Mid-Plains Community College is mourning the loss of one of its own this week. Dr. William "Bill" Hasemeyer, died Saturday at the age of 88.
Hasemeyer was the first area president of MPCC. He spent 42 years in the field of education, but not entirely by choice.
"How did I get started in education? That's a good question," Hasemeyer said during an interview in 2015. "I guess I was pushed."
The Superior, Neb. native found himself in the U.S. Navy the day after his high school graduation in 1946. Because he was only 17 at the time, his mother signed his enlistment papers.
"My father passed away when I was seven, so my mother had to sign for me to go into the Navy," said Hasemeyer. "The thing was, if she signed, I had to promise her that I would go to college afterward."
Hasemeyer spent 18 months on the island of Guam with the 103rd Seabees. Upon discharge, he kept up his end of the bargain with his mother by enrolling in the Kearney State Teachers College. By doing so, Hasemeyer became the first in his family to pursue a postsecondary education.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1952 then took a job teaching history and driver's education at Sutherland High School. He also coached football, basketball and track.
Hasemeyer became the principal of Sutherland High School in 1956. At that point, he stopped coaching basketball, but continued teaching and coaching the other sports in addition to taking on administrative responsibilities.
Over the next decade, Hasemeyer would obtain both a master's degree in educational administration and a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis in higher education from the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
He would also serve as the superintendent for schools in Lewellen and Chappell prior to being offered the position of dean of instruction for the North Platte Junior College in 1967.
A student visits with Dr. Bill Hasemeyer during a stroll through the hallways of the North Platte Junior College in 1969. Hasemeyer died over the weekend at the age of 88.
"I was the third dean in three years," said Hasemeyer. "We really had to hustle to get students. Junior colleges had a stigma that the only people who went there were people who couldn't make it anywhere else, which wasn't true. As a result, we had to work very hard on getting students to come to the college."
Program development and the recruitment of highly skilled faculty members was another focus, as was the creation of transferable classes.
"He was on top of everything," said Nadyne Crumly, speech/human relations instructor. "He was always trying to learn and improve and grow the college, but most importantly, he was a really good person. Bill was genuinely interested in those of us who worked at the college. He was one of the friendliest and most caring people I have ever met."
Sharon Brown, accounts payable specialist, and Ron Axtell, director of physical resources, had similar memories of Hasemeyer.
"He treated all of us like family," said Brown. "He was encouraging to all who were around him, and it was important to him that we were successful."
At one point in his career, Axtell reported directly to Hasemeyer.
"I remember him as easy to work with," said Axtell. "I always felt like he had the college's best interest at heart."
Hasemeyer didn't just win fans among his employees, however. The students liked him so much that they dedicated the 1968-69 annual to him.
"He has done so much for every student in the North Platte Junior College, not only with his smile, but also with his overabundant understanding and constant concern for every student's welfare," the dedication reads. "From opening the student lounge to personal counseling, William Hasemeyer has been a pal to us all."
Hasemeyer was named the college's president in 1971. In 1973, the Nebraska Legislature passed legislation combining the junior colleges in the state with the vocational technical colleges.
Hasemeyer was subsequently elected president of the Mid-Plains Technical Community College Area. Later, his title was changed to chancellor of the Area.
It was a big job figuring out how to combine the McCook Junior College, the North Platte Junior College and the Mid-Plains Vocational Technical School, which was also located in North Platte.
"That took a lot of time," said Hasemeyer, "We only had six people in administration plus our faculty working on it. All three colleges had different insurances, salaries - everything was different, and no one wanted to change."
He was one of the exceptions.
"I always thought it was a good idea to bring the colleges under one umbrella, so to speak," said Hasemeyer. "Here we were in this area where there weren't as many people as cattle, and we had the opportunity to do a variety of different things with different programs – something not possible when we were separate. We were going to do better, and we did."
Kent Miller, a member of the MPCC Board of Governors, worked with Hasemeyer during that time.
"Bill did a wonderful job of setting the foundation for an area program of education – the foundation for what we have today," said Miller. "He was also very well respected in the community, and I always appreciated him for that in his position of area president of MPCC."
Hasemeyer retired in 1994, but continued to be involved with the college for many years, including serving on the North Platte Community College Foundation Board from 2006-2014.
"Bill was a great mentor and friend," said MPCC President Ryan Purdy. "I was fortunate to get to know Bill over the last 15 years. I always enjoyed visiting with him at the college and especially enjoyed our last visit on Tuesday of last week in my office. He came to discuss with me his willingness to serve as a success mentor for students interested in education. He loved the college and was always interested in what was happening. He will be greatly missed."
Services for Hasemeyer are pending.