Rach Tieszen marks 30 years: From farming to design

The 1980s farm crisis forced him into a Sanford Health graphic design career that spans four decades.

By: Nike Ohonme .

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When you look at a Sanford Health sign or signature blue light around the top of one of its clinics or hospitals, chances are Rach Tieszen had a part in it.

He just marked 30 years with the health care organization that was previously known as Sioux Valley Hospital in his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

When Tieszen was 10, he moved 30 miles away to the small town of Parker, South Dakota, and started working as the local farmhand for surrounding neighbors. Making money to purchase his first car was his top goal.

Out of high school, Tieszen and his father began farming together. The days were long and the work was hard, but he enjoyed every minute of it.

Then an economic crisis forced a career change.

“I would have continued to farm, but the mid 80’s were hard. It began costing more money than we were making to farm,” Tieszen recalled. “So I decided to go back to school. I was 27 at the time.”

Same values

After receiving an associate’s degree in graphic arts, Tieszen worked as a freelance designer. The temporary job lasted only a summer, so he knew he needed something more concrete. At the time, there was an opportunity to work at an advertising agency and another chance to pursue a career with Sioux Valley. With a little guidance from an advisor, Tieszen made the jump to the hospital.

“When I started with Sanford, we were a medical center on 18th street,” he said. “Graphic design was a lot different back then. A dozen projects kept us busy all week. I was a part of the project from concept to production.”

Tieszen said a sense of family and belonging has not wavered, a culture that says “we’re a family, we work as a family” is something he has enjoyed most about his time as an employee. “On any given day we would come in early and stay late until we got things done. It was the norm.”

That small team has morphed into a department with more than 100 employees — more creative people than a lot of ad agencies. Tieszen served in various roles over the years and now focuses on working with vendors to design, build and put up signs and lights on diverse places like the oil patch of North Dakota, the prairies of South Dakota, the lakes of Minnesota, the farming towns of Iowa and the African villages of Ghana.

While the size and scope of Sanford Health’s services have evolved tremendously, the core values in the organization have rung true since the organization’s conception, Tieszen said.

One visible sign of those values is the blue glow that emanates from most Sanford Health locations at night. The blue beacons of hope signify to everyone who sees them that healing can be found there.