Alumni Spotlight: Deb Fischer-Clemens
By Lauren Janssen
Deb Fischer-Clemens has experienced and achieved so much since graduating from Mount Marty College. Her current position at Avera Health in Sioux Falls requires her to travel and work extensively with her community on a local, state, and national level. Fischer-Clemens credits her education and experience at Mount Marty College for giving her ample opportunities in the professional world, as well as fueling her own personal and spiritual growth.
Deb grew up on a farm near Parkston, SD. She attended a Sacred Heart Catholic grade school, which played a role in her decision to attend Mount Marty College. Another factor was the size of the institution; the fact that it was small appealed to her as she was from a small community, and a large state school seemed formidable and unwelcoming. Lastly, the fact that Nursing was a four year program also interested her.
Deb’s experience at Mount Marty was a very positive one. She had a solid pack of friends, some in nursing, education, and social services. To this day, they are close and try to see each other at least once a year. She remembers Sister Martin Mergan, the social planner of the campus, and Sister Kevin, whose positive and uplifting personality always brightened her day. She took advantage of the river, spending time at the beach. She traveled to Arizona with her science professors and classmates, which included S. Maureen Diggins. Deb was on the girls’ softball team, which at the time was a fairly new addition to the sports offered at the Mount. One semester, Fischer-Clemens took a history elective taught by S. Ann Kessler, which peaked her interest in civics and government.
Following graduation in 1977, Fischer-Clemens began working for McKennan, a health facility, run by the Presentation Sisters. From there, she moved to Mitchell, SD to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital for the next 24 years as a nurse leader. While there, she campaigned for and served in the South Dakota House of Representatives for six years (1995 through 2000). Since only two months of legislative service is required per year for South Dakota representatives, Fischer-Clemens continued her work at St. Joseph’s where she was able to work on public policy, remain active in the community, serve on a domestic violence board, lector at her church, and participated as an active member of the South Dakota Nursing Association.
In 2002, Deb moved to Sioux Falls to direct the Avera Center for Public Policy. In this position, she is required to do quite a bit of traveling. To sum up her duties as Senior Vice President, Fischer-Clemens must review all the legislation in the Avera region (which includes Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska), take a position on the issue, and present Avera’s stance to legislators of all five states. In addition to work with state legislators, she works with the Congressional Delegations thus traveling to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Her time at Avera has been very fulfilling. She stays involved by promoting nursing through professional development, so as to help ensure high quality care throughout the system. She continues to expand upon her knowledge and career, continually building her relationship with God through her friendships with the Presentation Sisters and the care they provide to their clients.
Fischer-Clemens says she’s very thankful for the liberal arts education Mount Marty College provided, and that she was able to receive a Catholic education as well. Both played major roles in her professional and personal experiences.
Aubre Hewett, her daughter, lives in Chicago with husband Jon. A graduate of Creighton, Aubre works at JP Morgan. Deb currently lives in Sioux Falls with her cat Gizmo.
When people mention Mount Marty College, the terms family, community, and friendship all come to mind. The people here–students, professors, and staff–all play a role in maintaining the atmosphere of such a “magical place” as David Dickes, Head of Alumni Relations, put it. With all of the amazing things that Mount Marty College has to offer, it would be difficult to leave it all behind; yes, some people actually like it here. What if I told you that there was a way to stay involved with the college after graduation? Well, there is. The Mount Marty College Alumni Affairs/Relations office offers alumni the chance to get involved and stay up to date with all of the action here at The Mount.
The Alumni Relations Office has been recently created and placed in the hands of Mount Marty College graduate David Dickes. Dickes is a native of Yankton, South Dakota who graduated in the early 1970’s with a major in Business. He spent a little over 30 years working in sales for two different companies until he was offered the job as Head of Alumni Relations last year. David plans to use this department to keep alumni in contact with Mount Marty College. His job is to keep them as close to the college as possible and allow them to use their developed skills and talents to improve the place they once called home; and we could definitely use the help. Various reunions and gatherings in a scattered range of locations around the Midwest region have been used to keep connections and relationships with past students. These events are held to allow alumni the chance to get caught up with each other and the college.
Some of you may be wondering why we need to keep contact with all of these old people who went here ages ago, right? Well, believe it or not, this group of people helps out the college a lot. A few of them turn up as volunteer coaches and some who have achieved a measure of success, will give the school gifts or donate money. Did you all really think that the giant stone on the lawn was paid for by the nuns? Also, it makes sense to keep in touch with the people who survived this place for four years and lived to tell that tale; they must know something. All that the alumni ask is that we keep them in the loop; they want to know what is going on, on campus. That is where David Dickes comes in, he has begun to send out a newsletter to alumni with information about school events and ways to contribute to the new generation. He is also working hard to establish and maintain contacts with Mount Marty College alumni. Recently, Mount Marty hosted an event in Omaha, NE with a small turn out. David mentioned that it was not the result he expected but knows it will take some time and A LOT of communication on the phone in order to get better attendance. As students, it is difficult to ponder anything after these four years; but know that when you do leave this place there will be a chance for you to stay involved. As a word of advice, Dickes suggests enjoying and making the most of the four, or more, years we spend here; “…they go by too fast,” he says. Just remember, when you get a phone call from the Alumni Affairs Office after graduation they just want to keep you involved; do not be afraid and do not hang up the phone!