During Southeast Community
College’s May 5 commencement, one of the graduates will walk across the stage
to accept her diploma. But instead of sitting in the student section, she will
sit with other members of the SCC Board of Governors. Seventy-year-old Board
member Kathy Boellstorff is receiving her Associate of Applied Science degree in
“I hope I was a good example for the others in the classroom and
brought some knowledge and life events, challenges and opportunities to the
table that most of the younger students would not have yet experienced,”
She originally started her
culinary studies in Omaha in 2008. But when Boellstorff ran for a seat on the
SCC Board in 2009 and won, she transferred her credits to SCC and the Lincoln
Campus. Since she took one class each term, it took her around 14 years to
graduate. She was commuting from the Johnson area where she and her husband
farm, so it was a lot of time on the road. However, she has no regrets.
“I took classes in person,
online, hybrid, and from the robot out of the Nebraska City Learning Center,”
she said. “You persevere and you get through it.”
Chef Instructor Gerrine
Schreck Kirby remembers being a bit surprised and nervous when she first heard
there was going to be a member of the Board of Governors as a student in the
culinary classes. However, she said Boellstorff was a student who loved
learning and asking questions.
“Kathy is very
inquisitive and is one of those students that kept me on my toes,” Schreck Kirby
said. “She would question and sometimes argue about information at hand. She
made me a better teacher because I always had to be ready.”
As a lover of food, Boellstorff
enjoyed all her classes in the program. But she really seemed to enjoy planning
her own menu for the Banquets/Buffet Operations and Management class. She
created an Italian-themed dinner and loved every step, from creating the menu,
to preparing the food with classmates, to serving the dinner in a banquet
setting at Course, SCC’s student-run restaurant.
“I couldn’t have asked for a
better group of instructors,” she said. “They are encouragers.”
“I found it to be
inspiring that she came to class with all of the young students in her lectures
and labs and was not afraid to ask a question or state an opinion,” Schreck
firsthand the changes and renovations made to the Culinary/Hospitality program
in 2018. The $4.2 million revamp included the Course Restaurant, coffee shop,
new classrooms and labs, bakery, and storage space.
“The facilities really
changed, and they needed to,” she said. “In the old cafeteria kitchen, you were
shoulder-to-shoulder, or in a classroom not designed to be a kitchen.”
Schreck Kirby remembers how
hard Boellstorff prepared for her proficiency exam, which students must pass
before they can graduate from the program.
“She was in the
labs practicing weekly to make sure she could master the material,” she said.
“The students in the class were impressed with her drive and tenacity. Needless
to say, she passed with flying colors.”
As a self-described “lifelong
learner,” Boellstorff isn’t sure what she’ll do next. For now, she’s just
looking forward to walking across the stage as an SCC graduate and as a member
of the SCC Board of Governors.
“I am so excited for commencement,”
she said. “It’s the culmination of about 14 years of time and a milestone for
Her husband, son and
daughter-in-law and two grandchildren will be cheering her on from the crowd at
Pinnacle Bank Arena. Because, as she says, you’re never too old to learn
“It’s never too late,”
Boellstorff said. “The important thing is to keep the lifelong learning desire going.
So what if it takes you longer? No matter what age you are, it doesn’t matter.
SCC’s Spring Commencement
ceremony is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.