David Whitesock’s undergraduate experience at the University of South Dakota was a little bit different than the rest of the student body’s.
“I lived in Brookman Hall, which as a 29-30 year old who lived in an apartment much of his life, living in that environment was tough,” Whitesock said. “But my whole day could be focused on class and going to meetings — A.A. meetings.”
His time at the university gave him focus. He was on probation following a felony charge and prior arrests. He had to take breathalyzer tests twice a day and meet with probation officers once a week. He was squeezing in class and extracurriculars between trips to the courthouse.
“It wasn’t until three years and graduating from here where I began to feel normal,” he said.
Whitesock is 10 years in remission from alcohol addiction. He has three degrees from USD, is a member of the State Bar of South Dakota and is a family man.
Now, he has another accomplishment — a Bush Fellowship.
Whitesock was named a Bush Fellow for his work with Face It TOGETHER, an organization that helps communities equip themselves to treat addiction survivors.
With the Bush Fellowship, Whitesock will fund trips to places like Stanford and Harvard to learn about executive leadership. He wants to use the Fellowship award to grow Face It TOGETHER and help others with similar addictions.
“That’s one reason he’s been so successful. He’s been forthright about his challenge,” Jack Marsh, retired president of the Al Neuharth Media Center, said. “I believe in David Whitesock… It’s a great example of someone taking a second chance and becoming a model citizen.”
Marsh saw Whitesock’s potential when he came to USD. Whitesock joined The Volante under Marsh’s watch. He was also involved with the Student Counseling Center and Mock Trial.
His leadership and personal growth shined through.
“I’ve never actually met a person who is more efficient and effective at meeting personal goals,” said Sandy McKeown, USD associate professor of criminal justice and friend of Whitesock. “There’s a level of dedication and self-discipline and personal fortitude I’ve never seen in anybody else.”
Whitesock’s next personal goal is improving his executive leadership skills. He said he sees that sort of leadership every day with Face It TOGETHER, but he wants to expand his learning. That’s where the trips at higher education institutions come into play.
“There are those people who naturally have that ability to be a CEO or a boss. Others don’t,” Whitesock said. “Whether you have the natural skill, there’s so much you can learn from others.”
Learning through opportunities provided by the Bush Fellowship is right down Whitesock’s alley, Marsh said. Marsh said he saw Whitesock embrace mentorships and open up his story to aid in his recovery.
“He has turned his life around,” Marsh said. “He has got his life back.”
Whitesock said the road to recovery has been tough every day for 10 years, but he is always focused on giving back, and that his peers at Face It Together inspire him.
“In the work that I do with Face It TOGETHER, I get to work with people who have lived a much rougher journey than I have,” he said. “They get to touch people one-on-one every day. What they don’t get to do is go out and present their story to groups. I’d like to do that.”