Late Bloomer Becomes Cornerstone of Wayne College


He didn’t know it at the time, but when Rick Yoder stepped through the doors of the newly built Wayne College in the fall of 1972, he was actually stepping into his future. Today, more than 40 years later, he is the coordinator of academic affairs and a connection between the College’s past and its future as the longest serving employee at Wayne. And it all came about because he was bored one day.

A class of ’69 Red Rider, Rick didn’t have plans after his high school graduation. His older brother had recently enrolled at Wayne and was hired as a student assistant in the maintenance department. He was leaving to help move furniture in for the first day of classes when Rick decided to tag along for something to do. He knew a lot of the people who were recently hired to work at Wayne, including Phyllis Wiebe, the dean’s administrative assistant, so he thought it would be fun to visit with friends.

In fact, Rick spent so much time on campus he eventually decided to enroll as a student, which he did in the spring of ’73. As fate would have it, the maintenance department happened to be looking to add another student assistant, giving Rick the first of several opportunities to leave his mark on Wayne College.

The College was comprised mostly of night students in those days, so there were slow times during the day. To fill his time, Rick would read the course catalog to see what was happening on campus. He came to know what was being offered so well he would lend a hand in Student Services during peak times. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Jim Wagner, the first director of student services, said to him that if he was going to be there so much they may as well hire him. And they did. Rick started as a part-time adviser, a position he held for three years as he pursued a bachelor’s degree at main campus. He eventually was hired full time and spent 17 years as a full-time student adviser.

Given limited staffing in those days, everyone pitched in and at one point Rick found himself putting together the curriculum guide with Bob McElwee, the second dean of the College. He also conducted student orientations, making student i.d. cards by hand which included taking the photo, developing it, cutting out the picture and making sure to match it up with the right student.

However, he came into his current position by accident. One day, while in a meeting, Rick suggested that it would make sense for the person who does class scheduling to also do room scheduling. The dean liked his idea and assigned him the responsibility right then and there. Of course, they could do that in those days. The campus was small and everyone who worked there was friends. In fact, Rick reflects on the early days when the staff would return to campus on a Friday night with spouses and a deck of cards, and they would order take out.

In his 40 years at Wayne Rick fell into a number of other positions as well including basketball and softball coach, which included being the bus driver, statistician, score keeper and announcer. He is also credited with starting the College’s golf team, which he coached for 10 years.

Reflecting on Wayne College today, Rick says that although a lot has changed, it’s still the same. “When I look at the building itself, of course, it looks the same as it did the day the doors opened, “ he says. But more importantly,” he adds, “the core values upon which the College was founded remain the same. Wayne is still a special place.”

We agree, Rick. And it’s because of people like you. Thank you for making Wayne College a special place.