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Meet the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients 

David Hammond (GeolE 69)

David Hammond, a Howard native, received a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from South Dakota Mines in 1969 and is an internationally-known mineral economist. He has worked in that specialty – and as a geologist and engineer – for more than 50 years in all sectors of the natural resource industries. He has held positions in exploration, engineering, financial analysis, marketing, strategic planning and corporate development.

Hammond’s employers have included Anaconda Minerals, ARCO Coal, Shell Oil and General Electric's Ladd Petroleum affiliate. In the early 1990s, he began a mineral economics consulting practice, focusing on mineral asset valuation and appraisal, risk analysis and commodity market research. In 1997, David brought his consulting practice into the Global Energy & Mining Group of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, returning to independent practice in 2000. In 2004, he joined International Royalty Corporation, serving as CFO during its highly successful Canadian IPO and later as vice president of strategic planning until the firm’s acquisition by Royal Gold in 2010.

For more than 20 years, Hammond has served on the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology – first as an evaluator of geological engineering programs and from 2012 to 2017 as commissioner on the Engineering Accreditation Commission. In 2018, the Society of Mining Engineers asked him to take on a similar role with the Applied Natural Science Accreditation Commission. He has overseen the accreditation of numerous engineering and science programs at universities throughout the world – most often as the ABET team chair in charge of the reviews.
Hammond is a long-serving member of the Mines Geology & Geological Engineering Advisory Board. He was instrumental in establishing the JPMorgan Center for Commodities at the University of Colorado-Denver Business School, serving on the advisory and research councils and teaching the key Foundations of Commodities graduate course.

He has also been a full-time lecturer in finance for the Daniels Business School at the University of Denver. Since 2009, he has been adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, teaching courses in mineral valuation and resource economics via the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources. He has authored nearly 40 industry papers and conference presentations and conducted numerous workshops and seminars on mineral valuation, due diligence and commodity market issues worldwide. In 2016, he received the Mineral Economics Award from the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. Hammond holds a master’s degree from the University of Utah, an MBA in energy finance from the University of Denver and a PhD in mineral economics from the Colorado School of Mines.

He served as an engineer officer with the US Army from 1971 to 1973 – assigned to heavy construction and quarry units in the United States and in Vietnam – where he was a Bronze Star recipient. He currently resides in Highlands Ranch, Colo., with his wife Diane (Gleason) (Math ‘69), a retired telecommunications industry executive.

John Henderson (CE 94)

John Henderson, an Edgemont native, graduated from South Dakota Mines with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in May 1994. He was commissioned in the US Army Corps of Engineers upon graduation and retired in the grade of colonel in 2017 after a 23- year career. During his time in the Army, he held multiple command and staff positions and completed three combat tours (two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan).

Henderson continued his education while in the Army, earning a master’s degree in civil engineering from Mines and serving as a National Security Studies fellow with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He culminated his Army career as the commander for the Omaha District, US Army Corps of Engineers.

After his retirement, Henderson was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the full Senate to serve as the Assistant Secretary of The Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy. During his time at the Pentagon, he was responsible for the formulation, review, oversight and execution of plans, policies and programs for a $12 billion annual budget supporting 173 Air Force installations worldwide. His portfolio included all energy activities, life-cycle infrastructure investment for 98,000 facilities worth over $280 billion, new construction, environmental planning and compliance, water resources management, tribal relations, safety policies and occupational health objectives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few of his team’s key policy achievements for the Department of the Air Force include a global infrastructure investment strategy, remediation programs for emerging contaminants, improvements to privatized housing, and master planning for the post-disaster reconstruction at Tyndall AFB, Fla., and Offutt AFB, Neb. 

In January 2021, Henderson joined HDR, Inc. in Omaha as the chief administrative officer, where he provides executive leadership for several global corporate programs to enhance the delivery of engineering, architecture, and professional consulting services to clients worldwide.

Henderson was recognized as the Federal Engineer of the Year in 2017 by the National Society of Professional Engineers and has earned a number of military awards, including the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star medals, the Combat Action Badge and the Silver deFluery medal.

He serves on the Society of American Military Engineers National Foundation Board of Directors and was recently named to the Mines CARA Board Executive Committee.

Todd Kenner (CE 83)

Todd Kenner, a Rapid City native, graduated from South Dakota Mines with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1983. He has more than 38 years of experience in engineering design and business management.

Beginning his career as a water resource design engineer for public projects in Fort Collins, Colo. to leading a $600 million A/E/C consulting company, Kenner has been instrumental in growing companies, developing talent and setting strategic direction for organization sustainability. Currently, he is the president/CEO of RESPEC, a 52-year-old company headquartered in Rapid City whose founders were academic professors at Mines.

During his 12 years at RESPEC, he has led the strategic expansion leveraging the company’s nationally-recognized technical expertise in the area of rock mechanics. During his tenure, RESPEC has grown from annual revenues of $14 million to $85 million and geographic presence of two offices to 26 offices and one international location. RESPEC is an employee-owned company with 500 professionals.

Kenner’s professional experience has encompassed all aspects of civil engineering, land surveying and administrative/financial management. His technical background focus is hydraulics/hydrology. During his career, he has become adept in managing and directing large, multidimensional infrastructure projects requiring coordination with diverse technical stakeholders and community interests. His technical project understanding is complemented by critical knowledge of social, economic and financial factors that drive the ultimate “community” solution for complex projects.

Throughout his career, Kenner has been committed to public service and strong community involvement. He has served in various leadership roles for a wide range of professional organizations, public advisory boards, and community foundations. His public service experience has included board leadership with the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) in Nevada, Florida and South Dakota. He spent 10 years on the Nevada State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, serving as vice chair and chairman. He served 12 years on the Mines Center for Alumni Relations and Advancement (CARA) Board’s Executive Committee and as chair for four years.

Currently, he serves on the Elevate Rapid City Board of Directors and Executive Committee and on the board of directors for the Community Health Center of the Black Hills.

Kurt Kost (MinE 78)

Kurt Kost, a Parkston native, graduated from South Dakota Mines with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering in 1978. He has more than 35 years of experience in the mining industry. He began his career with Kennecott Copper and then worked for AMAX Coal and its predecessor companies for 32 years.

His areas of responsibility ranged from surface mine field engineering to numerous operational and executive management positions, eventually becoming president of Alpha Natural Resources.

Kost’s career was highlighted with accomplishments related to change management, teamwork and operational efficiency. He was very fortunate to have been surrounded by great people and wonderful mentors throughout this career. One of his top achievements was helping lead two corporate mergers for three major coal companies and installing a new safety and operating culture of excellence across over one hundred mines and fourteen thousand employees.
He and his teams pioneered the operation of large truck-shovel equipment in North America with the implementation of 80-120-ton capacity shovels and 240-360-ton capacity trucks. This equipment combination has become today’s standard for large surface mines throughout the world.

His operating teams were also industry leaders in the adaptation of wireless communications for managing payloads and machine health on a real-time basis. He served on the Mines Mining Engineering Industrial Advisory Board in the early 2000s, during a time when the department was nearly shut down. He, along with other alumni, were strong advocates for saving the department. They were successful in raising funds, retooling the curriculum and rebuilding the department.

Since retiring from the mining industry in 2012, he has been an independent director for Westmoreland Resource Partners. He serves as a trustee for the SME Foundation, director for a nonprofit ministry in Utah and trustee for an employee retiree health plan. Kost and his wife, Norma, have been married 43 years. They have three daughters and five grandchildren. They reside in Bountiful, Utah.

Renita Mollman (CE 88)

Renita Mollman, a Deadwood native, graduated from South Dakota Mines with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1988. She is chief administrative officer (CAO) and a senior vice president at Burns & McDonnell, a family of companies bringing together 7,600 engineers, construction professionals, architects, planners, technologists and scientists to design and build critical infrastructure. Founded in 1898, Burns & McDonnell is employee-owned and has more than 60 offices globally.

Mollman joined Burns & McDonnell in 1988, beginning her career as a civil engineer. Over the course of the next two decades, she supported more than 100 projects for multiple aviation and military clients while serving as the first female engineering manager in the firm. Working in a male-dominated industry, Mollman committed to working with other women to help them grow and chart new paths. She remains passionate about advancing and mentoring other women in the firm and growing the firm’s female leadership team.

In 2009, Mollman was promoted to general manager for the California region and was soon named vice president – one of the first female officers at the firm. Under her leadership, this regional team grew from just a few employees to more than 250, the firm was named a best place to work in Southern California seven times and regional revenue nearly quadrupled.

Mollman became CAO in 2020. She now oversees corporate services – including human resources, marketing, communications, security, travel, fleet, facilities and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). She became the firm’s first female board member in 2021. 
She has always had a strong commitment to DEI. She led efforts to develop a new position: the firm’s first DEI strategy manager, who will work to provide strategic guidance for enhancing DEI initiatives and programs in the firm.

She leads the COVID Response Team at Burns & McDonnell and is also chair of the Kansas City Vaccine Task Force, working to make it easier and equitable for all Kansas Citians to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Her community involvement revolves around improving equity and access for women in STEM. Whether it’s speaking at events, visiting schools to help spark an early interest in STEM, mentoring others or volunteering time with youth organizations, Mollman wants to be there as a teacher, leader and friend.

Mines Advancement Fund

The Mines Advancement Fund supports the greatest needs of our students and faculty, including scholarships, department resources, facilities updates, industry partnerships, and more. With every dollar gifted to the Mines Advancement Fund, the Center for Alumni Relations & Advancement raises an average of $9 more to support departments, scholarships, and programs. 
Consider designating your gift to the Mines Advancement Fund to maximize your influence at South Dakota Mines.