Reflections

  • Bill Backes, 1970-2008 Student Activities CoordinatorBill-Backes-web

    I started at the College in 1970 and would hear the "older staff" at that time talk about Senator Stan Matzke, Sr. who introduced LB148 in 1941 to create the Nebraska Technical College in Milford. They would also speak about the difficult periods from the early attempts of abolishment of the school, the tornado in 1957, and the constant campaign for necessary funds to keep the doors open. Creating the Nebraska Community College System seemed to generate more income.

    As an example of what a dollar could buy back in 1970, the student built house sold for $14,650 compared to 2015 when it sold for $95,000.

    Being the student activities coordinator, I had the privilege of working with over 100 student senate presidents, and chaperone over 150 school dances and countless other events. All in all, it was a great 38 years of employment working with many fantastic staff and students.

    Dennis Bauman, 1964 Automotive Technology graduate, Instructor, 1969-2008

    DennisBauman-webI attended Nebraska Vocational Technical School from 1962-1964, graduating in 1964 from the Automotive program. I went to work at Fish Carburetor and Tune-up until 1969. In 1969, I became employed at SCC Milford campus as an instructor to teach front-end, brakes and air conditioning. I continued in this position until I retired.

    During my time at SCC I met many interesting students, staff and alumni. After 39 years, I had taught students, then their children and finally decided to call it quits and retired in 2008. I am so grateful for the education and experience I received and also the friends I acquired both as a student and a member of the SCC Milford staff.


    Gary Cooper, 1987-2013, PlantSuperintendent

    As I look back at the time that I was privileged to work for Southeast Community College, the Milford Campus had great leadership provided by Dr. Tom Stone, Larry Shaw, and Lyle Neal. These gentlemen provided great support for the Physical Plant Services. The plant staff was terrific to work with; there was never a remodel job too big to do, even if the paint hadn't dried yet from the previous one. The custodial staff kept the campus facilities very clean and the grounds crew kept the appearance of the campus outstanding. It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention my partner in crime, Beth Naylor, Plant Secretary.

    Gerald Eigsti, Instructor and Placement Director, 1960 - 2007GeraldEigsti-web

    Nebraska's own visionary in education, especially vocational technical studies, has impacted thousands literally millions in the United States, none other than the State Senator, the honorable Stanley Matzke, Sr. His interest in the well-being of future generations reached the entire globe. Implementing these ideas and dreams was none other than Lowell Welsh, the first Superintendent of the Nebraska State Trade School at Milford, Nebraska and to this day the college has a national respect and reputation in the industrial world due to the efforts of these two individuals.

    My career, along with many others, now enjoy the power of mankind in the betterment of improving our lives and our families.

    George Matzen, 1972 Manufacturing Engineering Technology graduate, Instructor, 1975-2011

    GeorgeMatzen-webMy first association with Nebraska Vocational Technical College in Milford was in 1971. I was in the Army Infantry in Vietnam. I heard that you could get out three months early to go to school. My mom searched and searched and the only school she could find that started in March was Milford. I was not familiar with it, but any place had to be better than Vietnam for three months. I transferred some credits from UNL and started Mechanical Manufacturing Technology with Elmer Smith in March of 1971. One day I was working away in Smithie’s drafting class and someone pushed a book off the edge of their drawing table. When it hit the floor, I was under my desk. It took me a while to get readjusted to civilian life. I graduated in June of 1972.

    Late in 1974, I got a call from Tom Lutzi. He said that Rod Hiebenthal was transferring to Machine Tool Technology and if I was interested in the third and fourth quarter teaching spot, I needed to get my application in. I interviewed with Dr. Klabenes, Jim Powers, and Al Havener and I got the job. I started on January 4, 1975.

    One time I took my students to Hastings for a field trip.We had toured a couple of different manufacturing firms and were headed home. We stopped at a quick shop on the east edge of town to get something to drink.A couple of students said they didn’t want anything and asked me to leave the van running and the air conditioning on. When I came back out, there was no one in the van, the doors were locked and the van was still running. We tried several things to get a door unlocked, but ended up calling a locksmith.It even took him quite a while to get in. Needless to say, I was never that nice again.

    The most satisfying thing about the job was seeing your students succeed. Going on a field trip and seeing past graduates in their jobs, running into graduates and their families in stores or restaurants, and seeing them when they came back for Open House. I’m looking forward to seeing many of them at the 75th Anniversary celebration.

    Stan Matzke, Jr.

    Dad was always interested in helping the underdog, whether it be as Seward County Attorney, Farm Editor of the Lincoln Journal, businessman, State Senator, conservationist or in his personal life. He championed the causes of the average little person who sometimes got lost in the shuffle.

    He was interested in the trades at an early age helping in his dad's hardware store in Goehner, Nebraska. He was skilled in assembling binders used in harvesting.

    In 1940 Dad was elected to the state legislature from the 24th Legislative District (Seward and York Counties). He went to visit a vocational school in North Dakota and then wrote Legislative Bill #148 creating the Nebraska State Trade School in Milford. There was a lot of opposition from private trade schools. Dad, because of his love and interest and political ability, got the bill passed.

    I have on my wall next to my desk a picture frame Dad put together with a copy of the legislative bill and a newspaper article about the start of theMilford Trade School dated April 29, 1941. Another article shows Dad and me standing in front of the Administration Building in 1961 when I taught at Milford. Also included in the frame is a letter from Governor Griswold dated March 15, 1941, sayinghe will sign the bill, and in the governor's own handwriting asking Dad if he wanted the pen used to sign the bill. Dad attached the pen on the front of the frame and it's still there.

    Dad really cared about the Milford school. He always supported it whenever there was action trying to close it. Over the years the schoolhas had the benefit of outstanding leadership. As a part of Southeast Community College it has continued to be a leader in vocational technical education in the state and nationally.

    John Meyer, Instructor and Information Services Manager, 1969-2008JohnMeyer-web

    The 38 years that I worked for Southeast were very good years. I learned so much and enjoyed the friendships that were built over those years. During the years that I spent at SCCI experienced many changes in technology. This was a rewarding experience as well as a challenging one. I was given many opportunities while employed at SCC. I recall in my first several years of working we were given the opportunity to take college courses with Lynn Churchill and those course credits were transferred to Colorado State University. As a result of this experience, I spent four summers at CSU to complete my bachelor degree requirements. I probably would not have completed my degreeif it weren't for the support that SCC offeredme at that time.

    My experience at Southeast covered a number of technical areas which really helped me even later when I left Southeast and began working for Jenzabar. I was able to relate to the various campus personnel at the 60 pluscolleges that I worked with during mysix yearswith Jenzabar. Most of my clients were in the United States however I did have an opportunity to go to Paris, Franceto work with one of Jenzabar's clients.

    I appreciate the great leadership we had during my tenureat Southeast. I recall all of the hours we spent making updates to the various operating systems and the various applications that we built and later purchased from software vendors. I remembertraining most of the staff and faculty on Lotus Notes, one of ourfirst e-mail systems that the college installed.

    I have many good memories in regard to working with all of the people at Southeast Community College.

    Lyle Neal, 1971-2014 Instructor; VP of Fiscal Services; Asst. Campus Director; VP of Technology/Milford Campus Director

    The Milford Campus was my life for over forty-two years which means I've had a front row seat to roughly 57% of its history. One of the first observations that came to mind was the fact the leadership over the years has been exceptional. Lowell Welsh stands out as a practical pragmatist who would have embraced the phrase 'Git R Done!' Former instructors Pete Peterson and Al Havener would regal us newbies about how the campus and labs were built from Army surplus, sweat and making do with what was available. I personally believe the early years of operations were characterized by the ingenuity of Lowell and his staff and carried an attitude of 'Git R Done' for many years after Lowell's tenure.

    Dr. Robert Klabenes followed Lowell Welsh and was as an excellent administrator who motivated the teaching faculty to new levels. Dr. Klabenes introduced lesson plans built upon Behavioral Objectives and personally taught a class that we all attended to learn the concept. It helped me put a focus on teaching that I found refreshing. What behavior or outcome do you expect from your class? Dr. Klabenes was also responsible for growing the campus to record enrollments and the start of Ag Business and Management Program that eventually moved to Beatrice.

    Dr. Thomas Stone was exceptional at forging partnerships with business, industry and community. Dr. Stone was instrumental in developing partnerships with General Motors ASEP and John Deere's first Ag Tech Program. Upon this foundation the Ford ASSET and Chrysler CAP programs were added. Dr. Stone believed in building bridges with the community and was heavily involved in the Milford Chamber and Milford Economic Development. Dr. Stone was a leader who demonstrated humility and respected opinions that may have been different from his own. Tom's hidden talent included herding sheep on his campus housing lawn that escaped from a farm truck turnover by the Mini Mart.

    Larry Shaw's forte was the development of computer and network technology to the Milford Campus and SCC which started during his tenure as Assistant Campus Director. Larry had a knack for cutting through the proverbial crap. One of the moves Larry made was reflective of his insight. Converting the Campus Directors home into a Placement and Testing center allowed students who traveled to Milford to test to see firsthand that education on the Milford Campus translated into excellent placement when they graduated. One insight into Larry's service was his work with the Milford Pee-Wee football program years after his own children were no longer in the program. Larry also was a community builder and served on the Milford City Council for a number of years.

    I was always amazed at the dedication of Instructors who would go above the call of duty to work with students after hours. Rick Morphew, Kevin Uhler, Jerry Norris and others working with the Engine Build Contest and taking their students on the road to show off their skills. The work that Ron Petsch and his staff put into the National Association of Home Builders Chapter and winning many national contest for Chapter of the Year competing against four year colleges and universities. I was especially impacted by the quarterly chapter meetings when the students would meet with the Lincoln Home Builders and gain insights into networking and business opportunities available through the organization. You have to appreciate the Faculty volunteers who lead the student clubs ASNT, AGC, ISET, FOA, NESDA, NSCA, Phi Beta Lambda, PSAN, SkillsUSA, and SME. These efforts make a distinctive mark upon the students and the culture of the Milford Campus.

    This coming May will be a special time as we celebrate the Milford Campus 75th anniversary. I'm confident the campus will continue to 'Git R Done' over the next 75 years. Borrowing from one of my pastor's catch phrases, 'The best is yet to come!'

    Merrill Peterson, 2001-2011, Graphic Design Instructor

    First I recall the staff and students. Larry Meyer, Dean of Students was an upbeat and energetic guy. Almost immediately Larry established a personal connection with new students. He made them feel welcome, teased them, called them ugly and looked after them. Bill Backes, Activities Director also played a positive role in the lives of students and for me Larry and Bill were the heart of the Milford campus.

    Second I remember the high standards and commitment to excellence on the Milford campus. Virtually everyone was willing to cooperate and help make the institution function for the benefit of students and it was done with refreshingly little display of ego.

    In our graphic design program I especially remember Ginny Backes for her kindness, knowledge and teaching ability. Working at SCC Milford was a real joy.

    Dave Rainforth 1993-2013 Building Construction Technology Instructor

    I feel very privileged to have been allowed to spend 20 years of my career working and teaching at SCC-Milford.

    The Milford Campus maintained an open, caring, knowledgeable staff. If you were experiencing difficulty in any of the technical areas of expertise found on this campus, they would go out of their way to accommodate you. You could almost always find a listening ear for your problems. I was fortunate to work with a Building Construction staff that through their leadership and the contributions by each, made an impact on the success of the program.

    Through Ron Petsch's and Larry and Roger Kness' guidance they had built and managed some outstanding student chapters for the Associated General Contractors and the National Association of Home Builders. These student chapters allowed students to participate in activities that could not be simulated in the classrooms. They allowed students to intermingle with future employers. They were a valuable asset for the Building Construction and Architectural departments and students. Seldom was there a time that the students and staff didn't have an extra project that was in the works for one of the student chapters or their sponsoring organizations.

    I valued the guidance and input from our advisory boards. Their support to the College was enormous. Field trips, interviews, hiring our graduates, talking to classes, scholarships, and accommodations could be worked out with members of the board and our students. Then on top of that, at least once a year, they would come together and critique our program, offering valuable support and direction.

    Thank you Milford Campus.

    Duane Starr, 1963 Diesel Technology graduate, 1990 - 2000 John Deere Ag Tech Coordinator/Instructorduane starr

    I was born and raised in central Nebraska, graduating from Sutton High School. I was in farming for several years after graduation. I attended and graduated from Nebraska Vocational Technical School in the Diesel department December 1963.

    I was then employed by a retail farm dealership in Syracuse, NE. In 1966 I began employment with the Oliver Corporation's Omaha Branch in their service department. Through mergers with several other brands of farm equipment, I held several positions and completed 24 years with that corporation.

    During my employment with the Oliver Corporation and following companies, I served as an advisor to several community colleges farm and diesel programs, including the Milford program.

    In late 1989 I was approached regarding the new program that was being formed in cooperation with the John Deere Company and its Kansas City branch. I worked with Fred Petsch and several others in forming the John Deere Ag Tech program. We started in a one-room classroom in the main building. In the mid-nineties the John Deere building was built down in the lower area of the campus. Wow, look at the newly completed John Deere building. I'm proud to have been a part of the progress that the program has achieved and the facilities the College has provided.

    I have fond memories of the personnel that I worked with and was associated with during my ten years working on the Milford Campus. Most importantly, are the many students whom attended and participated in the technical training from the College and the John Deere Company. It is a joy to again meet the many graduates from time to time and see the achievements that they have accomplished.

    Joan Sterns, General Education Instructor and Director, Milford Campus Testing Center, 1979-2000

    Joan-Sterns-webOut of my 42 years in education, 21 of them were at Southeast Community College, Milford Campus. They were great years. It was amazing to be a part of an educational system that concentrated on a "hands-on"education. These careers were technical in nature and provided industry with skilled employees. It was an eye opener for me because I had not realized that getting an Associate's Degree provided so much success for the graduates and could take them a long way on their career path. Some used the degree as a stepping stone to further education. It is still a very valid way to get some of the basics completed at a very reasonable cost and then continue on at another institution of higher learning.

    For those who chose to enter directly into the work force, many found themselves in very lucrative positions. Many advanced into higher level positions and even into the areas of supervision/management.

    Often, I see former students and it is just a great feeling to know that I was a part of their success. Maybe not a huge part, but a part, and that is very rewarding. My time at SCC was a valuable experience - was time well spent and thoroughly enjoyed. The staff was one of the best groups of people that I ever worked with. Their dedication was very obvious and showed in the quality of SCC graduates. I have often recommended Southeast Community College and enjoy telling others (who don't really understand the value of an SCC education) all about the importance of a vocational, technical education.

    Thomas C. Stone PhD employed at SCC Milford from July 1, 1984 to June 30, 1995, Campus Director

    The Campus staff and the community were most gratuitous in welcoming us. We got to personally know several of the staff on July 4th after being on campus only three days. We had several inches of rain on the evening of July 3rd and the Machine Tool lab had several inches of water in it. Elaine & I helped to vacuum up the water and got well-acquainted with everyone doing the cleanup.

    During my tenure with the campus, working with faculty and staff, we were successful in getting approval and funding for several major changes which included:

    • expanding from one computer in the instructional programs to having five computer labs and equipped a majority of the instructional faculty offices with a computer;
    • building four major additions to the Eicher Technical Center, a storage building, a John Deere Pro Tech facility, an addition to the Welsh Center, remodeling a number of the faculty offices, and designed and received approval for the construction of the Dunlap Center;
    • developing partnerships with several major companies, including: Auto Cad, General Motors, John Deere and Chrysler and strengthening our relationship with many others;
    • raising monies outside of the institutional budget to purchase a 1918 Patriot Truck to use in promoting the campus.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure with the campus. This included working with the faculty and staff on campus projects, with the Open House committee, with the 50th Anniversary committee, the Program Advisory committees and the Women-in-Technology committee. We also enjoyed hosting the Christmas luncheons each year for the faculty and staff. It was an informal time where we got to better know the faculty and staff.

    As I reflect back on my time with SCC Milford campus I hope I was able to help advance the instructional programs, improve the facilities and help the faculty and staff to advance professionally. I know it was a time of professional growth for me. I regret that since leaving we have lost key people like Larry Shaw, Larry Meyer and so many others.

    Judy Zieg, 1971 - 2015, General Education InstructorJudy Zieg

    Having taught Speech at SCC-Milford Campus for more than 43 years, I'd like to consider myself a part of its 75-year history.

    During my timeon the Milford Campus, I'm sure I listened to thousands of speeches(yes, literally, thousands); some more memorable than others. Two come quickly to mind.

    1. Prior to the prohibiting of animals on all SCC campuses, one of my students brought his pet boa constrictor to class as a visual aid for his speech. Considering that I am terrified of snakes, I had a very difficult time listening to the actual speech. I was more than slightly distracted!
    2. Many years ago, one of my speech assignments required students to try to teach me something from their program of study. I went into their program areas and (for the most part) actually tried to do the task they chose for their speech. SEE PHOTO. I don't think I'm ready for a career in welding, but I gave it a try.

    From all the thousands of speeches over the years,I learned a little about a lot of things. So, if it's true that "a little learning is a dangerous thing" (Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism"), then I must be really dangerous!

    I retired from SCC--Milford Campus in June 2015, but I have a lot of great memories. If any of my former students would like to get in touch with me again, I can be contacted at jmzieg1@aol.com.