Thank You For 826 Years of Dedicated Service. Retirement Reception May 11, 2010. Ruth Main Soenksen Program Manager, Student Loans, Accounting Services 41 Years of Service.
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May 11, 2010
Being in the stands when the Kirkwood men’s basketball team defeated Ellsworth for the state junior college championship in 1980 was a memorable moment for me. The title “gave notice” to other colleges that Kirkwood was serious about its athletics.
Serving as the JTPA Administrative Service Center coordinator for the eastern third of Iowa, and for 18 years issuing Kirkwood loans to students enabling them to attend Kirkwood are other memorable moments.
About nineteen years ago, I attended my first Pat Parelli clinic in Marshalltown, Iowa. I found out about the clinic the night before. The first time I watched Pat was when he was cantering his horse in a figure eight, changing leads at every half circle. Then he reaches over and takes the bridle off while continuing to do this figure eight. Very impressive!
When I returned home, I wanted to do this feat with a mild mannered 4H horse that belonged to one of my students. I listened to the video tape I had made and thought I could take the bridle off after five rides. (In hind site I didn’t listen close enough.) After five rides, I asked my stable manager, Nellie Wilson, to take the bridle off. At the time I wondered why she gave me a strange look. In the next minute, the mild mannered 4H horse turned into a runaway train—roaring down the arena fully out of control with me hanging on for dear life. After we proceeded back and forth about eight times, I managed to reach over and grab the horse’s nose and pull his head around to stop. The moral of the story is, “listen carefully”!
Selecting a most memorable moment is very difficult; there have been many over 35 years!
A plant material maintenance lab was involved in planting trees on the slope north of Iowa Hall. A tree spade was being used to dig the holes. The brakes on the tractor failed, and the tree spade and tractor rolled down the slope, ending up on top of (crushing) then VP Norm Nielsen’s new car! While I was not in charge of this lab, it did create quite a stir around campus and among staff members in the Horticulture department.
A memorable moment was my first year teaching GED subjects and English Language Acquisition at IMCC, the prison at Oakdale. It was my first graduation ceremony, and all of us were excited as our graduates donned their caps and gowns. One of our inmate assistants returned from one of the housing areas upstairs to report that a line had formed as men waited their turns to iron their shirts. These weren't the graduates; they were the friends and cellmates of the grads. They wanted to spiff up to celebrate this achievement. Kirkwood made that moment possible.
About 1,600 people were left unemployed when Farmstead Foods (Wilsons) closed their plant in 1990. True to the Kirkwood Mission, various departments offered services to help those people find new jobs. The Arts and Humanities and English departments were then combined under the Communication Arts department. Rhonda Kekke and I, along with others in the department, volunteered to help people compose and type (as in typewriter) resumes. I recall the two of us pushing typewriters on carts back from Iowa Hall at about 12:30 a.m. The lines of people had been endless, and we had worked for hours. I was exhausted, but happy to have had that opportunity to help so many people. The experience also supported my appreciation for having a job I loved so much.
When I started working for Kirkwood, we had 4,000 students; now we have close to 18,000. My fondest memories are right now, knowing that I had a small part in that kind of growth.
I am most proud of two things: One—receiving the President’s Award for Outstanding Service and Innovator of the Year award in the same year. Two—all the students who in the beginning I thought might not ever make it, but in the end persisted and achieved their hopes and dreams through hard work and perseverance!
One of my memorable moments was on October 2, 1978, the day that I got hired at Kirkwood to be the instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program, having graduated from the program (Area X Community College) and working in industry for ten years; then coming back to teach students what I had learned at Link Belt Speeder in the engineering department.
Seeing students graduating and getting their degree and finding successful jobs in the field has been very rewarding over the past 32 years.
Another memorable moment is seeing one of my former students graduate, work in industry for ten years, get her four-year degree, and then get hired to teach what she (Kristie McKibben) learned at Midland Forge in the engineering department. (Both Kristie and myself are from the same home town-Vinton.)
During the past 30 years, several thousand adults who earned their GED or adult secondary diploma have attended our annual commencement ceremony. Graduate families and friends, Kirkwood staff, and honored guests have listened to student testimonials that chronicle the challenges that made them take an alternative path to finishing high school. Some of these stories made us laugh, most made us cry, and all made us admire our students for the sacrifices they made in attaining this goal and for their excitement in planning for the next one.
The most memorable moment for me is when I slipped on the icy hill and broke my leg in January 2008. Doing well now though.
My memories start when I became a student at Area X in the Fall of 1967 as an accounting student.
We were in the Hawkeye Downs Building on 6th Street. Then the second year of my degree we started in the small portable east campus buildings while they were breaking ground for Linn Hall. I will always be thankful to Rick Anderson and Dean Dunlap for giving me the chance to be a part of the Kirkwood Family.
My family grew up at Kirkwood... I grew up at Kirkwood. I had a two-month old baby
girl when I started my life at Kirkwood. I am thankful for the many friends that I have made at Kirkwood. We learned to crochet around the lunch/break table in Linn Hall. My friends gave me a baby shower when I had my last baby girl. My friends and colleagues were there for me at my husband’s death, at the wake and funeral, brought food, supported me all the way. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I felt cared about at Kirkwood. Yes, I know we can remember our accomplishments at Kirkwood and feel good about ourselves, but I think it is the people that surround us that make us who we are. Thank you to everyone who knows you have touched my life. My memories are ending with my youngest daughter graduating from Kirkwood and my retirement from a place I have spent half of my life.
One of my most memorable moments at Kirkwood was when the Skills to Employment department was merged under the Continuing Education division, and Kim Johnson became our administrator. This was a positive change, and Kim very quickly took on the task of learning about all our programs. It has been a very rewarding experience for me.
In addition, after the floods of 2008, Kirkwood quickly took action to support their affected staff and community. It meant a great deal to me and my family to have the support.
As for a memory: There are many, but watching students discover that they can do math (when they thought they could not) has been very gratifying over the years. I always enjoyed being their first contact with math (often) and always strived to help them overcome their fears and concerns.
Out of all the things I have been involved with at Kirkwood in the last 26 years, I think the most memorable moment came when I was made an honorary student. It came as a COMPLETE surprise, and it deeply touched me.
Weekly racquetball matches with Jack Terndrup for 25 years and many interesting conversations with him afterwards in the locker room. (We used to play more than once a week when we were younger and moved a little faster.)
A lot of silly jokes and plenty of laughs with Lorna in the office over the years, and also with Mary later on when she joined us in the department.
Norm’s gravelly voice and firm, genuine handshake.
Seeing Mary Wilson in a safari hat, cargo shorts and hiking boots when we taped part of our teleconferences in the 90’s about teaching writing in a computer classroom.
Telling Alison York that she was the best boss I ever had.
The butterflies in my stomach every single semester on the first day of class before walking in to face a new group of students, all sitting there waiting to check me out and see if I would choke.
And probably most rewarding of all were all the fun and festive parties we had in 100 sections of Children’s Literature with the room decorated and transformed, treats ready to serve, books displayed all over, and everyone in the entire room with a smile on their face, proving to me over and over that learning really can be fun.
I enjoy visiting my students in the community at their field experience sites. Frequently, I meet graduates of the program who are working in the field; and I am thrilled when they serve as supervisors to my current students. A student said, “You changed me. You changed my life.”
An embarrassing moment I recall clearly. It was in 1985 and I was new to the college and college behavior. My experience had been as a hospital administrator at a London, England, teaching hospital, where protocols by American standards were very “Masterpiece Theater - like” in their ways. Little did I know how informal everything was at Kirkwood.
I don’t recall the occasion, but many administrators were seated in the college board room in Linn Hall, including lowly me. Suddenly Norm Nielsen entered. Following my British protocols, I immediately rose from my seat as a sign of respect, only to find that everyone else around the table continued sitting and talking. Flustered, embarrassed, and convinced that everyone was looking at me, I bent and pretended to adjust the chair I had just leapt from, re-sat myself, and tried to pretend that nothing had happened. I’m sure that Norm had no idea what was going on, because he launched into whatever the topic was.
I would think that the most significant change at Kirkwood that I have been involved with would be the recent total revamp of our distance learning system. The system was completely redesigned from the ground up. The outgoing transmit and incoming response delivery was changed from a tower mounted analog microwave and ITFS system, to a buried wideband fiber optic digital system. This change eliminated weather related delivery problems, and greatly increased the system's flexibility and reliability.
During my third year at Kirkwood, a group of six Kirkwood employees (Kathy Toborg, Suzanne Nelson, Kathy Visser, Suzanne Hilleman, Dan Hackman and I) were sent to Arizona to attend the NCSPOD (National Council of Staff and Professional Organizational Development) conference. This group, after having attended the conference, have met two to three times per year for dinner ever since, even though three of the participants have moved on in their lives. Former Vice President Terry Moran happened across us at a restaurant about six years after the original conference and expressed his amazement at the group’s unity and camaraderie.
There's really no one memorable moment for me in 20 years at Kirkwood. As I reflect back, there is on one hand the sad loss of colleagues, and on the other the stimulating and vibrant experiences with both students and colleagues. I've just found Kirkwood to be a comfortable fit with my professional and personal life.
My most memorable moment would have to be Fall of 1990 here on the Iowa City campus. Emmanuel Maou and I were sharing a newly-finished office in the building that was in the finishing moments of construction. I remember sitting on the newly carpeted floor of that office, working on syllabi on my own Mac computer; we still had no office furniture. My printer and monitor sat on the floor, and I used a box for my keyboard. I know we got furniture in the ensuing weeks, but meanwhile, the job of starting classes proceeded!
There have been many memorable times during my twenty years at Kirkwood. However, I do feel the most memorable occasion would be receiving the “President’s Award for Outstanding Service”. This award came as a total surprise to me. The Learning Services personnel have been a pleasure to work with all of these years and they were instrumental in nominating me for the award. They kept this award a secret right up to the announcement in the auditorium. My mother and aunt were present on the day I received the award which made this acknowledgement of my service to Kirkwood all the more special. Thank you for the good times over the years.
My most memorable Kirkwood moment occurred on a multi-disciplinary Environmental Studies study abroad trip to Costa Rica. As we were flying over the ocean, we discovered that more than half of our students had never seen an ocean before. So once in-country, we arranged to change the itinerary a bit. I will never forget the faces of those kids coming off a bus with nothing but a roaring ocean crashing onto black volcanic sand filling their horizons, nor the sound of their laughter as they played in the waves.
When I was first hired, I was assigned the duty of building the golf green that is located behind the grounds complex. I was given the entire second-year Grounds and Turf student class (all five of them) with the task of having it ready to seed by October. Teaching an 18-hour credit load (with a heavy amount of prep per class), I worked with this group to get the green ready.
We were done on time but like a scene out of “Caddy Shack”, a mole took up residence on our newly prepared green. While I did not resort to explosive (tempting), we did finally trap the critter and the green remains today. This green has become a testament to the hard work of many turf grass students stretching back to that first group in 1991.
Jack Neuzil asked me to substitute teach CAD while he traveled to Surinam for two weeks. Although I agreed as a favor, Jack insisted that I be paid. To my surprise the pay was more than my day job. I began to consider teaching as a career.
The fondest moment was when I was chosen to replace Jack as CAD instructor in the same program I had graduated from twenty years earlier—MET. I was proud to measure up to the caring professionals that I respected so much when I was a student.
After 18 years, knowing that HMTRI is recognized around the world as a premiere training provider in Health and Safety; having curriculum I have developed be used around the world for the delivery of health and safety training; being a forerunner in the design, development and delivery of Homeland Security curriculum and training; and having my curriculum be used as the model for the development of the OSHA Disaster Site Worker training program.
To describe a memorable moment at Kirkwood Community College is not an easy task. As I reflect on the years I have been faculty, words cannot describe this fabulous experience. Kirkwood has been a part of my life since I turned 18 years old. I walked into the Area X building on 6th Street and was introduced to Vivian Klaus to talk about being a dental assistant. It was from that moment I knew that dental assisting was the profession for me. Being a graduate from Kirkwood has opened doors for me providing professional and personal advancements. So not one event can cover this vast venture that my life has taken. I give my deepest appreciation for everyone from Kirkwood who has touched my life and provided me the opportunity to grow.
What I enjoyed most while being at Kirkwood was spending time talking with my co-workers and Kirkwood staff members.
One of my memories at Kirkwood is taking a class in basket weaving with Jean Remour and having her weave one of the reeds I had in my basket into her basket. So we decided to call it a Siamese basket. Needless to say the instructor and the rest of the class didn't think it was as funny as Jean and I did.
As far as a memory, I suppose that my favorite memories are when I first started at Kirkwood and created continuing education classes for Johnson county. They were some of the most unusual classes. It was amazing to watch what people would register for. Also at that time I was working with the off-campus directors. They are an amazing, dedicated group. The retreats that we had were so much fun.
One of my favorite memories is from the Business Services department and our famous singing of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. There was wonderful musical accompaniment (hand clappers, staplers, kazoos, etc.), and the best leadership and conducting by Jim Loukota! It was always great fun and merriment.
I will always treasure the wonderful people I have met and worked with while at Kirkwood. It really was a family atmosphere.
The snapshot in my mind from here at Kirkwood was being recognized for my skills and abilities in distance learning by the League for Innovations in the Community College. The Environmental Technology Online curriculum sharing partnership was years ahead of other organizations that eventually morphed into companies like ed2go and ProTrain. The League also invited me to present nationally on saving resources and expanding offerings through partnering. Because of my being identified as a leader in this field, I was made a member of one of the League’s national advisory boards following trends in online education.
My most memorable moments at Kirkwood have been the successes I've shared with volunteers, community partners and staff.
I have enjoyed answering phones and helping people when they call in. Also, I have been very fortunate working with good people (staff), learning new skills and will cherish the friendships I have made.
Back in June 2005, I came in one Monday morning to see the building was dark. It seems we had a major transformer blow over the weekend. So on the first day we sat in our offices answering phones with battery powered lanterns on our desks. We were in an interior office with no windows to the outside and it seemed pitch black. We then moved to KCELT and later the business offices to finish out our time without power which was a couple of weeks. All of this with a new dean, Phil Thomas.
The other one was when President Bush came to the campus and the White House Press Corps was put into Jones Hall in a classroom that is now our new office. For several days before, extra phone lines and computer lines were temporarily strung across the hallways. When it was time for the President to speak, we had to leave the building out the back so that we wouldn’t go past the press room. By the time we came back from his speech in Johnson Hall, the entire press room was emptied of White House staff and all of their paperwork with exception of the press core signs were gone.
When I first started at KCC, it was a definite culture shock. I came from a large private company and was use to sitting in an area with over 100 people, all in cubicles, and never very quiet. At KCC, I was in an area with about 15 people, and it was like working in a library—all quiet. That took a little getting used to. Also the change from a private company to the academic world was a significant change. Then there was the change from the legacy system to Datatel. We are all still trying to adjust to that one.
You know it’s time to retire when the Board changes the rules and Sue Bennett calls you at home to make sure
you get the information.