The college honored 14 retiring faculty and staff members at an appreciation event in May. They have a combined total of a whopping 378 years of service to the college.
They are Laurie Bedford, Dining Services, 10 years; Kathryn Benson, Health Center, 50 years; Cherryl Braton, Business Office, 50 years; Donald Brummond, Physics, 19 years; Cheryl Christianson, Health Center, 17 years; Renae Conyers, Business Office, 32 years; Steven Frank, Information Technology Services, 42 years; Dale Griffin, Dining Services, 22 years; David Grund, Facilities Management, 32 years; Mike Reese, Student Success and Retention, 10 years; Ernest Simmons, religion, 39 years; David Stalcup, Dining Services, 11 years; William Tomhave, mathematics, 33 years; and Bruce Vieweg, Information Technology Services, 11 years.
Kathryn Benson, Health Center administrator, graduated from Concordia in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology before completing her nursing degree from Fairview Hospital School of Nursing, Minneapolis, in 1967.
After working as a staff nurse at Fairview, Benson returned to Concordia in 1968 when she accepted the position of hall director for the newly opened East Complex. Benson said the hall director job was perfect for her at the time with a new baby – she always had babysitters (both male and female) offering their free services. The family lived in the women’s hall until Benson was offered the position of staff nurse in the campus health center in 1971. She was promoted to health center administrator in 1978.
“Kathy’s long career in nursing aligns with her deep vocation of helping and caring for others,” said Lois Cogdill, dean of students. “It also aligns with her strong faith, which she carries out in action.”
Cogdill said she doesn’t know anyone who loves being a Cobber more than Benson and that Concordia students are her extended family.
“She loves them as her own,” Cogdill said. “Thousands of students have benefited from a dose of Kathy medicine – whether it’s a flu shot, a much-needed hug or a dose of her legendary good humor.”
Benson’s three favorite times of the year at Concordia are opening convocation, looking at those beanies and thinking about the opportunity and promise ahead; commencement, looking at the square hats with gratitude and wondering if we’ve served them well; and, of course, the Concordia Christmas concerts, which she has attended since 1956. Benson has also been “choir mom” to generations of students in The Concordia Choir.
Benson’s service in the community included two terms on the YWCA Cass-Clay Board of Directors, a term on the YWCA National Board of Directors and active involvement at Trinity Lutheran Church. She has fond memories of working with youth in the Migrant School Program for 25 summers, recalling that time as tiring but meaningful because she learned so much from the kids.
She has been recognized as the YWCA’s Woman of the Year in Health and was the recipient of Concordia’s Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Service Award in 2003 and the Soli Deo Gloria Award at Founders’ Day in 2017.
“Friendship with Kathy is an incredible gift,” Cogdill said. “She is loyal, giving, forgiving and feisty. One of her colleagues recently said, ‘she doesn’t look her age, dress her age or act her age!’”
In retirement, Benson said she would like to find “meaningful volunteer opportunities that provide a different feeding for my soul.”
She also plans to catch up with friends and family, especially her 13 grandchildren ages 2 to 19. Benson has four sons, all Concordia graduates, and two of her daughters-in-law are also Cobbers. They are spread out across the Fargo, Brainerd, Minn., and Twin Cities areas.
“I also plan to start an exercise program, tend to my flowers and I’ve already bought four books, so I plan to do more reading,” Benson said.
Cherryl Braton, office manager and bookkeeper in the Business Office, is retiring after 50 years serving in various roles.
Braton graduated from Barnesville (Minn.) High School before attending Moorhead Area Technical Institute (now M State), where she completed the clerical course. She started working at Concordia immediately following graduation.
“The way in which we ‘do business’ has changed drastically during the time Cherryl has served this institution and she faced each change as a new challenge to conquer,” said Mark Lillehaugen, controller.
Perhaps the biggest change during Braton’s tenure, in addition to new buildings and renovations, updated processes and machinery, and personnel transitions, was the introduction of and dependence on computers.
“Cherryl embodies the concept of dependability. She has been relied upon to carry a task through even when roadblocks (or snowstorms) were thrown her way, especially at the end of each month and each year at fiscal year-end,” Lillehaugen said. “At the forefront of her involvement is a desire to help others and do what is best for Concordia and the people here,” he said. “This was confirmed in 2007 when she was recognized with the Flaat Distinguished Service Award. Her unquestionable loyalty and dedication to the college is further evidenced by her financial support and her attendance at Concordia functions.”
Braton was the first to welcome Linda Brown to the Business Office when Brown started at the college as controller in 1985.
“Through all the changes and the years, Cherryl has never wavered in her commitment to this place and to her special work in the Business Office,” said Brown, vice president for finance/treasurer. “The college thanks you. I thank you.”
Staff accountant Catherine Dickey has worked alongside Braton for the past seven years.
“In that time, Cherryl has become a teacher, a mentor and a friend. Her knowledge of not only how we do something but why we do it is unparalleled,” Dickey said. “She is patient and caring. You always feel you are her top priority no matter how busy she is. I will miss her.”
In retirement, Braton plans to volunteer and read, something she said she hasn’t had much time for in the past. She also plans on doing some traveling.
“I’d like to go to Washington, D.C., and travel to the New England states in the fall,” she said.
Renae Conyers, cashier in the Business Office, was hired by Linda Brown as a temporary employee 32 years ago and never left.
Prior to coming to Concordia, Conyers worked in various positions for nearly a decade at Fargo National Bank & Trust, as well as part time at J.C. Penney Co. for two years. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in textiles and clothing from North Dakota State University in 1976. She also attended the American Institute of Banking at Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University Moorhead).
Many changes have occurred in the Business Office in 32 years. Conyers used to have long lines of people waiting to cash paychecks on the 16th of each month before electronic funds transfers were introduced. She also used to stamp checks individually to endorse them. Checks are now endorsed through scanning. Students used to come to her for their tuition questions. Now questions can be answered online without a visit to the Business Office.
The entire time Conyers spent in the Business Office she worked alongside long(er)-time (50-year) employee Cherryl Braton, office manager/bookkeeper. Together they celebrated Concordia’s 100th anniversary, learned the new Banner program instituted by the college, and now they retire together.
“As the primary cashier, Renae has touched the lives of many people over the years,” Braton said. “She is dedicated to her work and is dependable, organized and accurate. Thanks for your years of service.”
In retirement, Conyers plans on spending more time with her grandchildren, dog sitting, and a little traveling around the area – Duluth, Minn., and Rapid City, S.D. Next winter, she would like to spend some time in Sun City West, Ariz., and Palm Springs, Calif. As a loyal Bison fan, a few football games will also be in order.
“I’m looking forward to some reflection and relaxation,” Conyers said. “I have no plans right now other than gardening, drinking coffee and reading. I’ll make it up as I go along and enjoy every moment. Who knows? I may even get on the declutter bandwagon and clean out closets."
Steven Frank, systems analyst with Enterprise Systems and Services, graduated from Concordia in 1969 with a degree in mathematics. He began his career teaching junior high mathematics in Buffalo, Minn. He returned to Concordia in June 1975 after earning a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University Moorhead).
Frank started as a COBOL programmer on the Burroughs mainframe until 1981. From 1982-2006, he was director of computer services and a programmer. He retired in April as a systems analyst supporting Banner data integration and automation for a number of campus offices.
His work has influenced the operations of Information Technology Services at Concordia for more than 42 years. He served multiple administrations and has been through many cycles of technology from “punch” cards to real-time interfaces with today’s cloud computing systems. His length of service reflects his strength as a lifelong learner and his ability to adapt to the needs of Concordia.
“To many of us, Steve has been a teacher, mentor, and supporter and for that we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of his journey,” said Erik Ramstad, director of Enterprise Systems and Services.
Frank’s colleagues have appreciated his thoughtful and calm approach to projects and problem solving. In 2016, he received the Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Service Award.
“If there is anyone more kind, more supportive, more human, and more honorable than Steve Frank, I do not know them,” said Bruce Vieweg, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and chief information officer.
Frank was instrumental in the functionality of Banner for each office and always had a positive attitude.
“Steve Frank, ‘Stevie Wonder’ as I like to call him, has been such a joy to work with,” said Dawn Current, functional analyst in the Registrar’s Office.
He also has hobbies that have nothing to do with computers. For the past few years, he has been involved with Kiddie Land of Cormorant, Minn., helping his brother-in-law construct various buildings for the mini-golf course.
When asked about his retirement, Frank said it’s taking a while to get used to. “At 8 in the morning, aren’t I supposed to be someplace?”
Since retiring, he has found he can work on projects around home without needing to schedule time to fit them in.
“My wife and I look forward to spending more time with our family, especially the grandkids!” Frank said. “We also plan on doing some traveling.”
Mike Reese retired as the director of the Office of Student Success and Retention and head softball coach in July 2017. He came to Concordia in 2007 with a wealth of experience in both the administrative area and coaching.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Dickinson (N.D.) State University and a Master of Science in education and human services from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Reese began his career as a counselor and teacher in Mandan, N.D.; director of Home on the Range for Boys in Sentinel Butte, N.D.; vice president of program services for Lutheran Social Services in Fargo; vice president of programs for Chaddock School in Quincy, Ill.; associate director for Boys’ Haven in Louisville, Ky.; and dean of students/assistant principal for Holy Cross High School in Louisville from 2000-06.
He joined the college as an admission representative and assistant baseball coach, having played baseball in high school, college and the semi-pros. He also coached for more than 20 years at the high school and AAU levels prior to coming to the college. He was Concordia’s assistant baseball coach from 2007-12 and head softball coach from 2013-16.
When Reese began his work in Student Success and Retention, it was within the Office of Admission then moved to Academic Affairs. Following his retirement, it was renamed the Center for Student Success and is now within the Student Development and Campus Life division.
“Mike inspired a vision for a sharp focus on student success and retention, and that vision continues to propel our work forward each day,” said Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life. “His always-positive attitude and student-focused approach informs our ethos in the Center for Student Success and the work he set into motion continues to positively impact students. We are thankful for his dedicated service to student success at Concordia.”
Reese said he enjoyed his 11 years at Concordia and hopes he made a difference for students.
“I truly enjoyed serving the students and working with my colleagues,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to my professional career.”
And he is very much enjoying his retirement as well, he said.
“My wife and I remain in Fargo but are spending our winters in Florida,” he said. “I’m volunteering at Homeward Animal Shelter and at Touchmark retirement community. I also work part time at both the Fargo Park District and the Fargodome.”
His time at Concordia was formative and memorable, Reese said.
“Concordia College holds a special place in my heart,” he said. “I was fortunate to have been part of the Concordia community.”
The Rev. Dr. Ernest Simmons Jr., professor of religion, retires after 39 years at the college.
Prior to coming to Concordia in 1979, Simmons worked as an interim pastor at churches in North Dakota and California and as a pastor for Carpio (N.D.) Lutheran Church. He was also an instructor for Great Plains Institute of Theology. While at Concordia, he was an instructor for the CHARIS Ecumenical Center, chair of the religion department from 1986-89, and director of the Program on Faith and Learning from 1996-99 and the Dovre Center for Faith and Learning from 1999-2017.
Simmons earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Colorado State University, a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Claremont Graduate School.
Dr. Michelle Lelwica, chair/professor of religion, said Simmons made an impression on her at their first meeting when she was interviewing with him almost 18 years ago at an AAR meeting in Nashville.
“Though I was very happy at the institution where I’d been teaching, I was looking to join a college and colleagues where the study of religion was both rigorously academic but also compassionately engaged in the affairs of the world,” Lelwica said.
She said Simmons embodied and epitomized that blend for her: “a serious scholar of religion with a mind as deep as the ocean, a heart as big as the sky, a sense of grace that’s omnipresent, and a love for learning that never ends.”
When Simmons retires at the end of the contract year in August, he will be designated a professor emeritus of religion and theologian-in-residence at Concordia. As theologian-in-residence, he will be maintaining an office and will continue his research in theology and science.
“I wrote a book in 2014 titled ‘The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology’ (Fortress Press Theology and the Sciences Series) and I am now working on a follow-up book titled ‘The Entangled Creation: Quantum Biology and Theology,’” he said.
Simmons will also continue to work with area churches in pulpit supply and may do some church relations for the college or occasional part-time teaching as requested.
“My wife, who retired from high school English teaching in West Fargo in 2010, and I plan to do a bit more traveling,” he said. “I am also picking back up my piano playing and oil painting, which have lain idle for far too long.”
Dr. William Tomhave, professor of mathematics, earned his bachelor’s degree in 1970 from Luther College and a master’s and doctorate from Iowa State University. He taught for Oregon (Wis.) Consolidated Schools, Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota Morris before joining the faculty at Concordia in 1985.
“Bill has established at Concordia a very successful mathematics education program,” said Dr. Douglas Anderson, chair/professor of mathematics. “In some semesters, we have up to 12 student teachers in area schools.”
Tomhave served as chair of the department for two three-year terms and was interim chair in 2010-11 during Anderson’s sabbatical. He also held the Sigurd and Pauline Prestegaard Mundhjeld Chair of Mathematics since 2006.
In the community, Tomhave has served Moorhead Area Public Schools since 2002 as a board member, treasurer and board chair. In 2015, he was selected to the Minnesota School Board Association All-State School Board and awarded the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics lifetime honorary membership.
He has been actively involved in the national and Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics, giving more than 40 presentations at regional meetings and area schools. More than $300,000 has been granted to support Tomhave’s workshops and student and teacher development initiatives.
“For many years, he taught overloads or courses for free to ensure students were getting what they needed,” Anderson said.
In 2017, he received the Student Government Association’s Distinguished Service Award for his years of dedication to Concordia students and the profession.
“It was obvious from a student’s perspective how dedicated Bill was,” said Dr. Daniel Biebighauser, associate professor of mathematics. “Now as a colleague, I’ve come to more fully appreciate all of the gifts he has brought to our department and he will definitely be missed.”
Tomhave said his short-term plans are simple and long-term plans far from complete. He plans to fulfill his responsibilities as a member of the school board for Moorhead Area Public Schools and two other boards until he completes his terms. He also plans to stay involved in his church.
“Because our two sons live far away, one in Virginia and one in Texas, my wife, Lois, and I will be traveling to spend time with grandchildren,” he said. “For the long term, I can honestly say that we are looking for God’s guidance regarding our place of residence. Meanwhile, we hope to chip away at a bucket list of places we would like to visit.”
When Bruce Vieweg, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and chief information officer, came to the college in 2007, he was instrumental in leading the campus through the challenges of the Banner implementation.
Prior to Concordia, he worked in administrative roles at Emporia (Kan.) State University, St. Louis University, the Missouri Department of Mental Health, and the Missouri Institute of Mental Health.
Vieweg earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Lowell State College (now the University of Massachusetts Lowell) and a master’s degree in education from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.
His education may provide a clue to his well-known love of music. During his time at Concordia, he rarely missed an ensemble concert, a cultural event or a theatre performance.
“Given the astonishing number of recitals and other events he attended, you can see why he is considered our number one fan and supporter of performing arts at Concordia,” said Roxane Case, Cultural Events coordinator. “I’m sure I speak for colleagues and students alike when I say that he has made a difference in our lives and will leave Concordia a better place for all who know and love him.”
Vieweg was concurrently appointed as interim dean of Student Affairs from December 2010 through June 2012. He was also on multiple committees and was presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the Student Government Association in 2012.
“We live at a moment when many have concerns about how the use of technology erodes social bonds and community,” said Dr. Eric Eliason, dean of the college and vice president for Academic Affairs. “It is a testimony to Bruce’s work that he has shown us that commitment to technology that works, that serves the needs of students, staff and faculty, and can build community rather than tear it down. His avid use of Facebook and his careful use of email haven’t trapped him in his basement office – his is the most recognized face on campus.”
And a certain phrase he started his emails with is also recognized across campus and by alumni from the past decade: “Please excuse my intrusion to your day.” He is also known for his legendary 3 a.m. office hours.
“I think each of us in IT have had our special moments with Bruce where he has lifted us up during difficult times and praised us for our accomplishments,” said Erik Ramstad, director of Enterprise Systems and Services. “As most of you might expect, Bruce cares not only about our professional lives but about our personal ones as well and, for that, we are forever thankful. It has been an honor and privilege to have him as our leader.”
Vieweg and his wife, JoAnne, have relocated to St. Charles, Mo., where they lived for 30 years prior to moving to Fargo-Moorhead.
“We will be close to our younger daughter,” he said. “I have plans to write, write, and write. And probably get a job after a while. Working in a bookstore sounds great to me.”
Photo of retirees who attended the recognition event: (back) William Tomhave, Ernest Simmons, Steven Frank; (middle) David Grund, Renae Conyers, Bruce Vieweg; (front) Cherryl Braton, Kathy Benson