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NCK Tech celebrating 2 milestone anniversaries

8/24/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

BELOIT -- The buzz these days around the college in this north-central Kansas community is celebrating the golden anniversary of an institution that began as a vocational-technical school back in 1964.

But one of the early-day instructors also is seeing red, as in ruby, the color of 40th anniversaries. While North Central Kansas Technical College, whose main campus is in Beloit, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this also marks the 40th anniversary of the school's satellite campus in Hays.

Sue Akers, one of the first instructors of nursing at then North Central Kansas Vocational-Technical School, wasn't able to make it to the kickoff of a year of NCK Tech's 50th anniversary celebrations Saturday.

But Akers -- retired and living in Harlingen, Texas -- has vivid memories of her days at the school where her husband, John, was one of the first instructors for the farm mechanics program.

Some of those memories include helping begin a licensed practical nursing program at St. Anthony Hospital in Hays, which has evolved into a multi-part program that today includes a one-year licensed practical nursing certificate and a two-year registered nursing associate's degree.

Akers, who served on the Kansas State Board of Nursing, remembers George Gatschet, then development director at St. Anthony's, coming to Beloit to visit with her and Bob Severance, then director of the vocational-technical school, asking about the possibility of starting a nursing program at St. Anthony's.

"We had a doctor by the name of Russell Cramm who brought to my attention the dire need of nurses," said Gatschet, now retired and living in Hays. "He wanted to know if we could get an LPN program started here."

Gatschet got in contact with Oren Windholz, then administrator at St. Anthony's, and the ball was set in motion.

The pilot program developed into a satellite campus in Hays that today features nearly 20 different programs on a campus east of the former St. Anthony Hospital, now Hays Medical Center.

In an effort to get the nursing program started, Akers started driving to and from Beloit to Hays in the fall of 1974 on a similar route that still is traveled today by administrators who have their main offices in Beloit but often visit the Hays campus as well.

"That school has served a lot of people," Gatschet said. "It serves its purpose, and then some."

The Akers couple moved in 1985 to Texas, where Sue continues to live today. John died three years ago.

While Akers has been back to Beloit only "two or three times" in the nearly 30 years since she moved, she is well aware of the impact of the college.

"That school has made a significant difference in the economy," she said, "in so many ways."

Another instructor from the early days in Beloit agreed.

"I knew (the school) was pretty young but also knew it was up and coming," said Peggy Moore, a teacher in the business and secretarial program in 1974-75.

Moore's twin sister, Patty Rufener, a resident of Beloit, knew Moore was looking for a teaching job and told her about the opening at the vo-tech school. She took the job for one year before enjoying a successful teaching and coaching career at area high schools.

Moore, now retired and living in Hays, said she is looking forward to anniversary events that will be held in Hays.

Anniversary activities scheduled throughout the year will be announced as they are finalized. A finale at the Hays campus is being planned for next spring.