Since the beginning of his career at Northern State University in 1991, Dr. Alan LaFave quickly climbed the ladder of success from band director to department chair to Dean of Fine Arts in 2000. This June, after twenty-four years of service, he was named Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Hailing from Oneida, South Dakota, LaFave graduated from Sully Butte High School and was a lifelong resident until he came to Northern, where he attended as an undergraduate from 1980 until 1985. After obtaining his Bachelor of Music Education degree at NSU, he studied vocal and instrumental music education at Arizona State University. There, he received his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in musical performance.
He was inspired to pursue a degree in music due to his high school band instructor who, in turn, studied under Lonn Sweet, the past Dean Emeritus of the School of Fine Arts at Northern State and a long time band director. “He was very influential to me,” LaFave said.
“I really valued the strong education I received here…”
NSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Alan LaFave
LaFave’s experiences as a student proved instrumental to his decision to later return to Northern State University for a career. “I really valued the strong education I received here, as well as the faculty and programs in place,” LaFave explained.
After teaching as a band instructor at Central High School for three years, LaFave joined NSU as an instructor. His contributions to the university in all of his various positions are numerous. He assisted in the renovation of the Johnson Fine Arts Center, Krikac Auditorium, Spafford Art Studios, as well as the art studio in Dacotah Hall. In addition, he has helped to launch the Master of Music Education program and undergraduate programs in graphic design and musical theater.
When he does manage to catch a break from Northern, LaFave prefers to spend his time outdoors or with his two daughters. He enjoys watching his youngest daughter, a freshman at Central High School, partake in various school activities including volleyball, basketball, and band. “My other daughter is a fourth grade teacher in Britton. She also coaches various teams, and I enjoy watching them both stay busy,” he said.
Golf is a favorite hobby of his, although work obligations prevent him from participating in the sport as much as he used to.
Despite his packed schedule, he still makes time to pursue his goals, among which is obtaining a private pilot’s license. Due to his love of travel and seeing new sights, LaFave is pursuing his private pilot’s license in his spare time. “I have always been intrigued by the idea of flight,” he explained. “It is one of those activities that requires an incredible amount of focus and concentration. I enjoy being all by myself up in the airplane — the scenery you see from the air is much more vast.”
LaFave finds Northern promising, due to its size, citing that “it provides a private school environment for a public school price.” But what he loves most about NSU, first and foremost, is the people. He finds that the university offers a unique and supportive community.
During his upcoming years as Provost, his goals are to provide an emphasis on academic quality, enhance enrollments, and continue to improve Northern’s reputation. “I want to provide a strong voice for Northern when it comes to accomplishing our goals,” he said, “to keep pushing and advocating our qualities, and trumpeting our success. I believe in this place, and I want to help it grow and succeed.”