Rochester Community and Technical College

Stories


Lexie Lindskog | Judy Kingsbury | Alyssa Fieck | Douglas Betts | Brad LaPlante | Debbie Zenker
Coralie Fiegel | Ryan Hoover | Barbara Schram | Nathan Davidson | Carole Amy | Rebecca Hill

Stories

When I first contacted MTV's "The Buried Life" to share my story, I never imagined that part of the end result would be going back to school. School has always been a struggle for me, but I knew deep down that it was an important part of my journey, a journey that had led me to Rochester Community and Technical College. I will never forget standing on the side stage of Hill Theater and hearing Ben Nemtin call me back on to the stage. My dream of sharing my story in the hopes of helping others had already come true, what more could there be? As I walked on to the stage Ben called President Supalla onto the stage, and with a shaky hug my life changed. President Supalla offered me a way to continue my dream and a gift that's value is unmeasurable, a second chance at an education. With tears streaming down my face I accepted, and in that moment, my journey took on a new path, an unexpected path.

I am in my 2nd year at RCTC, and I have gained so much more than an education during my time here. I have found teachers that take a vested interest not only in my education, but in who I am as a person. My Interpersonal Communications teacher, Mrs. Wright, encouraged me to follow my passion for public speaking and not only gave me the tools needed in her class but also an opportunity to exercise those tools, even after the semester had ended. My English teacher, Mrs. Flaig, helped me to once again find joy and humor in reading and writing. I also found while I was here that RCTC is about community. I approached President Supalla with a few opportunities to get involved with the work I was doing in the community, and without hesitation he offered the resources I needed to get the job done. This school lives up to its phrase of "Expect the Unexpected." It is with great pride and joy that I say I belong to the RCTC community.

Kingsbury

When I think about my experiences at RCTC, my memory always goes to the first week I started at the College. I had just graduated from the technical program only a few months earlier, and was hired in Continuing Education/Community Services (CE/CS) to work for Cortland Frye, the Dean of CE/CS, and Arlouene (Olson) Bothun, the Coordinator. I had barely turned 19, a true greenhorn, and was nervous because this was my first full-time job.

One afternoon, President Hill came over to our office to visit with the Dean and they decided to go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. President Hill turned to me and asked me to join them. I was frozen in my chair. The President had just asked ME to join him for coffee. I responded thank you, but politely declined because I was not a coffee drinker.

He smiled at me and said, “Well you eat ice cream, don’t you? Come with us and I’ll buy you an ice cream cone!”

It was at that moment that I realized that I didn’t just start a new job, but I had joined a family - a family that thought nobody was better than the other. To this day, I fondly remember that inclusive feeling when I think about President Hill, and I was also blessed to have worked with President Don Supalla, who carried on those same inclusiveness beliefs during his presidency.

Fieck

I enrolled at RCTC Fall Semester 2011 as a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options student. RCTC has changed my life. I have had nothing but positive experiences here with faculty, professors, and students. I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing school.

As of tonight (May 16th, 2013) I cross the finish line. I graduate with my Liberal Arts degree and my high school diploma. It's taken a lot of effort, work, and commitment; however it has provided me with responsibility, courage, and success. Thank you RCTC, professors, faculty, students, and everyone who is a part of it. This will be one of the milestones of life that will always be a part of me. :)

Betts

I enrolled in the Rochester Junior College in the fall of 1951. In September of 1951, I went to work for Kenneth M. McGhie, Professional Civil Engineer, four hours per day as part of an engineering technology course. Mr. McGhie was a former RJC student. He was a civil engineer and land surveyor starting his practice in 1946.

During the 1951-1952 school year, while working for Ken McGhie, I was inspired by him to change my goal to become a civil engineer and land Surveyor. In the fall of 1952 I enrolled in pre-engineering at RJC. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1957 with a bachelor’s in Civil Engineering.

Mr. McGhie provided me employment for the six years I was attending school. After two more years working for Mr. McGhie and six years working for a consultant in Montana, in 1966 Mr. McGhie & I formed McGhie & Betts, Inc. in Rochester MN. Ken McGhie died in 1975. The firm operated until 2013 when it was sold. I sold out my interest in 1988 and continued as a consultant until August 30th 2013.

Mr. McGhie taught in the RTC engineering technology program for several years, at first furnishing his own surveying and laboratory equipment. We both highly valued graduates of the technology program when we needed staff. I will always be deeply indebted to Mr. McGhie and the dedicated instructors of the Rochester Junior College.

LaPlante

I met Joel Swisher in July of 1995. I had no idea if I wanted to go to college or if I wanted to play college football after high school. This was even after winning the 1994 Class C State Championship and having the love for the game! I can still remember sitting in his office with my mom listening to his coaching history and what his plans were for Yellowjacket Football. What most impressed me though was his energy, his passion, and his zest for education and football. Both my mother and I were sold on playing for Joel and attending RCTC after meeting with him.

Ironically enough, Joel had a bit too much love for the game our first day of practice. We did some drills that were allowed (full pads) that year that usually are not allowed because of national rules and regulations. Within these drills, one of our players got hurt and Joel got a little excited and wanted him to toughen up and get back in there. Little did Joel know (none of us did either) that the young man sustained a season ending injury during the drill. This was not Joel's fault, not the kid's fault; it's just football.

I decided at this time, college football was not going to be for me if it was going to be like this every day. I figured Joel had pressure on him to be the next winning coach at RCTC and was going to be a "monster" that year; I didn't want to play for him and made a bad decision to quit.

Fast forward to fall of 1997: I was back playing for Joel again. I had talked to all the players of the 1996 and 1997 teams about the team, practices, atmosphere, and coaching staff over and over again. Through those talks I decided that after the first day in 1995 the atmosphere must have changed drastically. I went in and met with Coach Swisher about some of my concerns of having fun while playing hard and having an enjoyable experience. Coach Swisher ensured me that if I stuck with it, I would not regret all the fun, wins, and friendships along the way. Little did I know, his friendship would mean the most to me.

Joel was a mentor in every letter of the word. He was a great leader, he showed it by example and everyone knew to follow! He showed just as much excitement in the classroom (Health Class) as he did in offensive meetings or on the grass at practice. This is something we admired him for - heck he had more energy at the age of 50+ than we did at 18-20!

Not only did I have the great chance to play for Joel for two years, I came back and coached for him after I was done playing. I had transferred out to a four-year university to attain an Education Degree and also play football. When my first semester ended, I found out some of my credits didn't match up. I was heartbroken, as I could have chosen other schools closer to home, and it felt like a total waste of a semester. The only person I knew to call was Joel. As smooth as butter, Joel invited me on to his coaching staff. How could I tell my head coach "no"? I wanted to play ball so bad and prove myself at the next level, but hearing the urgency in his voice and some simple explanations on how it would benefit me sold me on the spot!

Fall of 1999 I was on Joel Swisher's staff, and it was an amazing learning experience. He never let up and always found great teaching moments. I have been coaching now for 15 seasons, and thankfully my first one was the one I learned the most and under a great leader! We fell short in a highly contested bowl game to NDSCS in the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I'll never forget the fire and passion that Joel came with the following week for getting the current players better and to recruit in better players to go and win that bowl game the following year.

Sad thing is, that Joel didn't get to coach another down. Joel passed away in early 2000 with a heart attack. The RCTC Football Program, College community, city of Rochester, and coaches and families all across the country mourned the loss of such a great husband, father, leader, and football coach. It was amazing the outreach that one awesome, motivated person had. We coaches were getting cards, letters, phone calls, and emails from all over the country telling funny stories, telling thanks, and telling the good times they had around Joel.

We had a hard time letting go of Joel - he was the glue that kept our team together with his energy, passion, knowledge, and fear that we would let him down. We didn't want to let him down, so the returning players and our returning coaches did the best thing for a fallen football coach. We dedicated the season to him and we went out and won the 2000 NJCAA DIII National Championship at the UNI Dome the following season. I have never been so ecstatic to win a ballgame in my life. It was tough to look over at the stands and see the banner with Joel's name on it and what it truly meant to all of us to win this game and have a wonderful season for him. After all, it was his team, and I wish he were still coaching the Yellowjackets today.

I love you Joel and miss you everyday, buddy! Your teams were always small and slow, but well coached. And, we all know: "Those Who Stay Will be Champions!"

Zenker

Venturing off to college is an exciting time in an eighteen-year-old girl's life. It was for me! Yet, it was also filled with a sense of loneliness and uncertainty, having recently experienced the loss of my dad. This certainly wasn't a good time to leave my mom and my two younger brothers! But with my heart tugging in every direction, off I went to Rochester Junior College in 1970.

My first day on campus opened a whole new world for me! I was thrilled with my classes, met new friends, saw friends from my hometown, and signed up for student activities that I knew were a perfect fit for me. That first day was the beginning of a wonderful first year of college.

The classes were challenging, the teachers were compassionate, and the student activities were the cherry on top. I was active on the Social Committee and eventually was elected Social Chairman for the 1971-1972 school year. And what a special year that was to be!

Freshman Camp was a busy time for those of us in student activities. We worked many hours planning a special week for the upcoming freshmen. The week culminated with a "friendship walk." Names were randomly selected to pair off and go on a walk in the beautiful woods and talk about our thoughts of the week and the school year ahead. I was paired with some guy named, "Ivan." I thought he looked rather old for a freshman. That was because he was 25 years old, having just served in the US Air Force. He proceeded to complain that the camp seemed more like high school. Jerk! My thought was, I hope I don't run into this guy on campus!

The first day of classes I looked up. Who was sitting across from me? Ivan. We will be celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary October 7, 2014! By the way, he isn't a jerk any more!

Our college lives took us from Rochester Junior College to Mankato State, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Saint Thomas. All were excellent schools of learning.

However, none compared in the quality of teaching to Rochester Junior College. Each teacher we had, taught with compassion, offered guidance and always seemed to have a "my door's always open" policy. All of this was a perfect recipe for success.

With a send off from RJC, Ivan earned his degree in Chemistry with certificates in both Industrial Hygiene and Safety and mine was a master’s in Education, majoring in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Early Childhood Special Education.

Our careers took us elsewhere to live. However, we both decided we wanted to retire in Rochester someday. We have done just that and are so happy to be back to Yellowjacket country!

Fiegel

My father earned an AA degree from Rochester Junior College in 1934. (I still have his diploma.) He went on to the University of Minnesota, graduated, and became a Certified Public Accountant in Anchorage, Alaska.

My mother attended Rochester Junior College, and my son attended Rochester Community College.

I have taught at Rochester Community and Technical College for over 25 years.

Hoover

It was opening day of classes - and here was President Don Supalla in the Atrium, helping students interpret schedules, explaining the difference between EA and EH, showing them how to find MH, etc.

His smile and welcome was a great boost to the day!

Schram

RCTC was a very important part of my life and propelled me to be a life-long learner.

At age 15, to escape a violent home life, I moved into my own apartment while still in high school. With extensive help and support of my HS guidance counselor, I applied and registered for college at RCC my senior year. To make things even more challenging, I had to start college while still in high school, because of rule changes to social security. To be eligible to receive social security benefits while in college (my father had passed away when I was 5), I had to be a full-time student at a post secondary school by March of my senior year of high school!

I began attending RCC full-time in the spring of 1982, while simultaneously completing high school. The counselor at RCC led me through the steps of registering for classes, obtaining financial aid, getting textbooks, and settling in. I attended one quarter at RCC, and the teachers were great!

I switched to another college the next year, then took some time off from school. I never questioned whether I would complete college, and because of RCTC, I was able to get back into the swing of college a few years later.

The guidance counselor at RCTC was wonderful, and once again, guided me through the steps needed to obtain my associate’s degree. I recall walking in saying "I think I'm close to having enough credits to graduate but am not sure." Within a couple of minutes, everything was taken care of. I was registered and attending school again!

I received my associate of arts degree from RCTC in 1989 and my bachelor of arts degree from WSU in 1994, taking some classes back on the same campus I had started on. In 2014, I completed my master of arts degree through St. Mary's University, once again taking classes at the RCTC campus.

The people of RCTC made the process of getting into college painless, and the rest was up to me. Thank you for getting me started!

Davidson

I graduated from Rushford High School in 1969. I never intended on going to college so I enrolled in Winona Vocational School where I received a degree in Business and Marketing. After going from job to job for a couple of years, a musician band director friend encouraged me to attend college at Winona State and pursue a career in music as a band director, as I was playing in bands at the time.

Winona State said I had to take the ACTs before being admitted. So I did and basically flunked. I was so disappointed they wouldn't let me attend at Winona. They suggested checking with Rochester Junior College as they didn't require the ACTs. So that's what I did and I was in!

I took my generals and some music classes there. I spent a lot of time practicing my instrument, studied hard, and was able to maintain a nice 3.0 average. I had a very influential music theory teacher at the time, Carlo Braendlin, who taught us well in a very fun way. I was part of the J.C. Aires where I met my wife Denise.

If you maintained the 3.0 average you were granted a $250 scholarship to Winona State- so that was my next step. I felt really good about that as they had turned me down two years prior. After graduating in 1975 from Winona with honors, I became a band director for the next 34 years!

If not for Rochester Junior College at the time, my teaching career probably wouldn't have happened.

Things come back to us sometimes in life. I am now semi-retired and am now on the adjunct music staff at RCTC, teaching woodwinds. I am extremely grateful to be teaching there now, and I've always been appreciative that I was admitted as a student back in 1971!

Amy

I am so proud to be an alumnus of this education institution. My family has three generations of RCC and RCTC graduates. We have all succeeded in life and in our careers thanks to an excellent educational foundation through this college.

My story began when my sons, Dale and Dennis Amy, graduated from Mazeppa High School in 1981 and 1983, respectively. They attended RCC for their AA degrees and played basketball for the Yellowjackets. In 1989, my daughter, Karen Amy, graduated from Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School and also enrolled at RCC. She played volleyball for the Yellowjackets. Some of my best memories include watching my kids play sports and earn their degrees from this college. The education and sports environment set them on the right track for a successful life and successful careers.

As I watched my kids enjoy college life, it awakened a hunger for education that had been repressed while I raised my family. I enrolled in 1986, a very non-traditional student, and began my college quest. I earned my AA degree from RCC in 1988 and earned my BS in Business from Winona State University in 1991. This educational experience gave me a wonderful 22-year career at Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester.

In the last eight years, I have been fortunate to watch my grandchildren graduate from RCTC. Joshua, Ariel, and Riley have all earned their AA degrees from this college continuing our family legacy. Riley Amy played basketball for the RCTC Yellowjackets during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. It was a wonderful time for me to relive all those sports memories following his team to another Minnesota state title.

Hill

My story at RCTC began in 1953. No, I wasn't a student then; I wasn't even in Elementary School yet, but my father, Charles Hill, moved our family from a small Junior College in Creston, Iowa, to a small Junior College in Rochester, Minnesota.

The college was located on two floors of the Coffman Building downtown Rochester. My brother Chuck and my sister Sally both graduated from RCC at the Coffman Building. My father walked to work every day, and it was very important to him. After the new campus was completed, I think not being able to walk to work was the one thing he missed. He certainly could have done without putting out buckets at the new campus every time it rained.

In the Fall of 1968, I became a student at RCC when the first phase of the new campus was completed. It consisted of two classroom buildings, a library, and an administration area. Even though I graduated with an AA degree and have a B.A. degree from a four-year university, I have still returned to RCTC over the years to take many classes for both employment and for the pure pleasure of learning. In fact, I just signed up for a LIFE class this fall being taught by one of my first professors and great friend, Tom Ostrom.

When my parents first moved to Rochester, they decided to have an annual tea party for the faculty and their spouses. I remember coming home from grade school and the tea party being in full swing. A tea party may sound like a pretty boring thing today, but people used to stay and talk so long it seemed that some folks were just never going to go home. And the laughter, I can still hear the laughter and conversation pouring out the windows. The guest list soon grew to include office staff and other support employees so that everyone who worked at the college and their spouses were invited. Eventually it just became too big, and even inviting people in shifts didn't work. Reluctantly, my parents stopped having the teas. But for years they were a topic of conversation. Those afternoon teas were one of the ways I got to meet the faculty. Since I was not old enough to attend college I got to know them in my home.

Another person very dear to my family's heart is Johng K. Lim. Now days you have to put a Ph.D. after Johng's name but in 1954 he was just plain Johng. The young man who arrived from South Korea after helping the United States Army and who was looking for a school to start his college education. Johng went on to the University of Minnesota and eventually became a beloved Biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

How can I put 62 years into words. I may not have spent every day of those 62 years at RCTC but I know that the college meant the world to my father and it means the world to me and a whole lot more people I will never know.


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