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Residence Life Manager Sharon Krueger Schewe – currently Concordia’s longest serving employee – will retire July 1 after 36 years of devoted service. We asked her to share some reflections of her time here.
Did you ever imagine that someday you’d be Concordia’s longest serving employee?
No, I didn’t. I feel weird, honored, and blessed about it. It’s unusual in this day and age to be somewhere for 36 years of devoted service to CSP and 40 years of service to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. When I started, the Student Life staff was really old—they were in their 50s and 60s. (Laughs.) Now I’ve become one of the old ones. I’ve literally never left college since I started in the fall of 1973. I’ve always been in this environment, and it’s kept me young.
Take us back to 1981, when you first started at Concordia. What made you want the job?
The job came to me. I went to Concordia as an undergrad, and I was in Missouri teaching at a boarding Lutheran high school. I was being considered for a residence job at Concordia Seward, and called then CSP Dean of Men Herb Treichel to ask for a reference. He told me, “We have a position open here and I can’t give you a reference. You’re one of our own.” The next day Concordia Dean of Students Walt Sohn called and asked me to apply and send my résumé. That’s how it happened. I have no doubt it was meant to be. The ironic thing is, I had applied to be an RA at Concordia while a student but I didn’t get hired!
Approximately how many RAs have you trained?
An average of 20 per year for 36 years, so more than 600 RAs. I’ve had sons or daughters of RAs come to Concordia and be RAs. I’ve been an aunt to hundreds of students—I don’t want to be a mom to them; an aunt taps you on the shoulder and helps you gently. I never had children of my own, but I’ve had hundreds of nieces and nephews.
How do you feel knowing that many lifelong friendships are formed from the roommate assignments you’ve made?
It’s powerful, and I think about it every year when making student matches. Some have lived together for four years, and afterwards for more years until one of them gets married. I have to be careful not to take too much credit for the good when those matches work well, or I need to take more of the blame when they don’t. But I hear more success stories than I hear the other way around.
How have students’ residential life needs or concerns evolved over the years?
Tools and technology have changed a lot, but students still long to succeed and know they matter. They want to know someone cares about them, and they want to make a positive difference in the world. When I started college in 1973, most students didn’t have TVs in their rooms, and there was one pay phone on the floor for 20 women; today, most students have TVs and the size blows you away, and of course everyone has a cell phone.
What are a few essential things you would now tell students they’ll need for their room?
Bring extra long twin sheets, a willingness to stretch yourself, and a willingness to move out of your comfort zone. You’ll spend time with people who are different than you, so be open and willing to be flexible. The vast majority of students today have never shared a room before, so it’s different and a challenge. Roommate matches are made by hand, not a computer, and a lot of thought goes into it. How tidy someone is and whether he or she is a morning or night person are important, but music preference is probably the best indicator of compatibility.
What has sustained you in serving for so long?
This is a calling. For many years I was single, and these were my kids. Going to concerts, games and plays on campus was fun, and they were good things to do. I eventually married. My husband was laid off and came to work in the IT department at Concordia for seven years. He passed away five years ago, and it was a special blessing of love and support we received from this community. I’ve made a difference in people’s lives, not splashy, but in small ways. It’s been a ministry that endures.
What are your plans for retirement?
Travel. I’m taking a retirement kick-off road trip for two or three weeks this August. I plan to spend time with my aging parents who need more attention and support. I’m also looking forward to taking my great nieces and nephews on adventures like I did with their parents.