Four Decades of Service

“I have loved every minute I have been at RCC and now RCTC.”

That’s roughly 22,600,800 minutes, or 43 years, at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC).

Ruth Siefert, RCTC’s business manager, says she’s seen it all. When she began working at RCTC (then Rochester Community College – RCC) the school used manual typewriters. Individual department balances were kept on ledger sheets. The cost per credit was a low $1.50.

As Siefert calls it, they were the good old days, but ones that lasted for her entire career. It’s probably why Siefert was recognized by Minnesota State with an Outstanding Service Award recently.

“Ruth truly exemplifies the spirit of RCTC – from her trademark yellow clothing to her volunteering at college events,” says Steve Schmall, RCTC’s vice president of finance and facilities.

And that spirit has stayed the same until her career’s denouement.

Ruth Siefert Featured Image

Ruth Siefert, center, wearing her favorite color, yellow. From left, Shelley Danielson, Bookstore Manager; Debbie Knaup, Accounting Technician; Kay Wiegert, Mailroom; Siefert; Cara Fox, Cashier; Deb Cannon, Office Assistant; and Rob Wittenberg, Accounting Officer.

The early days

Siefert recalls telling her RCC business instructor, “I really need a job.”

He replied that the business office needed someone to type purchase orders. She thought it would be great.

“I went to school in the mornings and worked every afternoon,” Siefert says of the temporary job that became so much more.

“I wanted to get married, have kids, and be a stay at home mom. I got married, had kids, and I’m still here,” she laughs.

Three other longtime employees remember their beginnings at RCTC, which came shortly after Siefert was hired.

Jenee McGurren, RCTC’s graphic arts specialist, was a vocational student and then an RCC one before she became an employee in 1984, noting that there used to be a test that determined what job you would be good at. $7.55 an hour was her starting pay.

“That was good,” she says.

Judy Kingsbury, executive assistant to the president, who began working at the college in 1981, earned $5.42 an hour.

“My mother saved my first paycheck from the state; I still have it somewhere at home,” she says.

“Everyone wanted to be a state employee,” says RCTC book store manager Shelly Danielson, who started at around $9 an hour in 1989.

Ruth made $1.65 an hour.

“I really just loved what I did – and I’ve done every job in the business office,” Siefert says. She began with purchasing, then cashiering, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.

“College jobs were at the time, you could progress,” McGurren says. She recalls beginning as a Microsoft Word Processing operator, working on the only computer on campus. Now she is a digital graphic designer responsible for many of the publications, posters, brochures, and website images.

“You grew with the job,” she says. “I think that’s what’s kind of cool about a college: you learn and grow as things change, and as students change, and you adapt. A lot of businesses, I don’t think they’re really like that.”

“The one thing that has not changed is complaints about parking,” Kingsbury jokes. “If you look back in the yearbooks in the ‘70s, they were complaining about parking back then.”

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Staying for students

All four employees agree on something: ensuring student success keeps them motivated.

“My job contributed to the College being able to serve the student,” Kingsbury says.

When bumped into around town, students routinely ask if a certain instructor is still at RCTC, or will say how the staff helped them in a pinch.

“The thing that never changes, the students you see today versus the students that were here when you started, they pretty much know what they want,” McGurren says. “It’s always the goal to get them on the right track, and that just never changes.”

“You can be that ‘aha’ moment for them,” Siefert says.

“And no matter what you do, you affect the students,” McGurren adds.

Siefert celebrated her final full day of work on Feb. 28., surrounded by friends, colleagues, and even a special presentation from the Minnesota State System Office.

She will work on special projects after she leaves, so she will be around on Fridays. She’ll retire as the longest serving employee from the community college side, with 43 years under her belt as of Feb. 19.

Never a stay-at-home mom, Siefert will now get that chance when she watches her grandkids three days a week.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Siefert says. “And I have people I’m going to reconnect with. I’ve never toured the Mayo Clinic; that’s on my list.”

Thinking back on it all, she only has one thing to say about her tenure here.

“It’s been an awesome ride.”

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