VU Alum turned Louisiana State University Shreveport Dean marks impressive 50 year career

Dennis Wissing headshot

January 11, 2024

SHREVEPORT, La. – We're barely into 2024, yet there is a significant date long circled on the calendar of Dr. Dennis Wissing '76. With each passing day, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Louisiana State University-Shreveport is eagerly anticipating an approaching milestone and momentous occasion.

"On January 15th of 2024, I will be a licensed respiratory therapist for 50 years," the Vincennes University graduate says. "That is my No. 1 and proudest achievement, and that is because of Vincennes University’s program."

From a first-generation VU graduate to Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at LSU Shreveport to an inspiring community servant, Wissing (pictured above) is a fascinating individual with an extraordinary story.

The Vincennes native is a member of VU’s first graduating class of respiratory therapists.

“The Respiratory Therapy program at VU stimulated me to pursue my bachelor’s, my master’s, and my Ph.D,” he says. “I got the desire to learn and become a lifelong learner at VU. My first year or so wasn’t very impressive. Once I got into Respiratory Therapy, I got highly motivated.”

Two years after graduating from VU, Wissing became the first student to earn a bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy from the University of Kansas. He received a master’s degree in Health Science Education from LSU Medical Center in New Orleans and a Ph.D. in Science Education from LSU Baton Rouge.

Since graduating from VU, he has received multiple university honors, including Outstanding Recent Alumni Health Occupations Awards (1977), the VU Faculty Citation Award (2004), and the Student Government Association Pacemaker Paddle Award (2004). 

Although VU no longer offers a degree in Respiratory Therapy, Wissing is incredibly fond of the former program.

“I truly believe in my heart that VU got me on the career track,” he says.

An Amazing Career Trajectory

As the College of Education and Human Development Dean at LSU Shreveport, he is responsible for a student body of almost 1,100 students and a college with 17 degrees, including doctorate, master’s, and bachelor’s programs. Several of his programs address the significant shortages Louisiana is facing in nursing and teaching.

Wissing spearheaded the creation of LSU Shreveport’s Master of Public Health program, ranked fourth in the nation by Fortune magazine in 2022. That same year, he oversaw the opening of a $1.2 million cutting-edge Human Performance Lab that includes the region’s only environmental chamber capable of producing all types of atmospheres, including wind, snow, rain, and more. Wissing also oversaw the development of LSU Shreveport’s Pilot Educational Center, a state-of-the-art learning environment for future teachers.

Wissing is an expert in his field. He has shared his respiratory therapy and nursing expertise at almost 500 professional speaking engagements. He has enjoyed teaching at all levels of health science education, including in medical schools. He still teaches courses each semester at LSU Shreveport.

His work outside of the university is just as mind-blowing.

A Selfless Community Servant

Wissing has an immense passion for helping others. He volunteers in communities of color. Wissing devotes endless hours to serving marginalized populations, including unhoused or uninsured persons. He volunteers at multiple homeless clinics and with a church-based mobile medical ministry that provides health services out of an RV. He was recently honored with a national award for his outstanding work with impoverished communities. 

“I’m real proud to say I see a fair amount to undocumented patients with asthma,” Wissing says.

His patients have included individuals living in tents near a river and hospice patients living in their car, as well as military veterans.

He credits his empathy to growing up in a lower middle-class household in Vincennes.

Wissing’s community service is vast. He is a co-founder of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Northwest Louisiana, a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to decrease the stigma of mental illness. It also offers support groups. He is part of a diverse group promoting healthy eating choices to impoverished communities.

In 2004, Wissing began volunteering at a free clinic and pharmacy and seeing respiratory patients in an impoverished area of Shreveport. In 2024, he continues to see patients there and serves as the Board President of a center that dispenses nearly 50,000 free prescriptions yearly.

Through his volunteer work with Junior Achievement, he helps youth prepare for future success with entrepreneurship programs. Last year, he taught fourth-grade students how to open a hot dog stand.

“I will do volunteer work until I can’t,” Wissing says.

It is easy to see why his calendar is always full.

On January 15th, 2024, the Vincennes University community will think of Dr. Wissing on this extraordinary day and celebrate his remarkable success. The milestone is a testament to his passion, expertise, and enduring contributions to the healthcare community. We congratulate him and are proud to call him a Trailblazer!

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