Member of SCC Board of Governors graduates from SCC
During Southeast Community College’s May 5 commencement, one of the graduates will walk across the stage to accept her diploma. But instead of sitting in the student section, she will sit with other members of the SCC Board of Governors. Seventy-year-old Board member Kathy Boellstorff is receiving her Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary/Hospitality.
“I hope I was a good example for the others in the classroom and brought some knowledge and life events, challenges and opportunities to the table that most of the younger students would not have yet experienced,” Boellstorff said.
She originally started her culinary studies in Omaha in 2008. But when Boellstorff ran for a seat on the SCC Board in 2009 and won, she transferred her credits to SCC and the Lincoln Campus. Since she took one class each term, it took her around 14 years to graduate. She was commuting from the Johnson area where she and her husband farm, so it was a lot of time on the road. However, she has no regrets.
“I took classes in person, online, hybrid, and from the robot out of the Nebraska City Learning Center,” she said. “You persevere and you get through it.”
Chef Instructor Gerrine Schreck Kirby remembers being a bit surprised and nervous when she first heard there was going to be a member of the Board of Governors as a student in the culinary classes. However, she said Boellstorff was a student who loved learning and asking questions.
“Kathy is very inquisitive and is one of those students that kept me on my toes,” Schreck Kirby said. “She would question and sometimes argue about information at hand. She made me a better teacher because I always had to be ready.”
As a lover of food, Boellstorff enjoyed all her classes in the program. But she really seemed to enjoy planning her own menu for the Banquets/Buffet Operations and Management class. She created an Italian-themed dinner and loved every step, from creating the menu, to preparing the food with classmates, to serving the dinner in a banquet setting at Course, SCC’s student-run restaurant.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of instructors,” she said. “They are encouragers.”
“I found it to be inspiring that she came to class with all of the young students in her lectures and labs and was not afraid to ask a question or state an opinion,” Schreck Kirby added.
Boellstorff witnessed firsthand the changes and renovations made to the Culinary/Hospitality program in 2018. The $4.2 million revamp included the Course Restaurant, coffee shop, new classrooms and labs, bakery, and storage space.
“The facilities really changed, and they needed to,” she said. “In the old cafeteria kitchen, you were shoulder-to-shoulder, or in a classroom not designed to be a kitchen.”
Schreck Kirby remembers how hard Boellstorff prepared for her proficiency exam, which students must pass before they can graduate from the program.
“She was in the labs practicing weekly to make sure she could master the material,” she said. “The students in the class were impressed with her drive and tenacity. Needless to say, she passed with flying colors.”
As a self-described “lifelong learner,” Boellstorff isn’t sure what she’ll do next. For now, she’s just looking forward to walking across the stage as an SCC graduate and as a member of the SCC Board of Governors.
“I am so excited for commencement,” she said. “It’s the culmination of about 14 years of time and a milestone for all graduates.”
Her husband, son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren will be cheering her on from the crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Because, as she says, you’re never too old to learn something new.
“It’s never too late,” Boellstorff said. “The important thing is to keep the lifelong learning desire going. So what if it takes you longer? No matter what age you are, it doesn’t matter. Keep learning!”
SCC’s Spring Commencement ceremony is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.