Seven years ago Roger Kurtenbach woke up one morning with a terrible pain in his leg. Unknowingly at the time, his life was to change forever. He had a herniated disc. Roger had been working for Frito Lay for thirteen years and after undergoing surgery was no longer able to perform his same job duties.
“ While I was in the hospital, not one person came to visit me from Frito Lay,” said Kurtenbach. “ I didn’t even receive one card. That was when I realized things were going to change.”
Roger Kurtenbach will be graduating May 8 from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology ( SDSM& T) with a double degree in Chemistry and Metallurgical Engineering. Upon graduating Roger will begin living his second life. He is pursuing employment in the Materials Science or Metallurgical Engineering profession and has already been sought after by numerous employers.
It was the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation that encouraged him to attend SDSM& T. After his injury Roger had a 17% disability rating on his back making it impossible for him to return to work at Frito Lay. He was counciled to go back to school after he received high marks in science and math on a vocational test administered by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
“ I came here and all I had was some promise but really didn’t have a chance of making it,” said Kurtenbach. “ I faced it one day at a time, struggling through – but I made it.”
During his six years at SDSM& T, Roger was on the Dean’s list four years, was a recipient of several Metallurgy Department scholarships, and participated in both regional and national research conferences in 1994 and 1995. He has served as Non- Traditional Representative of the SDSM& T Student Association for the ‘ 97-‘ 98 and ‘ 98- ‘ 99 academic years. During that time Roger served as the Finance Committee Chairman for Student Organization Allocation Process ( SOAP) funds; served on the SDSM& T Student Association Executive Committee; served on the Judiciary Committee; facilitated development of communication infrastructure throughout campus on the Media Center Committee; and was a member of the President’s Roundtable discussion group for the Fall ’ 98 semester.
“ Roger Kurtenbach has been an inspiration to everyone in the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering,” said Dr. Jon Kellar, associate professor of Metallurgical Engineering. “ His hard work, dedication and enthusiasm are unparalleled. Never a day goes by where Roger isn’t helping another underclassmen or the University in some manner. We will miss him very much.”
“ Being able to develop cross generational friendships was the key for me,” said Kurtenbach. “ I would not have been able to make it had I not developed good friendships with other students half my age.”
Roger accomplished an incredible feat, overcoming his own doubts, struggling to make it through six years of college and obtain a double degree in Chemistry and Metallurgical Engineering. He is looking toward commencement as an ‘ event’ and is beginning his second lifetime running straight ahead.
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.