May 11, 2018

When two oversized and loveable Bernese Mountain dogs beg with their rich brown eyes to have you to stroke their fluffy coats, it’s hard to feel stressed. The consistent comforting presence of Dr. Beth Jernberg and her certified therapy dogs have not only impacted USF students, faculty & staff, but the entire Sioux Falls community as the team has spent hours comforting hospital patients and their families, elementary children and stressed college students. 

That’s why you will find “Dr. Beth Jernberg” engraved on the Lifetime Volunteer Award, an honor Dr. Jernberg received yesterday from the Helpline Center’s Spirit of Volunteerism luncheon. Nominated by Avera Mckennan, Dr. Jernberg was recognized for her service developing the pet therapy program at Avera that now has 27 certified handlers in over seven locations. Dr. Jernberg was recognized among others as an amazing volunteer who helps make the Sioux Falls community tick.

What’s more, at a retirement celebration earlier this month with the USF community, Dr. Jernberg received the Dr. A. O. Larsen Distinguished Alumni award. The award is given to an alumni who reflects the character of Dr. A. O. Larsen, a man who invested many years of service at USF as a teacher, dean and friend of the university.

“Dr. Beth Jernberg has been the embodiment of the USF mission statement and modeled the concept of servant-leadership throughout a long and distinguished career,” said Dr. Brett Bradfield, USF President. “In the words of Robert Greenleaf that so aptly describe Dr. Jernberg, “the servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Her commitment to the University, its students, and the integration of faith and learning have been second-to-none. The University has been blessed by her presence for 39 years and she will always remain a role model for those of us that serve this great institution.”

In an amusing and one might say profound turn of events, her 39 years with USF began in the dorms and now draws to a close in the same manner. She entered Grand Island Hall as an undergraduate student in 1970, and now, with retirement plans to enjoy traveling the country in an RV, she has sold her longtime Sioux Falls home and finishes her time at USF living short-term in the Sullivan Faith & Living Center on campus.

Dr. Jernberg says she enjoys the simplicity of dorm life and cafeteria meals—a full circle picture of a journey from student to seasoned professor that has produced the fruit of deep impact on countless lives.

Over her 39 years of service at USF, Dr. Jernberg has held a variety of roles such as:

  • chair of the Fredrikson School of Education
  • vice president for enrollment services/dean of students
  • dean of faculty development and assessment
  • professor of graduate education
  • professor of undergraduate education
  • basketball coach
  • softball coach
  • health and physical education instructor

The numerous roles and positions Dr. Jernberg has served reflect her willingness to respond to the university’s immediate needs. A focused, steadfast anchor for the University, Dr. Jernberg has impacted the lives of students, faculty and staff, and the community.

“Dr. Jernberg has a great desire to see others succeed,” said former student Katie Mashek. “I experienced this as a student in her classroom and also as a fellow traveler abroad with her in a study abroad program in Costa Rica. There were many times that Beth’s actions gave me the encouragement I needed to choose joy. Specifically, I remember loving Costa Rica, but I was pretty homesick. Dr. Jernberg wrote me a letter knowing others had received mail, but I hadn’t heard from home yet. Then, fast forward several years and a new job brought me back to Sioux Falls. Beth committed to serve in whatever manner she could to help me in my new position. From cards with words of affirmation to time spent serving others, Beth’s service has helped me succeed.”

Additionally, Dr. Jernberg has served for 25 years on the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC’s) Peer Review Corps and has served as a team member and more recently as team chair for more than 55 accreditation visits to other higher education institutions. Dr. Jernberg has also served as a member of the Institutional Actions Council, a decision-making body of the HLC. This spring Dr. Jernberg was recently recognized by the HLC for her many years of service as well as for being a 2018 Short Notice Hero for her willingness to respond to sudden needs for additional team or committee members during the year. 

"Beth has been my colleague for 31 years and I can't imagine working at USF without her,” said Rachelle Loven, fellow professor of education at USF. “Beth responded to my need for support while working on my doctorate, attended my parents’ funerals four hours away and supported me when I was the Fredrikson School of Education chair. She did the same for other colleagues, making USF an enviable place to work. I’m so glad she isn't changing her phone number."

Because of her foundation of faith in Christ’s transformative work Dr. Jernberg has walked out the university’s mission of Culture for Service as an educator, mentor, friend, colleague and community member, embodying the delicate tensions of a servant leader.

In the program for the Fredrikson School of Education’s annual Graduate Education Research Symposium, the following poem by Brewer, as cited by Tim Hansel in “Holy Sweat”, Dallas TX, Word, 1987, highlights such exemplary servant leadership qualities upheld by the School:


The Paradoxes of being a “Servant-Leader”

Strong enough to be weak

Successful enough to fail

Busy enough to make time

Wise enough to say “I don’t know”

Serious enough to laugh

Rich enough to be poor

Right enough to say “I’m wrong”

Compassionate enough to discipline

Mature enough to be childlike

Important enough to be last

Planned enough to be spontaneous

Controlled enough to be flexible

Free enough to endure captivity

Knowledgeable enough to ask questions

Loving enough to be angry

Great enough to be anonymous

Responsible enough to play

Assured enough to be rejected

Victorious enough to lose

Industrious enough to relax

Leading enough to serve

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