Pueblo Central Hall of Honor 2012 Inductee

Dr. Dowell Caselli-Smith (1959)

Dowell almost quit Central due to angry anti-social tendencies but, close ties to relatives near Beulah provided safety. Thus, he dropped-out senior year to work on their ranches fully intending not to graduate. The relatives and John Armstrong eventually coached him back to graduate.

Dowell met Jeanne Wells during sociology doctoral work at Boulder. Soon, their marriage and dynamic partnerships created Oglala Lakota College and two children out on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. OLC grew from their VISTA demonstration project into CU extension courses and eventually into an accredited college with over 2,000 students and master's degrees. Their demonstration stimulated many University Year for Action projects nationwide. Likewise, OLC stimulated development of 35 more tribal colleges. Jeanne was still providing OLC leadership in 1996 when she passed away. Dowell was commuting to a Dean's position at Chadron State College from 1994-2000, then returned to OLC for a third stint as VP of Instruction.

After retirement, Dowell became Executive Director at Lakota Funds-a faltering business loan fund he had helped start. His team took five years turning Lakota Funds into a thriving Community Development Finance Institution replicated by 47 other Native CDFI's.

Retired again, Dowell is on Lakota Federal Credit Union's board-chartered July 2012-the first full service financial institution on Pine Ridge.

A life-long horse trainer, Dowell eventually learned that building trust works better than overpowering. Dowell helps empower disadvantaged groups wherever he can. At Chadron State he co-chaired a Diversity Committee crafting an "exemplary" plan (as proclaimed by the Nebraska State College Board). He married his exemplary co-chair-Rebecca Caselli in 1998 and she brought two girls into their family.

The couple lives in Rapid City. He teaches Pilates at the Y, an occasional college course and horses and helps out at some non-profits. Rebecca is a licensed professional counselor.

  • 1969 - Helped create, initiate and administer a demonstration project for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a joint project of the University of Colorado and the Oglala Sioux Tribe that became the collaborative model adopted later on for AmeriCorps.
  • 1970 - Initiated and taught the first undergraduate extension courses for what then became Extension Campus #9 of the University of Colorado on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota thus laying the foundation for the first accredited college on an Indian reservation. Oglala Lakota College now has nearly 2,000 students and is accredited at the master's degree level.
  • 1973 - Initiated first internship program for students in anthropology and sociology at Albion College while there as Assistant Professor. Program subsequently adopted college wide.
  • 1974 - Conceived, developed, initiated, and implemented intercultural immersion program involving Hispanic, Black, and White students living with families in the community and studying the community from their perspective. Resulted in significant changes in the Albion police department and schools.
  • 1976 - Became President of the Michigan Sociology Association with three hundred members across the state from fifty different colleges.
  • Summers 1975 and 1977 - Implemented summer at Pine Ridge for Albion students involving those students living with Native American families and studying Lakota history, culture, and contemporary issues.
  • 1977-79 - Back at Lakota Center for Higher Education as Vice President for Instruction, successfully led and completed change from being an extension center for other colleges to becoming accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges as Oglala Sioux Community College. Developed model governance program involving faculty, staff, and students in policy and procedure formulation and implementation. Cited as exemplary by evaluation team.
  • 1986 - Served as member of the organizational committee for the launch of Lakota Funds the first Community Development Finance Institution on an Indian Reservation and a model for almost fifty current reservation CDFI's.
  • 1992 - Submitted for and gained approval for accreditation of a Masters Degree in Tribal Leadership and Management at Oglala Lakota College.
  • 1994 - Assumed direction and expansion of the external campus programs at Chadron State College which included growing the internship program from thirty to over three hundred students, the first internet courses, a new technology in education graduate degree option, and expanded interactive television courses.
  • 1998 - Served as co-chair of Diversity Committee for Chadron State College developing and submitting a Diversity Plan cited as "exemplary" by the State College Board.
  • 2005-10 - Served as Executive Director for Lakota Funds and moved it to a new level of dynamic and ongoing policy, staff, and program development and performance.
  • Currently serving on the boards of the Lakota Federal Credit Union to be launched soon on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and of the Breadroot Natural Foods Cooperative in Rapid City, SD.

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