Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Retirees, employees honored for years of service at luncheon

April 13, 2017

Phil Cary, retiree.
Phil Cary, retiree.

CHADRON – Five retirees were honored at the annual Chadron State College faculty and staff recognition luncheon Thursday.

Dr. Nathaniel Gallegos was recognized as the Teaching Excellence Award recipient and employees were honored for 40 years, 30 years, 25 years, 20 years, 15 years and 10 years of service.

The retirees are Phil Cary, Connie Frandson, Craig LaFontsee, G.W. Sandy Schaefer and Elaine Wood.

Phil Cary

Looking back on a 42-year career guiding students in the basics and finer points of mathematics, Chadron State College mathematical sciences instructor Phil Cary finds satisfaction in his decision to become a teacher instead of an engineer or a physicist.

As a student at the University of Kansas in the 1970s, Cary said he contemplated pursuing an engineering degree but thought teaching math would be more meaningful, while still giving him an opportunity to study physics and math.

A lifetime of experience instructing math students at levels from junior high to college graduate has validated that insight, Cary said.

“There is no way that I could have known how very meaningful teaching would be,” he said.

A native of Hot Springs, South Dakota, Cary completed his bachelor’s degree in education, with majors in math and physics, in 1973, and went on to earn a master’s in physics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and pursued work in computer science at Ohio State University.

His teaching career began at a junior high school in Kanas and took him to high schools in Wyoming, Kansas and Ohio before becoming a math instructor at Chadron High School in 1980. He left that post to join the CSC faculty in 2001.

At Chadron State, Cary has taught courses in information science, computer programming and networking, algebra, statistics, calculus and numerical analysis, among others.

“I have witnessed great improvement in the development and implementation of technology,” said Cary of his 16 years on the CSC faculty.

The development of online courses, new software tools for learning math, mediated classrooms, graphing calculators and the growth of the internet are among the greatest changes he’s observed during his career.

Cary said the enjoyment he has found in teaching has come from taking a difficult mathematical concept, finding a way to express it in simple terms and seeing people understand it.

“I learn so much by teaching,” Cary said. “Every day I teach, I learn more about math, more about people and more about the meaning in life.”

Among his highlights at CSC were work on the information science and technology program, developing the transitional studies courses in math and seeing students he taught as freshmen walk across the stage at graduation.

He’s also been impressed by the improvements to the CSC campus and buildings over the years and appreciates the increased emphasis on serving transitional studies students and the development of the Essential Studies Program.

Future plans for Cary include study of math topics and problems, pursuit of his amateur radio hobby, possibly singing in the community choir and interaction with family and friends.

Cary said he and his wife, Margaret, will soon celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They haven’t yet decided if they will remain in Chadron but are looking forward to spending more time with their two sons and four grandchildren.

Connie Frandson

Connie Frandson was a steady presence in the Conferencing Office at Chadron State College for 15 years until she retired June 30, 2016.

Her supervisor, Shellie Johns, said Frandson was dedicated to her work and was always willing to go the extra mile to make everyone feel welcome in the Student Center.

“When you came in the Conferencing Office, she always had a smile on her face. The students enjoyed working with her and several came in to the office just to give her a bad time. She would always make it a point to give them her undivided attention for a couple of minutes and several times teased them back,” Johns said.

Frandson’s responsibilities included room reservations and associated details such as tables and chairs set up, equipment, food and invoicing. She also sold tickets in the CSC box office, and for the Post Playhouse each year from December until May.

“There were always lots of little things to do. As I became more acquainted with the job, more responsibilities were added,” she said. “I loved it. I just retired out of necessity. I loved working with people – students, faculty, staff and community people.”

In the last several years, Conferencing took on the task of taking photos for Eagle ID cards.

“The first go-round involved all faculty, staff and students so it was a big undertaking and required lots of time. Once that was done, just taking photos, making ID cards and distributing them to new students and employees was manageable,” Frandson said.

Recalling the high points of her tenure, Frandson mentioned Anna Maria Mendieta, principal harpist with the Sacramento Philharmonic, who performed in 2013 as part of the Galaxy Series.

“It had always been on my bucket list to play a harp and she let me run my fingers over the strings. I’ll always remember her,” Frandson said.

Johns said Frandson smiled for weeks afterward.

“Being able to play a harp was something that Connie always wanted to do and it was a joy watching her play it for the first time. I was glad to be there to see her and take lots of pictures,” Johns said.

Other highlights Frandson recalls include coordinating the Elderhostel program at CSC during her early years in the Conferencing Office and she enjoyed day trips to area attractions like the buffalo roundup at Fort Robinson, the Black Hills, and the Mari Sandoz homestead south of Gordon.

“We were even able to visit with Mari’s sister, Caroline. That was a fun one,” she said.

Other notable events that took place during Frandson’s tenure were the Chicoine Atrium dedication and the inaugurations of two college presidents, Janie Park and Randy Rhine.

“As a supervisor, I could not ask for a better employee. Connie will truly be missed but we wish her the best,” Johns said.

Frandson lives in Grand Island with her husband, Arnie, where they spend time with family and friends. Frandson has family members in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa and Texas. Her family includes two children, three step-children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

She plans to garden this summer and eventually learn how to weave with a loom she bought years ago.

Craig LaFontsee

Craig LaFontsee started with the Chadron State College custodial department in March 1990 and will retire in July. About 18 months following his employment, he accepted a position with grounds department and stayed.

He said being employed at a college was a positive experience for him.

“Working around young people, keeps you young,” LaFontsee said.

Previously, he had worked as a cook in the cafeteria on campus and manager of Hills Tire in Chadron. He grew up on Mather Air Force Base in California where his father was stationed. In 1977, he moved to Newcastle, Wyoming, to work with the family oil business. Later, he moved to Custer, South Dakota, where he was a parts manager for a Chevrolet dealership.

His responsibilities in the grounds department have included fertilizing lawns, mowing, pruning trees, spraying weeds, removing snow and ice, moving furniture, repairing storm damage and patching streets.

He also conducted respirator training for coworkers who need to use respirators to work in confined spaces, such as the boiler during inspections.

He said he takes the respirator training seriously.

“These guys are my friends,” he said.

If someone new to campus wants to know where anything is, Craig said he probably knows where it is.

LaFontsee said he is appreciative of the college and the support he’s received over the years.

“Some of the fondest memories and moments of my life have been on this campus. Although I will truly miss my colleagues, I am ready for the next chapter of my life to begin,” he said.

LaFontsee plans to visit his family in California more often and spend time fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and bowling.

He also plans to continue working as a custodian at the National Guard Armory in Chadron. Sgt. Carl Dehling said LaFontsee has always been a patriotic supporter of the unit and hopes to be able to spend more time advocating for veterans and their causes.

G.W. Sandy Schaefer

After a career that has taken him from Colorado to California, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nebraska, Chadron State College music professor Dr. G.W. “Sandy” Schaefer is retiring this year and heading west.

And, though Schaefer and his wife, Susi, may see more rain than sunshine in the home they have purchased just 300 yards from the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon, he’s looking forward to the feeling of living by the ocean.

“I was born in Jersey,” Schaefer said. “I grew up with the boardwalk. My aunt and uncle had a summer home on the Jersey islands. The beach is happy childhood memories.”

After earning a music education degree from Indiana State University, Schaefer joined the Air Force to become part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) band in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and performed in hundreds of engagements across the country and in Canada. He earned a master’s in music from the University of Colorado in 1974, taught briefly at the University of Wyoming, went on to California State University at Fresno, got a doctorate from Arizona State University, and taught at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, before coming to Chadron State in 1999.

Schaefer, a percussionist and marimba player who grew up in the Chicago area, said he started playing percussion instruments because of his aunt, who was a professional marimbist, music teacher and band leader.

In addition to teaching, Schaefer has performed with several groups and musicians and recorded for Summit Records and Canyon Records. He has also published a drum set method book, produced instructional videos in basic percussion and taught private drum lessons.

At CSC, Schaefer taught classes in percussion, jazz and African-American popular music, helped develop the college’s music business degree, directed the music business program, served as Faculty Senate President, and was recipient of the Nebraska State College System Teaching Excellence Award in 2013.

Schaefer also directed the CSC Birds, a jazz and pop ensemble, and developed connections for the college to take students to the National Association of Music Manufacturer’s show in California each year.

Schaefer said working at Chadron State has been rewarding because of the emphasis that is placed on the quality of teaching.

“This is the first place I ever taught where they didn’t care about your research,” he said. “They really care about teaching and serving their population.”

Schaefer added Chadron State has also been open to adapting its programs.

“I think there is a lot of room for creativity. That’s a really good thing about Chadron,” he said. “We are not entrenched in the way things are. There is that freedom to create a new reality.”

Schaefer isn’t specific about his future musical endeavors, but has already made contact with a couple of musicians in his new home, a region with a strong arts community.

Schaefer is pleased that the move to Oregon will bring him and his wife closer to their daughter, Nicci, who lives in Eugene.

Elaine Wood

Dedication, pride and excellence. That’s how Maintenance Supervisor Todd Baumann describes Elaine Wood, who worked as a custodian for 25 years at Chadron State College before retiring in January 2017.

“She was absolutely dedicated to her job,” Baumann said. “She took great pride in her work and was an excellent team leader. She was always pleasant to be around and you could trust her to get the job done. If I could figure out a way to clone Elaine, I would do that. She truly was one of the best.”

Wood, a Chadron native, started her employment at the college in September 1991. She moved around from building to building, including time at the media center in the Old Library, but primarily based her operations at Work Hall.

Working in a residence hall suited her just fine.

“I really liked working in the dorms. I liked being around the kids and I was always so happy for them when they put in their time and graduated because they worked so hard,” Wood said. “I got to know a lot of them really well and it was interesting visiting with them.”

While some might think cleaning residence halls would be a dirty or thankless job, Wood thinks the contrary.

“There were messes once in a while, but for the most part I had a good bunch of kids. I was lucky because I had really good co-workers and the students treated me and the building with respect,” she said.

Wood said the pace, as well as the amenities of Work Hall, made her feel comfortable.

“I liked the pace of working at CSC. I worked in a few office situations and I enjoyed working at the college. The people were really great and I had a really nice building. After the renovation, it was such a nice building to work in. It was like my second home,” she said.

Wood also enjoyed campus activities during her tenure at CSC. She said she particularly enjoyed the visual and performing arts at Memorial Hall and the Galaxy Series.

She’s also enjoying retirement. She is keeping in touch with her friends on campus, which includes her sister, Kay Mitchell, who works in the Human Resources office. Wood and her significant other, Roger Keepers, also plan to eventually move to Nevis, Minnesota, where they own a house on a lake.

Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Nathaniel Gallegos 


Philip Cary

Connie Frandson

Craig LaFontsee               

Dr. G.W. Sandy Schaefer             

Elaine Wood                    

40 years

Dr. Timothy E. Anderson

30 years

Max Franey

Dr. Barbara Limbach

Dr. Scott Ritzen

25 years

Tena L. Cook

Lorin Kuhnel

Dr. Wendy Waugh

Elaine Wood

20 years

Dr. Dawn Brammer

Deb Smith

Cindi Walgren   

Steve Weber

15 years

Todd Baumann

Kim Bradley       

Philip Cary

Joanne Downs 

Dr. Matthew Evertson  

Dr. Joel Hyer     

Velinda Malone               

Stefani Van Vleet           

10 years

Dr. Ann Marie Buchmann

Kristol Cummings

Alex Helmbrecht

Malinda Linegar               

Stacie Mittleider              

Dr. Shafiqur Rahman

Dr. Michael Stephens

Stephanie Stroup

Dr. Zachary Varpness

Michael Vogl     

Dr. James Wada              

—CSC College Relations

Connie Frandson, retiree.
Connie Frandson, retiree.
Craig LaFontsee, retiree.
Craig LaFontsee, retiree.
G.W. Sandy Schaefer, retiree.
G.W. Sandy Schaefer, retiree.
Elaine Wood, retiree.
Elaine Wood, retiree.
Dr. Tim Anderson, 40 years of service.
Dr. Tim Anderson, 40 years of service.
Dr. Barb Limbach and Dr. Scott Ritzen, 30 years of service.
Dr. Barb Limbach and Dr. Scott Ritzen, 30 years of service.
From left, Dr. Wendy Waugh, Tena Cook, Lorin Kuhnel and Elaine Wood, 25 years of service.
From left, Dr. Wendy Waugh, Tena Cook, Lorin Kuhnel and Elaine Wood, 25 years of service.
From left, Dr. Dawn Brammer, Deb Smith, Cindi Walgren and Steve Weber, 20 years of service.
From left, Dr. Dawn Brammer, Deb Smith, Cindi Walgren and Steve Weber, 20 years of service.
From left, Todd Baumann, Dr. Joel Hyer, Phil Cary, Joanne Downs, Dr. Matt Evertson, Velinda Malone and Stefani Van Vleet. Not pictured, Kim Bradley, 15 years of service.
From left, Todd Baumann, Dr. Joel Hyer, Phil Cary, Joanne Downs, Dr. Matt Evertson, Velinda Malone and Stefani Van Vleet. Not pictured, Kim Bradley, 15 years of service.
Front row, from left, Kristol Cummings, Stacie Mittleider, Dr. Shafiqur Rahman, Stephanie Stroup and Jamie Wada. Back row, from left, Alex Helmbrecht, Malinda Linegar, Dr. Michael Stephens, Dr. Zachary Varpness and Michael Vogl. Not pictured, Dr. Ann Buchmann, 10 years of service.
Front row, from left, Kristol Cummings, Stacie Mittleider, Dr. Shafiqur Rahman, Stephanie Stroup and Jamie Wada. Back row, from left, Alex Helmbrecht, Malinda Linegar, Dr. Michael Stephens, Dr. Zachary Varpness and Michael Vogl. Not pictured, Dr. Ann Buchmann, 10 years of service.