DAA Winner: David C. Sennema, '56

Albion College Distinguished Alumni Award winner David C. Sennema, '56

Grand Rapids native David Sennema came to Albion nearly 60 years ago with a gifted singing voice and an eagerness to participate. Naturally, he joined the College choir and sang in the Sigma Nu fraternity's quartet. He graduated from the College with a deep appreciation for the arts and an amazing capacity not only to achieve, but to create.

Drafted into the Army one year after graduation and stationed in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he concluded that the Palmetto State was the place he would eventually make his mark. In 1964 he became the first full-time executive director of the Columbia Music Festival Association, where he helped to start the South Carolina Philharmonic. And the hits kept coming: in 1967, the first executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission; in 1970, a move to the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., to help lead state arts grants; in 1973, a stop in Springfield, Illinois, to create a master's program in arts administration at Sangamon State University.

He saved arguably his best success for his return to South Carolina, in 1976, when he became director of the state's Museum Commission. There was one thing missing, however: a museum. Starting with a staff of four and virtually no collections, let alone a building, Sennema, over more than a decade of effort, led the way in creating a state museum of history, natural history, and science and technology, as well as art. The South Carolina State Museum opened in 1988 in a historic mill building in downtown Columbia.

In the 1980s, Sennema launched his own arts management consulting firm. Now retired, he has put his magical voice to paper as well--to date, he has written 25 short stories and a one-act play.

Twenty-five years ago, South Carolina awarded its highest citizen honor, the Order of the Palmetto, to David Sennema. It's wholly appropriate that Albion College act similarly through this Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 2006, Sennema received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award. Presented by the South Carolina legislature, the award honors a South Carolinian who has demonstrated exceptional achievement and statewide impact through his leadership, support, and advancement of the arts.

David and his wife, Martha, live in Columbia, South Carolina, and are the parents of son Daniel and daughters Julia and Alice.