IROQUOIS, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem signed a proclamation making Wednesday “Richard Soma Day” in South Dakota to honor an Iroquois principal who has been in education for 49 years and is now retiring.
Not only was it the last day of school, but superintendent Mike Ruth helped plan a surprise assembly to recognize the long-time educator and principal. They also presented him with the proclamation from the governor.
Vicki Dant, who has taught in Iroquois for 15 years, says Soma was always someone she could go to.
“I could go into him with the best news. I could go into his office when I am spittin’ mad, honestly, and it stays there. He just helps me work through it. He’s such a level-headed person and you know that everything he did is always in the best interest of the school,” she said.
“I would call him more of a mentor than a colleague, but I appreciate all he’s done for me,” Ruth said. “He’s taught me a lot. Kept me calm a lot. Taught me how to run around my desk a lot. He’s a very calm, kind person and you can see that by the turnout today.”
Soma has been in education for 49 years and at Iroquois for 42 of those. He’s been the principal for about 26 years.
“I’ve got some of the third generation coming through and that’s a long time I guess. It means a lot. It kind of means you made a difference in what you’ve done,” Soma said.
“It’s really special,” junior Harley Nelson said. “We’re going to miss him and having him not be here for my last year or few years would be really hard and it’s just going to take some getting used to.”
“I’m going to miss him, but it’s really cool to get to know him and have a whole day named after you,” sophomore Logan Pekron said.
Soma, who is from Oldham, said he has put around 400,000 miles on his pickup commuting back and forth to Iroquois, but it was all worth it.
“It’s been good I guess. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever not wanted to come to work. Like I said when I was talking up there before, some days would be better than others, but I’ve enjoyed it.”
Soma will continue farming after retirement, but he said will have more time to do that during the day, rather than at night. The school’s current math teacher will become the principal.