors at Yamanashi University were growing grape vines along the side of the building. They wanted to see which of the six grape varieties produced the biggest leaves, grew the tallest and provided the most shade for them.



Morningsiders also toured an ice cream factory. They got to see the production line and taste test two of the factory’s ice cream treats, which were delicious! Ice cream is a popular treat in Japan and can most commonly be purchased in convenience stores and at vending machines. The company, Fuji Foods, sells prepackaged ice cream cones to convenience stores such as FamilyMart.

While in Tokyo, agriculture students visited the Tyson Foods headquarters and the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and everyone visited the Tsukiji Fish Market and the Meiji Shinto Shrine. At Tyson and the U.S. Meat Export Federation, agriculture students learned the importance of the United States and Japan’s relationship while also learning how American beef and pork is marketed to the Japanese people. To help convey this picture better, students toured a grocery store where they saw displays for American beef and learned how the cartoon character Gochipo helps market American pork.

The Tsukiji Fish Market was another popular stop with students, alumni, and faculty alike. It is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and handles over 2,000 tons of marine products on a daily basis. It consists of both an indoor and outdoor market. The indoor market is where most of the wholesale business and the famous tuna auction takes place daily. The outdoor market consists of retail shops and stores where people are able to sample products and purchase them for themselves.

Students made a stop at the Meiji Shinto Shrine, one of Japan’s most popular shrines. It was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920, but later destroyed during World War II. After being destroyed, it was rebuilt and continues to undergo improvements. During the year, traditional Shinto weddings take place at this shrine, and everyone got the opportunity to witness one taking place. Students also had ample time to explore the city.

All in all, students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Morningside enjoyed the trip to Japan. From learning about the food and agriculture and tasting plenty of new treats to enjoying the choir performances at various venues and visiting popular tourist attractions, everyone was able to learn and gain something from the experience.



Published in: on June 14, 2018 at 8:44 PM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Muriel Stone (’64)

Muriel Stone has always had a life-long passion for the fine arts and music. This passion led her to Morningside College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education in 1964.

Stone found her way to Morningside through a Morningside admissions counselor. She explained how she was impressed with the great music program and the scholarship she received helped as well.

During her time on campus, Stone was very involved both inside and outside of the music department. She participated in band, choir, orchestra, and a woodwind quartet. Additionally, she was in a music sorority on campus. Outside of the music department, she served as a hall counselor, was a member of the student religious group, a student council secretary and a member of LASS, a group for freshman women who were outstanding freshman students who had gotten off to a great start in college. Her sophomore year, Stone also served as the sophomore women student of the year.

Although Stone’s professional career did not include much music, she is now an active part of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society and a musician in the Sun City Chamber Orchestra.

“My love of music has taken me into an area of chamber music,” Stone said.

Stone currently serves as a board member on the Phoenix Chamber Music Society. “Our goal as a society is to bring the world’s finest chamber musicians here to the valley.”

She additionally is a musician in the Sun City Chamber Orchestra. This group of talented musicians performs four to six concerts a year and plays a variety of musical selections ranging from classical, to jazz. Stone is the first flute in this group, an accomplishment she is very proud of.

Stone had numerous pieces of advice for current students.

“Do very well academically and love the area you choose to study,” she said. “Be involved and be connected on campus and encourage curiosity and a sense of excellence.”

Her advice for young alumni?

“Stay connected to the college. Always be grateful for what you have been able to do and have. Be a very productive citizen and remain a productive and intellectual learner.”


You may not realize, but 100% of full-time undergraduate students receive financial aid at Morningside. Muriel Stone is one of those students who received a scholarship during her time at Morningside that helped make the choice to come to Morningside an easy one. Scholarships, along with a passion for music and performing arts, led Stone to a novel idea.

“I would love to have a challenge scholarship, so to say, that challenges alumni to step forward and give back.”

Her vision for the scholarship includes one of which would encourage the recruitment of fine musicians as well as help with retention. Stone’s goals for the scholarship include helping with recruitment, helping music students financially, and helping to strengthen the performing arts and music program at Morningside.

“I hope (by establishing a scholarship) other alumni who were music majors will establish scholarships in their area as well.”

By this Stone indicated that she would love to see a variety of scholarships in different areas, for example, one for a clarinet player that wants to be part of a woodwind quartet, or one for a trumpet player who would like to be part of a brass quartet.

“I would love to see this idea grow and watch as others give back.”


Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 10:40 AM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Karla Santi (’98)

A 1998 Morningside graduate, Karla (Engbard) Santi is a founding partner and CEO of Blend Interactive, a website design and development company founded in 2005 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Santi also has two other Morningside graduates working for her company. As Interactive Designers, Sam Otis (2001) and Weston Burkhardt (2014) put their Graphic Design and Computer Science majors to use as they focus on design, accessibility, and front-end web development.

Santi is married Jayson Santi, a 1996 Morningside graduate, and they have two children.

Santi said she was originally drawn to Morningside because it was one of the few schools with a proper computer lab for graphic design students.

“At the time, I was also considering both private and public colleges in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but it was this small, private college in Iowa that proved to be cutting edge,” she said.

She majored in graphic design and minored in business at Morningside, participating in Student Government, Alpha Lambda Delta, Creative Edge Ad Club, and the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition and Alpha Delta Sigma Honor Society.

She played on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II women’s tennis team, where she still holds several school records.

Santi said her favorite thing about Morningside was the people.

“Professors cared about my academic success, and their advice (or rules) shaped how I tackle projects and deadlines today in my role as CEO,” she said. “The friends I made at Morningside also played an important part in my career path. My roommate, Sarah, lined up my internship, which turned into a career in web design and development. I remember many late nights in the computer lab working alongside my fellow graphic design classmates, many of which have gone on to be very successful in their careers as well.”

In addition to running a business, Santi serves on the board of directors for the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She is a mentor through EmBe’s Women’s Leadership Program and has a passion for encouraging young women to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math. She also takes part in a weekly tennis league and even finds time for a ballet class.

Her advice for students was to learn not just from your major but from your entire college experience.

“Some of the most valuable takeaways from college aren’t always related to your degree,” she said. “When I see job applicants with four-year degrees, that tells me they can commit to a process of rigorous, structured work. It’s in these years of independence where you learn how to prioritize tasks, set expectations and communicate with others – all while making mistakes along the way. The experience and relationships you form while earning your degree are equally as important to the subject matter of your major.”

Her advice for young alumni was don’t be afraid to get started.

“It’s advice that I’ve been given and have to work on every day: ‘Don’t wait for perfection to start something.’ If we wait for perfection, it will never happen. Start something and refine as you go. It’s difficult advice for us perfectionists out there, but even with time, nothing is ever perfect.”


Published in: on at 10:32 AM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Gehling (’03)


Jason Gehling has quickly become a leader in the Sioux City community since graduating from Morningside College in 2003.

He was even named to the “10 under 40” list of young leaders in the Sioux City community that was published by Siouxland Magazine in 2016.

Gehling is market president and business banking manager for Wells Fargo in Sioux City. He serves as vice president of the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation Board. He also serves on the Siouxland Habitat for Humanity Board and the Sergeant Bluff Little League Board and is an advisory member of the Iowa Small Business Development Center and the Iowa Bankers Association.

Gehling said he loves to stay active in his community and with his family.

“My wife, Cheri (Jorgensen), a 2003 Morningside graduate, and I stay very active with our four kids,” Gehling said. “We enjoy boating, camping, baseball, football, basketball and, most recently, archery and sporting clays.”

At Morningside, Gehling majored in business administration with an emphasis in marketing. He also was involved in Phi Beta Lambda, an organization that helps students prepare for business careers through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences. He said he had a great experience in college.

“I appreciated the close relationships I was able to develop with the professors and also enjoyed the engagement of the students,” he said.

Gehling’s advice to young alumni was to find a mentor that will be honest with you and that you trust. His advice to current students was to connect with students and professors on campus.

“Take time to get to know your fellow students. Many of them you will cross paths with later in life,” he said. “Do not take the direction and advice from professors lightly. They can provide a condensed version of life’s lessons without the calories from mistakes.”

Published in: on April 25, 2018 at 1:34 PM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Dustin Cooper (’05)

After working as an English teacher and basketball coach in Phoenix, Ariz., Dustin Cooper is happy to be back home in Sioux City.

The 2005 graduate of Morningside College returned to Sioux City in 2015 to teach and coach boys’ basketball at his alma mater, East High School. He is married to Gretchen (Wickey), a 2001 Morningside graduate, and they have three children.

In the few short years that he has been back in Sioux City, Cooper has co-founded the We Got Next foundation, which serves Siouxland youth, and HCC Enterprises, the company behind a new Siouxland project, The Arena.

The Arena is a $13.5-million project to build an 80,000 square foot multi-sports complex in the former Sioux City Stockyards that will host sports-specific training, leagues, tournaments and major events. Cooper will serve as executive director of The Arena, which is set to open in the summer of 2019.

At Morningside, Cooper majored in English education, and he was a member of the men’s basketball team. He played NCAA Division II, independently during the transition year and then the first year in NAIA Division II.

“I chose Morningside because it was close to home, I knew the academics were second to none, and the basketball program was very strong,” he said. “The classes were small and the professors knew me by my first name. From the professors to the administration, everyone wanted to see me be successful and was willing to do whatever they could to see that happen.”

After graduating from Morningside, Cooper moved to Arizona and earned a master’s degree in administration from Northern Arizona University.

Cooper’s advice to students was to take advantage of the experiences that college offers.

“Soak in the phenomenal education being provided to you, but also immerse yourself in the total college experience,” he said. “Go to academic seminars and athletic contests. Take advantage of the opportunities that get you out of your comfort zone. When you step off campus with your degree, you will find yourself in a world that is not comfortable at times. Learning how to thrive in these situations now will set you up for success later.”

Cooper’s advice to young alumni was simple.

“Thank the professors, administrators, coaches and staff that touched your life in a positive way,” he said. “Those two words go a long way.”

Cooper is grateful for the lasting impact Morningside has had on his life.

“As a former Morningside College student-athlete, I am proud to have been afforded the top-notch education and athletic experience that I did,” he said. “I am grateful to all of the professors, administrators and coaches that helped play a role in molding me into the man I am today.”


Published in: on April 18, 2018 at 1:59 PM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Pete Haack (’96)

Pete Haack is using his degree in mass communication from Morningside College to work as a video producer for a large healthcare facility in La Crosse, Wis.

He also competes in Masters Track and Field meets throughout the country and coaches sprints for the local high school and for adults in a local track club. He is involved in his church through choir and various committees.

These are some of the same interests he pursued while a student at Morningside.

“I chose to attend Morningside because they have good mass communications and music programs,” said the 1996 Morningside graduate. “I also wanted to have a chance to run track.”

During college, Haack was involved in the Student Communications Committee, Student Government, Dimmitt Hall Council, KMSC Campus Radio Station, Acacia Fraternity, Morningside Activities Council, Track and Field, Cross Country, Student Life Committee, Concert Chorale and Vietnamese Tutoring Program. He also was a Resident Assistant.

Helping to start the Acacia Fraternity at Morningside is a very special memory for him.

“It was a very talented and motivated group of young men who worked very hard to get the fraternity going,” he said. “Having Gene Ambroson as our advisor was a true blessing. He has been a life-long mentor to me and so many others, and I am truly thankful to have had him around during that time in my life.”

Haack’s advice to current students is to get involved in the community.

“Take advantage of the opportunities to get involved in many different activities that attending a smaller school can offer,” he said.

He had similar advice for young alumni.

“Think about ways you can give back to your community and get involved,” he said. “You will make it a better place to live for you and your neighbors.”


Published in: on April 11, 2018 at 2:47 PM Comments (0)

Alumni Spotlight: Jackson O’Brien (’16)

Jackson O’Brien credits his Morningside education for his success in law school and his burgeoning legal career. The tools he developed during his studies in history and political science have placed him at the top of his class at Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, and secured him an ongoing clerkship with the respected firm Whitfield & Eddy.

“I believe that students considering law school should look to Morningside for comprehensive preparation,” O’Brien said.

While at Morningside, O’Brien was heavily involved on campus. Some of his roles included president of Student Government, president of Omicron Delta Kappa, vice president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and resident assistant for Residence Life. These activities were in addition to his training in history and political science, which developed his reading, writing and critical thinking skills.

“The expert advising at Morningside helped me shape my career goals and develop a realistic strategy to get there,” he said. “These steps included internships at a local law firm, the Woodbury County Courthouse, and in the United States Senate. I learned to organize, work proactively, and seize opportunities through my education.”

O’Brien graduated summa cum laude from Morningside in 2016, receiving the award for Outstanding Student in the Humanities in his class, and went on to Drake University Law School.

Currently, he is president of the Drake Law Student Bar Association, member of the National Moot Court Team, production editor on the Drake Law Review, and an executive in student organizations such as Drake Law Women and Drake Association for Child Advocacy. Additionally, O’Brien is a research assistant with Professor Andrew Jurs and a teaching assistant in the legal research and writing program.

This involvement, along with his academic success, has resulted in a clerkship at the Des Moines and Mount Pleasant firm Whitfield & Eddy, where O’Brien works on a variety of legal matters, including litigation, estates, family law, construction, and financial services. O’Brien is now interviewing for a clerkship with federal judges in the region to work in their courts after graduation, with plans to enter private practice in Des Moines afterward.

O’Brien feels strongly that Morningside set him up for success.

“Law school requires students to read copious amounts of complex material, organize their thoughts in persuasive arguments, and communicate their positions in writing,” he said. “Moreover, the legal profession often (but not always) necessitates sound presentation skills. Students entering law school, therefore, must be organized, proactive, and motivated.”

“I encourage students interested in law school to attend Morningside and take courses that challenge their reading comprehension and writing skills,” he continued. “Courses in history, political science, or English will help develop students’ organization and attention to detail. Involvement in theatre and the arts will also help students in their presentation skills and give them confidence in themselves. These skills can also be furthered by networking on campus and getting involved in student activities.”

O’Brien said he is thankful for his Morningside education every day. Morningside students should feel free to contact O’Brien through Morningside Connect with questions on how to prepare themselves for a career in law.




Published in: on April 4, 2018 at 1:49 PM Comments (0)