Concordia Recognizes Retirees

Back row: Barbara Witteman, Florene Culp, Jane Linde Capistran; middle row: Dawn Duncan, Lois Cogdill, Scott Ellingson; front row: Elaine Johnson and Xueqi Zeng

Retirees were honored at an employee appreciation event.

Honored retirees are Dr. Francisco Cabello-Cobo, world languages and cultures, 18 years; Jane Linde Capistran, music, 17 years; Lois Cogdill, Student Development and Campus Life, 26 years; Dr. Susan Cordes-Green, psychology, 30 years; Florene Culp, Concordia Language Villages, 15 years; Dr. Dawn Duncan, English, 25 years; Dennis Duncan, Information Technology Services, 24 years; Scott Ellingson, Career Center, 40 years; Wayne Flack, Facilities Management, 12 years; Brenna Grund, Dining Services, 13 years; Elaine Johnson, Admission, 27 years; Tracey Moorhead, President’s Office, 30 years; Jessica Rahman, athletics, 16 years; Dr. Barbara Witteman, education, 24 years; and Dr. Xueqi Zeng, mathematics, 29 years.

The retirees have a combined total of 346 years of service.

Dr. Francisco Cabello-Cobo 

Dr. Francisco Cabello-Cobo, professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies, retires after 18 years at the college. He earned his teaching license and bachelor’s degree in Spain at the Universidad de Sevilla. He earned a master’s degree in English at Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University and a doctorate in Spanish from the University of California, Davis. 

Prior to joining Concordia’s faculty in 2001, some of his teaching experience included Southern Oregon University, Ashland, as a professor; Humboldt State University, Arcata, Calif., as a visiting professor; Austin College, Sherman, Texas, as an instructor; and UC Davis as a teaching assistant.

Cabello-Cobo has presented numerous papers, workshops, and presentations over the years and compiled an impressive list of publications including language textbooks, articles, literary criticisms and newspaper articles. In addition, he has numerous drama productions to his credit as both actor and director. He also has interpretation experience and has translated books, scripts and more.

During his tenure at Concordia, Cabello-Cobo was department chair for Spanish and Hispanic studies and director of the summer study and fall semester programs in Segovia, Spain. He also received numerous grants, honors and awards, including a Concordia summer study grant to conduct research in El Camino de Santiago and a professional development grant for summer travel to Spain and Portugal.

“At Concordia, Francisco has become quite well-known for his Spanish Play Performance course in which students put together and publicly perform a play completely in the Spanish language, but what people perhaps don’t know is that his gift for theatre is present in every class he teaches,” said Dr. Lisa Twomey, assistant professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies. “Francisco’s excellent teaching and communicative approach to language learning go hand in hand with his ability to act on the ‘stage’ of an ordinary classroom. That’s why students love Francisco’s classes. They are carefully orchestrated shows and every act has a purpose. And for that reason, it isn’t all ‘just theatre’ either. When Francisco speaks, everyone knows he has something to say. He’s authentic. He knows what he is doing. He’s a great professor, a great friend, and he will be missed.”

After his “retirement,” Cabello-Cobo plans to return to Spain and continue working.

“I’ll be directing a theatre group in Spain that I founded in 2012, Compañía Andalucía Teatro, in Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz) in Southern Spain,” he said. “We do fresh, new versions of the classical theatre repertoire.” 


Jane Linde Capistran

Jane Linde Capistran, assistant professor of viola, violin, and string methods, retires from the college after 17 years. A native of Moorhead, Capistran studied violin at Concordia College with Isabelle Thompson and Robert Strava while in high school. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in music education from Bemidji (Minn.) State University and her Master of Arts in violin performance from the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Prior to joining Concordia’s music faculty, Capistran’s public string teaching included seven years with elementary orchestras in the Iowa City Community School District and she was director of orchestras at Fargo (N.D.) South High School for six years. 

Capistran taught across a wide spectrum of the curriculum including classroom instruction, applied studio lessons in viola and violin, and conducted the Symphonia Orchestra. During her tenure, she served as advisor for the American String Teachers Association student chapter, interim music education coordinator and evaluator for student teachers. 

Though Capistran is retiring from the college, she’ll continue to conduct for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies (FMAYS) and serve as associate conductor of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra.

“She is well-liked and well-respected by both faculty and students. She will be missed,” said Dr. John Roberts, chair of the music department and professor of piano. 

“When Jane comes into the music office, she has always been super kind and bubbly,” said Renee Kelly, administrative assistant in the music department. “She radiates happiness and warmth and the music department will miss her greatly when she leaves.”

Shannon Hokstad, music department office assistant, agrees that Capistran always has a smile when she comes into the music office.

“We will all miss her warm and sparkling personality when she retires,” Hokstad said.

In addition to conducting for the FMAYS and the F-M Symphony, Capistran will also continue to teach private lessons.

“I will continue to perform chamber music in the Lyra Trio and Dakota Rose String Quartet and guest conduct student orchestra festivals,” Capistran said. “I will also travel to hear my daughter Madeline’s concerts in Iowa City and Chicago and my son Stuart’s in St. Paul, Minn. Several ‘house projects’ will be in the works and I hope to have to time to ‘re-invent’ myself.” 


Lois Cogdill

A native of New Rockford, N.D., Lois Cogdill, dean of students, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English from Minot State University in 1975 and a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of North Dakota in 1979. 

Prior to joining the college, Cogdill held positions at North Dakota State University in housing and residential life and at the University of North Dakota-Lake Region in student services, counseling and enrollment. She also taught public school in Bemidji (Minn.) Public Schools and Mohall (N.D.) Public Schools. 

Cogdill was named associate dean of students at Concordia in 1993 and retires after 26 years at the college.

Karen Bertek, office manager for Student Development and Campus Life, worked with Cogdill for more than 20 years and admired the passion and dedication Cogdill had for her work, students, faculty and staff.

“With her retirement announcement, I truly learned the meaning of the word bittersweet,” Bertek said. “I am sad to see her leave but happy for her at the same time. Not only was she a good boss but also a good friend. I will miss her friendship, support, and sense of humor.”

Bill MacDonald, director of Public Safety, first met Cogdill in 1990 when they both worked at another local college. Eighteen years later, she hired him to work at Concordia.

“I have been lucky enough to work with her every day for the last 11 years,” MacDonald said. “What a great supervisor and friend. I will miss her dearly.” 

Chelle Lyons Hanson ’84, former director of Student Leadership and Service, said Cogdill provided strong leadership to the division and was a constant source of vision and action. Cogdill was able to balance an ability to envision big things while managing the day-to-day workload. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes to assist students who were struggling. 

“She was a positive force in my continued growth as a professional, but she also provided compassionate personal support during some difficult times,” Lyons Hanson said. “I always appreciated Lois’ wisdom and thoughtful approach to any situation. She was a skilled and supportive supervisor, a loyal and valued colleague and, most importantly, a trusted friend.” 

When asked about her retirement plans, Cogdill said she didn’t have anything specific in mind.

“I’m looking forward to trying new things like yoga and fly fishing, reading the many books on my ‘read someday’ list, volunteering, traveling to new places, and going camping in a Scamp (if I can convince my husband that we should buy one),” she said. “I’ll also be spending more time with our daughter Meghan (and soon to be son-in-law) or maybe just enjoying morning coffee on the deck. I plan to keep busy and have fun.” 


Florene Culp 

Florene Culp worked as a staffing assistant in the Moorhead office of Concordia Language Villages. She was an integral part of the program for 15 years, retiring in January. 

Prior to joining the Language Villages, Culp worked for nearly 40 years for the U.S. Postal Service in Georgetown, Minn., and then the City of Georgetown.

“We thank Florene deeply for her years of experience and knowledge of all the details involved in her daily tasks, her resourcefulness, her integrity, her strong working relationships with our hiring managers and co-workers, and her wonderful sense of humor,” said Renae Lacher, staffing coordinator. “Florene will be sincerely missed. Nevertheless, we can only wish happiness for her.” 

Marcus Erickson, former staffing assistant, composed a limerick in honor of Culp because he was unable to attend her retirement reception:

Emailing staffing will not be the same.
Who will laugh at my wisecracks?
About I-9s and income tax?
At least she’ll leave with acclaim.
For Florene is one grand dame.

“I will miss her very much and hope she enjoys her retirement,” he said.

A trip to Arizona to visit her sister was first on the agenda after Culp’s retirement. 

“I had to wait on the plane for de-icing the day I left but made it out of cold country for a couple of weeks,” she said. “I was unpleasantly greeted by snow, cold, wind, and an overworked furnace on my arrival home.”

As for her future plans, she has a lot on her list.

“I am anticipating planting, painting my fence, and cleaning up the yard. I also plan on other volunteer activities,” Culp said. “There will be numerous short, local trips to attend family reunions, Art in the Park, Medora, visiting relatives this summer, and a six-day trip this fall to visit Kentucky’s ARK Encounter and Creation Museum, and other points of interest. I am definitely enjoying my free time.” 


Dr. Dawn Duncan

Dr. Dawn Duncan, professor of English and global studies, joined Concordia’s English department in 1994. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and theatre from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Texas, Denton. She retires after 25 years at the college. 

As a scholar of Irish literature and postcolonial theory, Duncan has compiled an impressive bibliography that includes four books, 14 contributions to book-length studies, and six journal articles. In addition, she has delivered 45 presentations at academic conferences and has been invited to lecture 40 times. 

Duncan received numerous honors and grants during her tenure and was a member/chair of many committees at the college. She has also been involved with professional organizations devoted to scholarly interests, most notably as the secretary of the International Society of Irish Studies since 2003.

As a teacher, Duncan worked tirelessly to help students unleash a love of learning. As a result, she has taught many independent study classes and mentored almost 50 student projects, ranging from academic posters for national conferences to student lectures at Concordia to films shown locally and at regional film festivals. She also worked to establish and direct a popular study abroad program in Galway, Ireland. 

“Dawn seeks to live her life through what she calls ‘healing words,’” said Dr. David Sprunger, department chair and professor of English. “In the last few years, Dawn has put this manifesto into practice as she developed a Concordia chapter of Narrative 4, an international program that brings disparate people together to hear and tell each other’s stories.” 

As a master practitioner in the Narrative 4 organization, Duncan also trains others around the world to lead their own story exchanges.

Dr. Joan Kopperud, professor of English, said Duncan consistently models strong work habits, sets high standards for herself, and works diligently until excellence is achieved.

“I know this from experience when we co-authored a book,” Kopperud said. “That summer, we had a number of deadlines to meet for our book contract. No matter what obstacles arose – and there were many – Dawn powered through the challenges to a successful completion of the project. Her work ethic is an integral part of who Dawn is as a colleague and friend.”

Duncan and her husband, Dennis, plan to relocate to Las Cruces, N.M., but she won’t be retiring completely.

“I will continue working with Narrative 4,” she said. “I am also planning to work for Concordia’s Continuing Studies, leading Narrative 4 facilitator training courses and perhaps enrichment literature and film courses for alumni. Beyond those plans, lots of time to walk dogs and go on hikes.”


Scott Ellingson 

Scott Ellingson graduated from Concordia in 1977. His first job after graduation was as an auditor with First Bank system, returning to his alma mater in 1979 as a residence hall director. 

While in Residence Life, Ellingson also worked in the Counseling Center and as director of student activities. He joined the Admission staff in 1987 as an admission counselor and worked in Enrollment until 2015, serving as assistant director, director, and dean of Admission. 

Most recently, Ellingson served students in the Career Center as director of Cooperative Education and Internships, retiring this spring in his 40th year at the college. 

Ellingson has impacted thousands of Concordia students, faculty, and staff during his tenure. He was a willing volunteer on numerous campus committees and, in 2011, he was the recipient of the Flaat Distinguished Service Award. 

Athletic Director Rachel Bergeson is grateful for Ellingson’s faithfulness as a Cobber fan, supporting athletics through the most exciting wins and the most devastating losses. 

“It is the genuine hope of the entire athletic department that Scott continues to be one of our biggest fans,” she said. 

Jim Meier, former director of Student Affairs, said, “Four words immediately come to mind when I think of Scott Ellingson – flexibility, competence, modesty and loyalty. His ambition was always focused on serving and promoting others – never himself. He is a Cobber through and through.” 

“Scott brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to his work in the Admission Office. His ability and total commitment made him an effective voice for Concordia and led to large numbers of enrolled and grateful Cobbers,” said Jim Hausmann, former vice president of Admission and Financial Aid. “His uncanny memory provided a record of alumni that proved valuable in reaching out to second generation Cobbers and his special interest in athletics helped fuel a strong athletic program.”

Career Center Director Kris Olson said, “The Concordia community is grateful for Scott’s successful career and his unending devotion to Concordia College.”

When asked about his retirement plans, Ellingson said he didn’t have many specific things in mind at this point but is open to new opportunities. 

“I do intend to do more volunteering and more reading,” he said. “And I will definitely be at many sporting events, especially the games where my family members are coaching.”


Wayne Flack

Wayne Flack joined Facilities Management in 2006 after working as the physical plant director for North Dakota State College of Science. He previously worked for NDSCS as an instructor and held positions in facilities and property management. Flack earned an associate’s degree from NDSCS in 1974, a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1990, and a Master of Business Association from North Dakota State University in 2000. 

“Every once in a blue moon does an organization find itself lucky enough to come across a gem like Wayne Flack,” said Angie Jones, administrative assistant in Facilities Management. “A simple walk across campus grounds is a testament not only to Wayne’s commitment to maintaining a beautiful college but also to the way he treated the large group of Facilities staff who made his vision possible.” 

Jones said Flack made sure everyone in Facilities Management felt valued and important. As a leader he held the belief that he wouldn’t ask anything of his staff that he wasn’t willing to do himself, so it wasn’t uncommon to see him answering phones at the reception desk or running around campus with a hard hat, button-down business shirt, and dirt-covered hands.

“Wayne is a dearly treasured member of the Facilities Management family and will be very missed,” Jones said. 

Others in the office echoed Flack’s ability to make people feel appreciated, and reiterated his commitment and dedication to Concordia and to the work of Facilities Management. 

“Wayne brought a sense of caring and compassion to the workplace. He made sure everyone knew his door was open anytime for questions or discussion,” said Karen Hanson, assistant director of Facilities Management. “Anyone that worked for him probably has seen him sketch out a fulcrum showing the goal of having a work-life balance. He demonstrated that balance often by not only working hard but also by lightening the load in sharing his great sense of humor.”

Many said Flack was genuinely interested in getting to know people and how they were doing in both their professional lives and on a personal level.

“From the first day I walked in the door of Facilities to the last day he worked for the college, Wayne always made me feel valuable and important,” said Audra Freeman, Facilities Management office manager. “He encouraged me, mentored me, pushed me when I needed it, and reminded me constantly that I was valuable in multiple ways. That is something that I will always cherish and remember about Wayne.” 

Flack and his wife retired to their home on Otter Tail Lake. They have three grown children and six grandchildren in the immediate area and spend a lot of time with them, including fishing, hunting and camping. 

“After retiring in February, we traveled for a couple months down South and plan to do that again during the winter,” Flack said.  

It sounds like he’s still “taking care of facilities” as he added, “My hobbies include metal, woodworking, and home repairs for ourselves and others.” 


Elaine Johnson

Elaine Johnson, office assistant in the Office of Admission, came to Concordia after working two and a half years at North Dakota State University. She retires after 27 years at the college.

Johnson started out setting up campus visits and serving as a receptionist in the days before computers to keep her organized. When Johnson joined the Admission team, she worked with Jim Hausmann, Lee Johnson and Scott Ellingson. Ellingson said he was extremely thankful he worked with her for so many years, as much of their work depended on each other.

“I had the opportunity to observe Elaine’s strong commitment to the college, her colleagues, the entire Enrollment team, and both current and prospective students,” he said. “The positive impact she has had on so many people cannot be overstated.”

After two years as receptionist, Johnson moved into processing applications for the next 25. While the tasks remained the same, there were many changes in technology especially when moving to electronic files.

“As time and technology advanced and the move to virtually everything electronic, Elaine took all of this in stride, leading the way, developing new efficiencies, and never losing her enthusiasm, passion and care for every student exploring Concordia,” said Samantha Axvig, director of admission operations.

Axvig estimates that Johnson had a hand in processing nearly 100,000 applications, at least twice that amount in transcripts, admitting more than 65,000 students, and enrolling close to 20,000 new Cobbers.

“No one is a number to her,” Axvig said. “She sees and hears their stories and works to be sure everyone is cared for and given the attention deserved.”

Dr. Karl Stumo, vice president for Enrollment and Marketing, said he would always appreciate and never forget Johnson’s wise and steady presence in the office. 

“In the Welcome Center, it’s not easy to be both tough and kind, driven and calm, serious and joyful all at the same time. Somehow Elaine balances the best of all of these,” he said. “I have confidence and pride in saying that Elaine and her work embodies the mission of the college. She is thoughtful and informed, lives a Christian life in her love and service for her family, friends, co-workers and community, and there is no question that she has influenced the affairs of the world.” 

Johnson is taking the summer to enjoy gardening and tending her flowers. She may search out a volunteer or part-time job if she gets bored in the winter but plans on spending more time with family and a new great-grandchild due this summer.

“In the fall, I hope to be able to take a trip to the New England states for the fall colors. It has been on my bucket list for a while now,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who has been so kind and supportive to me over the years. It is with sadness and excitement that I’m moving on to this new chapter in my life.”


Dr. Barbara Witteman 

Dr. Barbara Witteman, professor of education, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Minot (N.D.) State University and a Master of Education and doctorate from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. She taught in elementary schools for 20 years and in teacher preparation programs before joining the faculty of Concordia in 1995. She retires after 24 years at the college.

“Barb has fully committed her life to acts of service and hospitality that benefit our community. As a teacher educator, she’s worked with more than 800 college students showing them how to successfully design and implement service projects with about 4,500 students in K-5,” said Dr. Darrell Stolle, department chair and professor of education. “She inspires others by walking the walk. If her students are completing a project, she is right beside them working with them, and she empowers them to become the project spokespeople helping them to gain confidence.” 

The program Witteman is probably most pleased about, Stolle said, is the creation of the Birthday Bag project through her church to benefit children who get assistance at the Emergency Food Pantry. Children get a handmade birthday card, cake mix and frosting so their parents who are food insecure are able to make a cake for them for their birthday. 

Stolle said because Witteman thoroughly infuses service-learning into her work as a teacher educator, she has given people of all ages the tools they need to be empowered, active citizens who treat all people with dignity, respect and justice. 

Current and former students are leading service projects in West Fargo, Moorhead, Fargo, several schools in the Twin Cities, Pelican Rapids, Phoenix, and internationally in Jamaica, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

Witteman’s work is multifaceted. She published a weekly column in The Forum newspaper from 2012-16, published several children’s history books over the years, and served as deputy administrator for a school serving aboriginal children in Alice Springs, Australia. 

She has also served on nonprofit boards locally, statewide, and nationally every year since moving to the Fargo-Moorhead area, including at the Arc of Cass-Clay, the Emergency Food Pantry, Arc of North Dakota, and as social justice chair at St. Benedict of Wild Rice. 

“She is selfless,” Stolle said. “The work she does often requires a great deal of time and effort. Yet, she commits 100% to her projects.”

In the words of a former student, “Not only did she take a chance on teaching this class, but she stuck with us to the end. She forced us (not that it was a bad thing) to take chances and do things we weren’t used to doing. I will never forget how great of a time that I had this semester.” 

Witteman is so devoted to her work and the well-being of others that it’s not certain she’ll actually retire, but she did offer some clues to her “retired life.” 

“I’ll be quilting, traveling, writing, crafting, reading or I could take one of three jobs I have already been offered,” she said.

Dr. Xueqi Zeng

Dr. Xueqi Zeng, associate professor of mathematics, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Beijing Normal University, China, in 1977 and a doctorate from SUNY at Stony Brook in 1990.

Zeng taught at Beijing Normal University and was a teaching assistant at SUNY before joining the faculty at Concordia in 1990. Zeng retires after 29 years at the college.  

Her scholarship involvement includes many workshops over the years regionally at Gustavus, Bemidji University and Macalester, among others, and nationally at Cornell, the College of William and Mary, and Mount Holyoke College, to name a few. 

Dr. Daniel Biebighauser, associate professor of mathematics, sent an email to previous students, alumni, and staff asking for stories and well wishes for Zeng’s retirement and the responses poured in.  

“One of my first experiences at Concordia was walking into my Calc 2 class and I’ll never forget how animated Xueqi was, showing pictures of the Olympic volleyball teams and telling us about how she wanted to be our coach – because the coach is happiest when everyone succeeds,” said Bryce Frentz ’14. “I never encountered a teacher as excited to teach about math. I’m so honored to have gotten to have her as a teacher and a friend.”

Steven Noren ’11 said, “I had Calculus with her during my first year at Concordia and I loved it. Xueqi’s energy and enthusiasm is quite infectious, and it helped me make my decision to try and become a math professor like her.” 

At her interview for the Concordia position, Dr. Julia Walk, assistant professor of mathematics, said her first memory of Zeng was her energy and enthusiasm.

“I’m grateful for the part she played in making the math department a welcoming community for our students and faculty,” Walk said. “The laughter heard coming from her office, the ‘shenanigans’ played with her office door decorations, the student visits in semesters after they actually had a class with her – are all evidence of the connections she made.”

Biebighauser added, “As both her student and her colleague, I’ve always been impressed with Xueqi’s energy, passion and dedication. She puts so much effort into each student and each course, whether she’s teaching it for the first time or the 51st time. The students love her, she’s been a wonderful colleague, and we will miss her so much. We wish her the best for her retirement.” 

Zeng plans to be closer to her grandchildren and travel a little in her retirement.