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McPherson College Professor Dustin Wilgers to be One of Three Southwestern College Graduates Inducted into the 2023 Natural Science Hall of Fame

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By Southwestern College 

 

WINFIELD, Kan. — Three Southwestern College graduates will be inducted into the Natural Science Hall of Fame on Saturday, Nov. 11, in Deets Library on the campus of Southwestern College. The new members are Dustin Wilgers, Stephanie Kesler, and Bryan Dennett. Dennett is a member of the 2022 induction class but will be formally recognized at the 2023 induction ceremony.

The celebration will begin at 5 p.m., with a reception and dinner (cost is $25 per person, seating is limited, and RSVPs are necessary) in Deets Library. The induction ceremony will begin following dinner at approximately 6 p.m., all are invited to attend (no reservations are required). To make reservations, contact Ashlee Mayo, director of alumni engagement, (620) 229-6155.

This hall of fame honors Southwestern College alumni who have made significant contributions in the natural sciences.

Wilgers*       Dustin Wilgers ’01, received his bachelor of science degree in biology with honors from Southwestern College. While at Southwestern, Wilgers participated in golf and was an athletic trainer for one year. He was active in Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Society. He went on to earn a master of science degree from Kansas State University in 2005 and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011. Wilgers has been a professor at McPherson College since 2011. He has taught a variety of courses in biology and environmental science and earned multiple teaching awards during that time. His passion centers on teaching students of all ages about science, and training the next generation of scientists. He has contributed to the field with his ecological research that focused on diversity found in the prairie and understanding the communication and behavioral systems of spiders. Wilgers has published 22 scientific papers and one book chapter. He co-authored many of his papers with undergraduate students. He has presented his research at numerous international, national, and regional scientific meetings; winning awards for his research at several of them. He served as President of the Kansas Academy of Science and the Kansas Entomological Society. Since being a faculty member, Wilgers has worked extensively with Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks through their Chickadee Checkoff program, doing both research on the state’s arachnids and educational outreach programs. His drive to educate society about nature has taken him all across the state and to many elementary schools. Recently, to extend his outreach, he has published multiple children’s books that aim to both entertain and educate younger children about science and his favorite animal group. Dustin is married to Autumn (Strauss), who he met at Southwestern College. They have two kids, Noah and Hannah. Much of their family time centers on spending time in nature or playing and watching sports.

*       Stephanie Kesler ’80, graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in biology and a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics. She also earned a master of science degree in science management from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1990. Her strong passion for community and justice was nurtured at Southwestern where she was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including Campus Players and Tri-Beta. Kesler’s professional career as a telecommunications technologist and architect spanned the dawn and evolution of the internet era from 1991 to present day. Over the decades, she was a key member of the teams that built out Alaska’s modern telecommunications infrastructure and services. She also participated in several national standards setting initiatives. Community involvement at all levels is extremely important to Kesler. Her service runs the gamut from her neighborhood council to President of the Board of Providence Alaska Medical System Region. Above all, Southwestern holds a special place in her heart. Her Southwestern education and experience prepared her for a lifetime of learning, curiosity, and a commitment to community.

*       Bryan Dennett ’92, is a Family Physician in Winfield. He received his undergraduate degree from Southwestern College and his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. After completing his family practice residency through Via Christi in Wichita, he started practicing medicine in Winfield. He has been in private practice since 2002. He is also board-certified in Hospice and Palliative Care and works as the medical director for a non-profit hospice. Dennett is passionate about primary care and focuses on preventative and quality measures. He serves on the Board of Elders at Trinity Lutheran Church and the Southwestern College Board of Trustees. When not working, he enjoys staying active, going to the lake, and spending time with his wife, Debbie, and four adult children.

To see Southwestern College’s halls of fame and a full list of inductees visit sckans.edu/hof.
Southwestern College is a private liberal arts college, founded in 1885 by Methodists in south central Kansas. Today its Winfield campus is the residential hub that guides students to lives of meaning and service, with well-rounded academic and extra-curricular offerings attracting traditional-aged students from throughout the nation and world. Southwestern College Professional Studies provides options for online students in any location and has been named a top provider for persons serving in the military. The college continues to be affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

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