Eight honored at annual ASC Retirees Dinner

(04-07-2011)

About 80 current and former Adams State College employees gathered April 5 to honor 8 faculty and staff members upon their retirement from the college this year. The annual Retirees Dinner is sponsored by the Adams State Office of Alumni Relations.

Faculty members Dr. Clarence Parks and Dr. Alberta Coolbaugh will conclude their Adams State teaching careers at the end of the spring semester. Also honored were six staff members who have retired from the college since last June: student housing administrative assistant Eleanor Cruz; information technology professional Tom Fuller; administrative assistant Lynn Michalke; and Facilities staff members Mike Garcia, John Neal, and Dwight Smith.

Those honored at the recent ASC Retirees Dinner include (from left): Dr. Alberta Coolbaugh, Dr. Clarence Parks, Lynne Michalke, Tom Fuller, and Eleanor Cruz. Not present were retirees Mike Garcia, John Neal, and Dwight Smith.

Those honored at the recent ASC Retirees Dinner include (from left): Dr. Alberta Coolbaugh, Dr. Clarence Parks, Lynne Michalke, Tom Fuller, and Eleanor Cruz. Not present were retirees Mike Garcia, John Neal, and Dwight Smith.

A professor of sociology, Clarence Parks joined the Adams State faculty in 1983 and has taught a range of course, with his favorite being "Sociology of the Blues." He was introduced at the dinner by Dr. Stephanie Hilwig, associate professor of sociology, who credits him with leading her to her career path when she was an undergraduate at Adams State in 1991. "Despite his hearing and vision challenges, Dr. Parks gets students to connect with him and with the discipline," she said. "Dr. Parks is one of those professors who really does inspire you. He makes you look at the world in a way you otherwise wouldn't have. He always challenges his students."

His years of inspiring and motivating student were recognized last year when Parks' received the 2010 Presidential Teaching Award. Very active with the National Federation of the Blind, Parks encourages young blind people to enter the teaching profession and shares his experiences with them.

A professor of business who has taught for the last ten years, Alberta Coolbaugh's Adams State "Great Story" began in 1988, when she joined the staff of Extended Studies as an administrative assistant. School of Business Chair Kurt Keiser compared "Bert" to professional football players who make difficult work look easy. "Everything she touches is golden -- managing student internships, serving in Faculty Senate, chairing search committees. She is a great colleague."

Coolbaugh attended school part-time while working full time and raising three children, earning her B.S. in business administration in 1994 with a 4.0. She then passed her CPA exam on the first attempt. She was promoted to assistant director of Extended Studies and began an MBA program through Colorado State University. With that in hand, she joined the faculty of the School of Business to teach computer applications and pursued her Ph.D. in Instructional Design with an emphasis in Online Learning.

"You are going to be very, very difficult to replace," Keiser told Coolbaugh. "You are highly valued, respected, and admired by all of us.

Eleanor Cruz was a "model employee, rock solid" who had a passion for people and her job, said Bruce Del Tondo, director of Auxiliary Services and Housing/Residence Life. He worked with Cruz for most of her 17 years as administrative assistant. He said he asked several staff and students about their experiences with Cruz: "There was a common theme. They would stop and think a minute, then smile, and chuckle. You could see the impact she made."

He added that former students and staff who stop in the office are disappointed to find Cruz has retired. "That shows you made a difference, Eleanor."

When Tom Fuller came to Adams State as a computer programmer in 1975, the personal computer did not exist, and "disc drives the size of pizzas" couldn't hold the data that today can be stored on a two-inch "jump drive," said Mike Nicholson, chief information officer.

"The pace of change in technology has been exponential, and IT (information technology) professionals like Tom were forced to constantly learn and relearn a profession that is challenging and dynamic," he added. "Tom was dependable and steady; he knew and did his job well, and did whatever was needed. For weeks after his retirement last summer, he was gracious enough to take our panicked phone calls and even come into the office -- all because of his willingness to help this college."

Lynn Michalke graduated from Adams State in 1977 and went on to a 27-year career with the City of Alamosa. With years of accounting and business experience, in 2007 she joined Adams State's Institutional Advancement Office as an administrative assistant. When that office downsized in 2009, she transferred to the Records Office.

Tammy Lopez, executive director of the ASC Foundation, said Michalke brought stability and a great sense of humor to the office. Director of Alumni Relations Lori Laske was inspired by Michalke's "wonderful attitude" after discovering her whistling while she was filing. Michalke will continue her relationship with the college by serving on the ASC Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Mike Garcia worked in general trades and custodial services at Adams State since 1990. He earned a degree Business Administration in 1994. John Neal and Dwight Smith were carpenters in Facilities Services. Neal joined the staff in 1985, while Smith came on board in 1984, with a two-year hiatus from 1988-90.

By Julie Waechter