The College of Fine Arts is set to host the Celebration of Excellence event on Friday, September 29, 2023, to honor these outstanding alumni, educators and friends of the Fine Arts. Read the full press release here.

Visit the event registration page to register for the Celebration of Excellence and Reception. For tickets to Eurydice, please visit the Theatre's ticket webpage.

Learn more about the meaning behind the Hall of Fame and awards.

Bryan Akipa

Bryan Akipa grew up on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Reservation in northeastern South Dakota. Bryan first encountered traditional flutes when he studied under Oscar Howe at the University of South Dakota, and his encounter with a wooden mallard-head flute crafted by the Lakota flute maker Richard Fool Bull shaped his artistic interest. Bryan has been pivotal in reviving the songs and flute traditions of his ancestors. Akipa took a break from college to serve in the Army, and when he returned his mentor Howe had passed away. He therefore changed majors from art to elementary education. During his first teaching job at the Pierre Indian Learning Center, he would often play the flute for his class, and his fellow teachers soon asked him to perform in their classes. From there his reputation grew.

Akipa is a self-taught traditional Dakota flute maker and is one of the few artists to play the ancestral flute using the indigenous musical scale. He has produced five solo albums to date and has collaborated with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in their Lakota Music Project. He has received many awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the South Dakota Governor's Award for South Dakota Living Treasure, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Mentor Artist Fellowship. In 2023, he served as the USD Keynote speaker and presented an outstanding flute performance and lecture on Tahokmu Painting under Oscar Howe at the University of South Dakota. Today, Akipa is an international ambassador for the music of the Native American flute.

Cathy Britton

After a successful 38-year career in music education, Cathleen (Cathy) retired in 2014. She received her BFA (’74) and MFA (’90) from the University of South Dakota. Cathy taught at every level of vocal music, including 15 years as an adult church choir director. Of her 38 years as a music educator, Cathy spent the last 23 years working with high school singers in Sioux Falls at Washington High School and Bishop O’Gorman High School. Cathy’s energetic and motivational teaching style drew singers to her program. Singers found a place where they could navigate the ups and downs of being a teen and feel successful in an atmosphere where everyone mattered, and support could be found. Within that environment, choir members were challenged daily to do their very best. Excellence was an expectation. Cathy’s choirs and show choirs consistently performed and competed at high levels. Her choirs were selected to perform for local, state and regional conventions. Over 23 years, many of Cathy’s singers auditioned and were selected for All-State Chorus; state, regional and national American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Honor’s Choirs, as well as earning superior solos at Region Contest.

Cathy continues to be active as an adjudicator, mentor and most recently, the vocal director for the University of Sioux Falls’ musical productions for 5 years. She is a 35-year member of ACDA and maintains a retired membership. During her active years as an ACDA member, she assumed various leadership roles at the state and regional levels including South Dakota ACDA President. Cathy has been honored with several awards and recognitions over the years. Most notably was her induction into the Aberdeen (SD) Central High School’s Hall of Fame and in 2020 The National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS) recognized Cathy with the National Outstanding Music Educator Citation. Cathy is most proud to follow her former singers as they carry their passion and appreciation of choral music into adulthood. Many singers chose to continue singing in college and beyond, including the professional stage. Many have become music educators and just as important, many have simply encouraged and supported their own children’s musical passions. Cathy’s love of the choral art began in high school choir, so she is grateful for the opportunity to sing in a choir once more and for the past 9 years has enjoyed participating in the Christmas At The Cathedral Choir. She and her husband Bill spend time traveling and enjoying time with their 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren and their families.

Gerald Cournoyer

Gerald Cournoyer, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Marty, South Dakota followed in the footsteps of prominent Dakota painter, Oscar Howe to the University of Oklahoma, to pursue and eventually achieve, his Master of Fine Arts in painting. Previously, Mr. Cournoyer attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where he received an Associate Degree of Fine Arts in painting. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, and then a master’s degree, at the University of South Dakota in Interdisciplinary Studies. After receiving his MFA from the University of Oklahoma, he was employed as a professor of painting. Mr. Cournoyer also holds a Master of Art in Arts Management, utilizing his expertise in networking and developing relationships among artists and the funding agencies who support artist philanthropy. Gerald recently returned to school to earn another master’s degree in Philanthropy and Fundraising from Central Michigan University.

Cournoyer is a dedicated and creative artist whose artistic boundaries were expanded under the tutelage of Professor George Hughes. Cournoyer came from a skilled background of stylized Ledger art and figurative Indian portraits. Over time, his work expanded into vibrant abstract watercolors and acrylics. This eventually led him into patterns of Lakota quillwork, and rawhide parfleche, beadwork on canvas, including large nonfigurative expanses of color and form that offer the viewer an opportunity to explore the depth of scintillating color combined with Native patterns. These intricate patterns are based on the early geometric patterns of the Northern Plains quill designs and are prominent in the Lakota iconography. Gerald Cournoyer’s work is now shown in regional, national and international venues.

Jayson Kerr Dobney

Jayson Kerr Dobney is the Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge of the Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Prior to his appointment as the Curator in Charge, he served as a curator at The Met since 2007. In 2019, he was co-curator of the exhibition Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll which opened at The Met and then traveled to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. It was one of the highest attended exhibitions in Met history, drawing more than 700,000 visitors. Rolling Stone magazine said the exhibit could “produce reverent gasps from anyone who cares about rock history.” Dobney was also part of the curatorial team that led the complete renovation of the permanent galleries for musical instruments at The Met between 2017 and 2019. In addition, he has curated several exhibitions at the Museum including Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin in 2014; the Sau Wing Lam Collection of Rare Italian Stringed Instruments in 2013; and Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York in 2011.

A native of Akron, Iowa, Dobney attended the University of South Dakota and obtained a music education degree and a piano performance degree in 2000. Subsequently, he also received a Master of Music degree with a history of musical instruments from USD. From 2004 until 2007, he was the Associate Director of the National Music Museum. Prior to that, he was the founding curator of the Meredith Willson Museum in Mason City, Iowa. He also taught elementary and middle school music for a short time in Vermillion. As a performer, Dobney served as the Director of Music at the Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains, New York, from 2008 until 2016. While in Vermillion, he was the Minister of Music at First United Methodist Church and played percussion in the Sioux City and Sioux Falls community orchestras. Dobney is also the immediate past president for the American Musical Instrument Society.

Mi Young Lee

Mi Young Lee was born in South Korea and came to the United States in 1982 to pursue BFA and MFA degrees in art at the University of South Dakota. After attaining her MFA, she began her career as a professional Fine Artist, participating in competitive juried group art exhibitions on a local, regional and national level. In addition to her award-winning group art, she has had numerous solo exhibitions in galleries across the United States. Through this process she discovered that her artwork brought happiness and healing to people. In 1995 she took her career abroad, making her international debut to critical acclaim with a solo exhibit in a prestigious art gallery in South Korea. She has since continued to expand her resume with exhibits in both China and Germany. While she has been internationally successful, she has continued to stay connected to USD, from being a Stilwell Student Awards Exhibition juror in 2009 to talking with and inspiring young Fine Arts students.

In 2011 Mi Young built her primary studio home in northeast Austin, Texas, and started to create impressive paintings and engage with local artists. In the same year, she also started to work out of her studio in Pompano Beach north of Fort Lauderdale, showing her work at prestigious art exhibitions in South Florida during the winter season. We proudly cherish the work that can be seen in public places like the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and the USD Beacom School of Business. In 2007 Mi Young was featured in the Sioux Falls Woman Magazine. She was featured in the USD 2011-2012 billboard campaign, won the 2009 USD Distinguished Alumni Award and was featured as the 2009 Dakota Days Homecoming Parade Marshal. Her website is

Tom (Posthumous) and Cindy Lillibridge

Dr. Cynthia (Thoene) Lillibridge received her BFA in Music Education (1970), MA in Counseling (1973), and EdD in Educational Psychology (1974) from the University of South Dakota. Cindy taught vocal and instrumental music in the Burke and Bonesteel Schools for twelve years, served as guidance counselor in the Bonesteel/Fairfax School for five years, and was school psychologist with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative in Platte for fourteen years. Cindy is a lifelong pianist, self-taught harpist and was selected to play clarinet in the South Dakota All-State Band. While teaching music, Cindy was awarded the title of Distinguished Bandmaster of America in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the advancement of the art of music by the First Chair of America organization. In honor of her years of dedicated effort on behalf of the SD Association of School Psychologists and the children of South Dakota, she was selected as the South Dakota School Psychologist of the Year in 1998. She has served as a regional representative and as president of the South Dakota Association of School Psychologists.

While Tom Lillibridge was not a USD alumnus, having graduated from the University of Sioux Falls, he was always an avid supporter of USD, particularly the National Music Museum where he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for a number of years. The USD Beacom School of Business recognized Tom and Cindy, along with John and Linda Lillibridge, as South Dakotans of the Year. They were all honored as South Dakota Philanthropists of the Year on National Philanthropy Day 2001, and they received the Inman Award from the USD Foundation in 2011. The South Dakota Community Foundation Heritage Circle award for Tom and Cindy was presented in 2023. Tom and Cindy established the Guitar Gallery at the National Music Museum in 2005 and funded the restoration of the organ in Slagle Hall Auditorium when Slagle was renovated in 2011. Numerous instruments in the NMM collection have been procured and donated by Tom and Cindy. The recent naming of the new addition of the National Music Museum, The Lillibridge Wing, commemorates their long-standing and substantial support for the museum throughout its history. Dr. Lillibridge has served on the Board of Trustees of the NMM for the past 34 years, where she continues to serve on the board and contributes her ideas and resources.

Ron Moyer (Posthumous)

Dr. Ron Moyer earned his bachelor’s degree in Theater at the University of Illinois. He earned his master’s degree at Illinois and his PhD in Theater History at the University of Denver in 1974. Ron was hired to teach at the University of South Dakota by the late Dr. Wayne Knutson just as the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts was opening. Dr. Knutson became one of Dr. Moyer's mentors and close friends. Dr. Moyer was chair of the Theater Department three different times during the 36 years that he taught at USD. He spent many happy summers living, directing and occasionally acting at the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. He shared his expertise in all aspects of theatre with countless students at USD and the Black Hills Playhouse over his 36 year tenure.

Ron shaped the culture of the Theatre Department into a community of artists who valued the collaborative process. He believed that theatre could entertain and he recognized the power in theatre’s role as a reflective mirror for society. Those values continue to shape the goals and aspirations of the USD Department of Theatre today. He was a thoughtful teacher, director and performer. He spent many years judging high school oral interpretation and one-act plays, and used those interactions to encourage and recruit students. Ron received a 2004 South Dakota High School Activities Association Award for his years of service. He instilled a love of history and the process of theatre as a learned craft for all students. USD’s popular annual festival of short plays, the Ron L. Moyer One-Act Festival, is named in his honor.

Warren M. Lee (Special Recognition Award) (Posthumous)

Dr. Warren M. Lee was Dean of the University of South Dakota's College of Fine Arts from 1951 to 1968 and, on October 16, 1975, the art center on campus was named Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts in his honor. He served as a Professor of Theater and Fine Arts, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Director of the Black Hills Fine Arts Center (the Black Hills Playhouse) until his retirement in 1968. His administration of the College of Fine Arts, membership with the South Dakota Arts Council and Bicentennial Commission, and the offices held with the National Collegiate Players and American Educational Theatre Association, in addition to founding and directing of the Black Hills Playhouse, are but a few examples of his specific and measurable accomplishments.

Because of his efforts, the Black Hills Playhouse, which has been in continuous operation since 1946, is now a nationally recognized summer stock and year-round theatrical organization with hundreds of successful alumni. Doc Lee’s goals with the Black Hills Playhouse were to create high-quality entertainment for people in South Dakota and visitors to the Black Hills, while providing training and employment opportunities for students and theatre professionals. Scores of performing arts professionals nationwide have been influenced by their time at the Black Hills Playhouse. The University of South Dakota continues as a strong partner 78 years later due to Doc Lee’s dedication and vision.