Dr. Karl H. Wegner
1930 - 2014
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Dr. Karl H. Wegner

Karl Heinrich Wegner died April 4, 2014, at the Dougherty Hospice House.

Karl was born January 5, 1930, the second son of Nell Norbeck Wegner and Lester F. Wegner. He grew up in Pierre, SD, attending Lincoln Grade School (except for the third grade at Mark Twain in Sioux Falls, SD), and Pierre Junior and Senior High Schools, graduating in the class of 1948. He was president of the student body, co-valedictorian of his class (along with his wife Margaret), a three year letterman, governor of Boys State, and represented South Dakota at Boys Nation in Washington, DC.

He received a Navy scholarship to attend Yale University in New Haven, CT, and spent summers as a midshipman in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, except for his senior summer spent with the Marines at Quantico, VA. He graduated in June, 1952, and was immediately commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, serving as a line officer, field/platoon leader, then company commander, achieving the ranks of 1st Lieutenant USMC, and Captain USMCR.

He served 28 months, then received an early discharge after the Korean War because of his prior acceptance into graduate school and immediately entered Harvard Medical School. Following graduation, he also took internship and residency in pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard's major teaching hospital. He served as Chief Resident, including a final year's appointment to the Harvard faculty.

In June of 1957, Karl married Mary Jo Waddell of Beatrice, NE, whom he met in Boston. A daughter Madeleine was born there in 1959. Karl and family returned to South Dakota in 1962 when he accepted the appointment of Chief of Pathology, Sioux Valley Hospital, as well as the opportunity to develop a private practice in pathology, and to join the voluntary faculty of the then two year basic sciences School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.

Over the ensuing years the hospital position grew, his teaching time and academic appointments expanded from Assistant Professor of Pathology and Associate Professor of Medicine to Chair, Department of Pathology and Professor of Pathology. In August, 1973, Karl became Dean of the two year school at USD.

Meanwhile, Karl recruited increasing numbers of pathologist associates to join the Laboratory of Clinical Medicine (LCM), a rapidly expanding practice based in SD, MN, IA, and NE, and instituted a fully accredited four year pathology residency at what had become the largest then known private pathology practice in the United States.

Karl accepted the Deanship at the medical school and the Vice-Presidency of Health Affairs at USD on the condition that he would lead a final drive to convert the school into a full four-year-degree-granting program. The two-year school was facing increasing problems of inadequate funding, transferring its students to out-of-state institutions, and attempting to recruit new physicians to return to practice in South Dakota, which had the lowest physician to population ration in the country. University President Richard Bowen, the SD Board of Regents, Gov. Richard Kneip, the SD State Medical Association, and interest citizens and physicians who'd formed a special committee, the Citizens Concerned for Medical Education, all joined with a well-organized legislative study committee chaired by Senator Harvey Wollman to seek legislative approval for the degree-granting program. This succeeded in the passage of degree-granting legislation in the February 1974 session.

Dr. Wegner worked tirelessly in SD, in Chicago, and in Washington, DC, in obtaining necessary AMA and federal support for the new Program, then seeking provisional and final national accreditation, creating six new clinical departments and numerous specialty sections, recruiting both in SD and nationwide, in negotiating statewide support and participation of SD hospitals, and in initiating appropriate new residency training programs for the school on a statewide basis.

Two more children came to his family, Peter Norbeck in 1963 and Mary Nell in 19 65. Karl and Mary Jo bought the farm of his dreams in 1965 and raised purebred Herefords, then instituted a commercial cow-calf operation along with row crop farming, all in association with his cousin and wife, Dave and Avis Jennings. The farm was in operation over 40 years.

Upon retirement he was able to realize a long-standing ambition to hike and climb, often with more experienced friends. He began with Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro, later included mountains in the western US, and finally Cotopaxi, Cayambe, and Aconcagua in South America.

Following the death of his first wife, Mary Jo, in 2003, he married Margaret Ann Halla Cash, his old high school and college girlfriend, the widow of Dr. Joseph H. Cash, professor and Dean at USD. Together they pursued a common interest in hiking and traveling, including a 200 mile walk across England with USD friends, a 400 mile hike from Oslo to Trondheim in Norway along a primitive trail, and other trips to Europe, Mexico, South America, Antarctica, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Karl's male Sioux Falls Book Club and the Vermillion couples Book Group were especially important in his life as he, after finishing each month's selection, always said "and I read every word, enjoying them all."

Karl was especially proud of his family heritage in South Dakota. He was the great grandson of pioneer Norwegian Immigrants, including Rev. George Norbeck, who homesteaded in Clay County in 1868, served a geographically widespread congregation while also farming, serving in the Dakota Territory Legislature, in the South Dakota Constitutional Convention, and then in the first South Dakota legislature. Rev. Norbeck's son Peter Norbeck and Karl's grandfather went on to serve as a State Senator, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and United States Senator, dying near the end of his third term.

Karl's paternal grandfather, Henry J. Wegner, founded the Wegner Auto Company in Pierre in 1907, the state's oldest automobile dealership and now the oldest Buick Dealership in the world under continuous operation by one family for over 100 years.

Karl's professional boards and membership included statewide, national, and international honors and responsibilities in the field of pathology, membership in the Council of Deans, American Assn. of Medical Colleges, and membership on the Advisory Council Under-graduate Medical Education, AMA. His significant awards included South Dakota Hall of Fame (1988), SD Philanthropist of the Year shared with Mary Jo Wegner (2002), American Pathologist of the Year, Alpha Omega Alpha, Boyston Medical Society (Harvard), Founding Dean USD (now Sanford) School of Medicine, Distinguished Professor Emeritus by SD Board of Regents, Karl H. Wegner Endowed Chair USD (also by Board of Regents), Distinguished Professor of the Year several times, SuperDean, a one-time award from the Medical Student Body, naming of the Karl and Mary Jo Wegner Health Science Information Center, Friends of the SF Community Foundation annual award (shared with Margaret), and Distinguished Service Awards from USD, and the SD Medical Association.

His community and state activities and boards included President, SD Board of Regents of Higher Education, President, Sioux Valley (now Sanford) Health Foundation, President, South Dakota Symphony Board, President, SF Area Community Foundation, member of the boards of the USD Foundation, the SD, Hall of Fame, Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Sioux Valley Health System Alliance, SD Water Goals Program, Sioux Council, Boy Scouts of America, United Way, and Augustana Fellows.

Immediate family survivors are his wife, Margaret, his three children, Madeleine Jean (Harri Rinta) of Carver, MN, Mary Nell (Josiah Child III), Isabella and Sam of Providence, RI, and Peter Norbeck and his children, Walker, Theo, and Ivy of Berkeley, CA, and his step children and grandchildren, Sheridan Anderson (Robert B.), and Cash of Pierre, SD, Meredith Cash Weber (John P.), Joe and Emily of Rapid City, SD, and Ayla and Claudia Cash, and their mother Dr. Serpil Erzurum of Pepper Pike, Ohio. He was preceded in death by his parents, Nell and Lester, his only brother Peter Norbeck Wegner, and his first wife, Mary Jo Waddell Wegner.

Memorial Services will be held 11:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls.

Memorials honoring Karl's life may be directed to the Karl H. Wegner, M.D., Chair in Medicine Endowment, USD Foundation, P. O. Box 5555, Vermillion, SD, 57069-5555.


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Published in Argus Leader on Apr. 6, 2014.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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15 entries
April 27, 2014
I had the pleasure of serving as the Director of the Wegner Health Sciences Library for several years. Working with both Karl and Mary Jo during those inaugural years was a privilege.
Kay Cimpl Wagner
April 14, 2014
My deepest condolences Margaret to you and your family. I remember with fondness our time together in Central Asia where I met you and Karl. Karl led a full and inspiring life and will be missed.
Chris Braeuel
April 9, 2014
My name is Jane Bernard Pederson and I want to express my sorrow for your loss and tell you Dr. Karl Wegner will be in my thoughts and prayers. My mother, Helen Norbeck Bernard, was George Norbeck's daughter and Peter Norbeck's niece. I know mother kept in touch with your family and she would show me pictures sent from you when she updated me on ‘what's going on with family”. Having never met many Norbecks, unless they came to Oregon I always wished we could all go to South Dakota and meet all of you. I had learned about everyone but not too many personally. I do remember that Dr. Karl Wegner was an incredible man and will be greatly missed. Since he has been called Home he will be seeing my mom and dad and she will be so happy to see him even though he had to leave all of you. You will all continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I know you will be in His arms as you weather this storm. My love to you at this sad time.
Jane Pederson
April 8, 2014
Karl and Mary Jo were my neighbors for many years and it has been an honor to call them friends. Mary Jo remains a lasting inspiration to me along with Karl. I am pretty sure God used THE original "gentleman" mold to create Karl. Margaret has been such a blessing in Karl's life in this last decade and before, ministering to him and gently caring for him. I know the whole family will miss him dearly and they are in my prayers. We are blessed by having known Karl. J. Carl Carlsen and Luke Carlsen
J. Carol Carlsen
April 7, 2014
Dear Margaret, I'll always remember how gracious you and Karl were to us at Sunnymede. As well as the Harvard Polo club connection with Hi Ross. Karl was truly a gracious and kind gentleman.
Our deepest Sympathy for your loss of Karl. May prayers and your memories bring you comfort.
Kathy and Jeff Schneekloth.
Kathleen Schneekloth
April 7, 2014
Karl was my friend and neighbor for the last thirty years. He was the kindest and most interesting man I have had the pleasure of knowing. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Chris Carlsen
April 7, 2014
Karl was my Dean; he guided the USD School of Medicine to become an MD degree-granting medical school and inspired me to be a part of that pioneering process; his inner strength and outward humility was legendary. Thank You Karl Wegner!!
Tom Huber MD USD School of Medicine 1977
April 7, 2014
Dear Margaret and family, Karl was truly a kind man-inside and out. So sorry for your loss.
Koni and Paul Schiller
April 7, 2014
Dr Jim Rud(deceased) and I ,Barry Pitt-Hart, were and are so very grateful to Dr Karl Wegner for forming thPathology residency program at SVH so that we could be the first two residents and thus begin our Pathology careers thanks to his commitment to education.
barry Pitt-hart,MD
April 7, 2014
To Margaret and family,
Our heartfelt condolences and love during this difficult time. He was a great South Dakotan and man. Prayers your way.
With love,
Sarah, Greg and family
Sarah and Greg (Adam) Axtman
April 7, 2014
Dear Family of Karl Wegner
Dr. Wegner will be remembered for many outstanding achievements. What will stand out for me, however, is what a wonderful friend he was to my father Dr. Warren Jones. There were very few that my dad held in such high esteem as Karl. He will be dearly missed. My thoughts are with you all at this most difficult time.
Anne Jones Flynn
April 6, 2014
I worked for the USD medical during the first year of the 3rd year medical students. It was an exciting time and Dr. Wegner's influence was inspirational to all of us the administrative offices. His goal of creating a 4-year medical school became became the goal of all of us. He did great things and SD and his family will miss him.
Gale Wray
April 6, 2014
Dr. Wegner did so much for South Dakota and I will be ever grateful that he started LCM, where I started my Medical Technology career.
Susan schoenfelder
April 6, 2014
Dear Margaret,
We extend or deepest condolences,
Elliott & Liz
April 6, 2014
Dear Mary Nell, Maddi, Peter and Margaret,
Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers at this most sad time. We will miss Karl so much.
Elliott Miller & Liz Lee
Elliott Miller
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