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Songwriter Nicolle Galyon, KDSE’s Dale Dennis named Kansans of the Year
Nicolle Galyon
Nicolle Galyon

TOPEKA — Longtime state employee Dale Dennis and Nicholle Galyon, a singer/songwriter originally from Sterling, are being honored as Kansans of the Year, the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas announced.

Dennis and Galyon join a long and storied list of other Kansans who have received the honor, such as former Gov. Bill Graves; Gale Sayers, who played football for the Kansas Jayhawks; country singer Martina McBride; former United States Sen. Bob Dole; and photographer Gordon Parks.

The Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas have been meeting for more than 100 years to recognize and preserve Kansas history and celebrate those individuals who have made contributions to the state, according to a news release from the organization.

Nicolle Galyon

Originally from Sterling, Galyon made her way to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2002 to attend college. While at college, Galyon discovered her talent for songwriting and signed with Warner/Chappell Nashville in 2006. In 2012, she appeared on NBC’s The Voice as a contestant on Adam Levine’s team. There she met RaeLynn and Miranda Lambert, two friendships that she accredits to kickstarting her songwriting career.

Galyon earned her first No. 1 song with “We Were Us” performed by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert. With co-writers Miranda Lambert and Natalie Hemby, Galyon won 2015 ACM’s Song of the Year, and the 2014 CMA’s single of the year for the Miranda Lambert-performed hit song “Automatic.” Since then Galyon has had songs recorded by RaeLynn on her album “WildHorse,” Dan + Shay on their album “Obsessed,” Kenny Chesney on his album “Cosmic Hallelujah,” Florida Georgia Line on their album “Dig Your Roots,” Lady Antebellum on their album “Golden,” and Thomas Rhett on his album “Tangled Up.” Nicolle Galyon currently resides in Nashville.

Dale Dennis

Dennis is deputy commissioner of fiscal and administrative services for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE).

“I’m humbled beyond words,” Dennis said. “I don’t consider myself in the same category as others who have been named a Kansan of the Year.”

Dennis grew up in Mapleton, where his father operated a gas station. He graduated from Blue Mound High School and received three degrees from Pittsburg State University – a bachelor’s degree in business education in 1959, a master’s in business education and school administration in 1966, and an education specialist degree in school administration in 1983.  

Dennis has been serving Kansas’s students for 52 years. He joined KSDE as a state school finance administrator in 1967. Prior to joining the agency, Dennis was a teacher at the same high school where he graduated, Blue Mound, from 1959-1960 and 1961-1965, taking a step out of the classroom for one year to serve in the Army National Guard. He worked as a principal at La Cygne High School from 1965-1967. 

Dennis has won numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Kansas Association of School Business Officials’ Distinguished Service Award, which the agency later named the Dale Dennis Distinguished Service Award.

In his years of service at KSDE, Dennis has served as an interim commissioner four times. Currently, he supervises the administration of about $5 billion in state and federal funds that flow through KSDE to unified school districts and nonpublic schools. He also serves as the liaison for KSDE and the Kansas State Board of Education to the Kansas Legislature and the governor.

Dennis and his wife, Laurie, have two sons, Darren and Damon, and three grandsons.

The two Kansans of the Year will be recognized Friday, Jan. 24, in Topeka at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

“This whole deal is a complete shock to me,” Dennis said of the award. “But we never do anything alone. I’ve worked with a lot of great people over the years. They were loyal and very caring. I want people to remember that I cared, and I gave it all I had. I like to help. I like to make a difference in students’ lives.”

Dale Dennis
Dale Dennis