It is an honor to be selected as the Minnesota Superintendent of the Year (SOY). To be recognized by my peers is one of the most gratifying experiences of my career. Thanks to ATS&R for their ongoing sponsorship of this program, to MASA for supporting this recognition, and to the leaders within Minnesota’s education community for their annual participation in the selection process. I truly am humbled to be joining past recipients of the SOY, many of whom are my guides, mentors, and role models.
I was asked to reflect upon my experiences and thoughts about being the SOY. Where does one begin? Memories come flooding in…those of people, places, events, and family. I have a great deal to be thankful for in my life.
Many of you know that my formative years were spent on our family dairy farm. I learned so much growing up with my extended family nearby, but am really thankful that my parents recognized that I was not necessarily inclined or interested in being a dairy farmer. They found a way to send me to college and give me a different path. I also had great public school music teachers and coaches that nurtured my skills that helped me find success in college and later as a teacher and administrator.
Role models shaped who I am and what I do everyday…from the values and work ethic learned from my family, the educators who believed in me, and those I have worked for and with over the years. All left an indelible mark on my life.
Three educators stand out in my life. Fred Nyline, the Band Director and Gary Davis, a Music Professor (Luther College, Decorah, Iowa) saw potential and believed in me when I could have been written off several times over. I probably would not have graduated from Luther without their support and friendship. Jack Almos was my first principal and my mentor when I became a superintendent. He involved me in staff leadership roles early on in Hinckley, and many years later continues to be my mentor and friend.
Over the past 36 years I have had the privilege to serve in 7 different school districts. Since the announcement of the award, students, friends, and acquaintances have reached out to me. It was especially gratifying (and sobering) to hear from my Hinckley “kids”. I worked in Hinckley for ten years and was their band director for eight years (grades 5-12). We built special bonds that are still strong today. The sobering part is that my “kids” are all approaching 50 years old! Where did the time go? I cherish those relationships formed with friends, colleagues, and “my kids” over the years, and am so thankful that they have endured throughout my life.
I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding professionals from all of over the state during my career. It is not uncommon for a conversation to lead to seeking a resource or consultant to help our work. Most times, I know someone that can help. My colleagues tease me about knowing a lot of professionals across the state, and my response is that it’s all a consequence of not being able to hold a job! In reality, those personal and professional connections are in large part of any success that I have enjoyed.
I also appreciate the opportunity to have served on the AASA Governing Board, as well as the MASA and Minnesota Rural Education Association Boards. That work has helped me gain a broader perspective of the work at home and how we as leaders and spokesmen can make a difference in our state and nation.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family. My wife Cathy, an exceptional administrator in her own right, has followed me through ten homes in eight different communities over the past 27 years. We took turns going to graduate school, sacrificing parts of our personal lives to improve our skills and knowledge. When times have gotten tough, her support and belief in me has always made the difference. However, know that she also is quick to let me know when I am feeling sorry for myself or perhaps a little overconfident—everyone needs tough love once in a while! I am also very proud of our kids, all educated, gainfully employed, and most importantly good people. Despite some of their comments to contrary over the years, they did survive into adulthood despite having to change schools three or four times. I often remind them that rather than one hometown, they have four hometowns with that many more friends.
I will close where I began…thanking MASA and ATS&R so much for this honor. I stand on the shoulders of giants and look forward to doing my part to represent our profession and support the next generation of Minnesota superintendents. Make excellence your legacy–and your efforts will live on forever. •