Kozak honored for decades of service to Vermillion community

A Vermillion man who continues to have a lasting impact on the University of South Dakota and the city of Vermillion is the recipient of the Mayor's Community Service Award.

Vermillion Mayor Jack Powell presents the Mayor’s Community Service Award to Roger Kozak at the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company banquet March 20. (Photo by David Lias)

Mayor Jack Powell presented the award to Roger Kozak at the annual Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company's banquet held March 20.

Before asking Roger to join him at the banquet podium, however, the mayor read a list of Kozak's many local accomplishments.

"Over the years, he has made many contributions to our community, to the University of South Dakota, to our state and to our nation," Powell said. "Many organizations and individuals have benefited from his talents, dedication and service."

Kozak is a native of Lake Andes, and his college studies were interrupted when he was called to serve in the U.S. Army. He eventually returned to South Dakota where he received degrees from Southern State College and the University of South Dakota.

He began teaching, and then moved to Pierre, where he served four years as director of research for the South Dakota Board of Regents. He moved to Vermillion in 1979.

"He began 22 years of employment at USD, first as a special assistant to the president, then as associate vice president, and ending as vice president," Powell said. "In 2002, he retired and was named professor and vice president emeritus."

The mayor said Kozak truly fits the definition of a community leader. During his time in Vermillion, he has served on the city council as alderman, president and mayor. He was a board member of the Southeast Council of Governments, served as finance officer for Dakota Development Corporation, and was a board member of the USD Athletics Board of Control.

"He volunteered for the high school football playoffs from their inception through 2009," Powell said. "He was a member of the Vermillion-Newcastle Bridge Committee, campaign co-chair of Vermillion Now!, president of the Missouri Valley Growth Corporation and on The Bluffs Planning and Development Committee."

Over the years, Kozak has been active in the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, and served on boards for several local entities, including the USD Foundation and the National Music Museum.

Kozak is a trustee of the Friends of Vermillion Library, and is currently serving as co-chair of the expansion project fundraising committee for the development of the library's new building addition.

He is also board president and founding member of Junior Achievement of Vermillion, and is on the state board of Junior Achievement South Dakota. Kozak also served on the boards of the Vermillion Area Community Foundation and the Dakota Hospital Foundation.

Kozak has served as commander of the local American Legion post, and as been highly involved in Rotary, serving many roles in the local club, and as district governor.

"When I think of community service, volunteerism and a desire to get involved and make a difference, I think of the gentleman we are about to honor," Powell told the banquet crowd. "He is a friend to many, he has given so much of himself for the benefit of others, and he is truly an inspirational model for others to follow.

"We are very thankful for all that he has for our community," he said.

Kozak noted, as he was presented the award, that everyone in the banquet audience is worthy of a similar honor.

"We are all volunteers, so there are many people who are deserving to receive this, and our community is blessed with a large number of individuals who are willing to step forward," he said. "They will do not only their share at whatever task may be at hand, but they will also be willing to go the extra mile to see that whatever the job is, they will commit and give not only a minimum but whatever it takes to get the job done."

Positive developments in a community are never accomplished alone, by a single person, Kozak said.

"It is always the cumulative effort of many individuals coming together to see that a task is done, and done right," he said. "I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with many of you over the years, and it's always been that maximum effort, together, that has made so many positive results come true."

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