By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – Fast-paced and unpredictable. Interesting and extremely busy. That’s how Beverly Mathiesen describes her days spent supporting the chancellor of University of Nebraska at Kearney.
As the executive associate in the office of Chancellor Doug Kristensen, Mathiesen is responsible for scheduling chancellor’s meetings and appearances, planning commencement and similar events hosted by the chancellor, drafting letters, dealing with daily correspondence to Kristensen’s office, and working with the University of Nebraska, Board of Regents and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
“I try to make the chancellor’s job easier,” she said.
Mathiesen has worked in the Chancellor’s Office for 20 years as office associate for Kristensen and former Chancellor Gladys Styles Johnson.
“I find this job so interesting. No two days are ever the same, I’m terribly busy and I’m always behind,” she said. “It’s interesting because it’s not unusual to work with the governor’s office and other statewide officials. I was able to meet the president of the United States when Bill Clinton was here. That was huge. I wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities without this job.
“It can be a high-stress job, but the people who I work with make it enjoyable.”
Chancellor Kristensen credits Mathiesen for her easy-going nature, ability to adapt and take on new tasks, and knowledge of UNK’s history.
“In all my years, Bev is one of the most pleasant, professional people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. She has an infectious personality, and she takes on any task eagerly and quickly,” said Kristensen.
“Working forty-four years here speaks volumes about her tremendous commitment to young people and the university. She has served us in various capacities and has an unmatched wealth of knowledge that she shares with so many of us every minute. Bev is invaluable to me, and just as invaluable to our campus community and everybody she works with. We’re very fortunate to have her here.”
Mathiesen, 64, has worked for UNK since 1972. She graduated from Lincoln School of Commerce with her executive secretarial degree, then worked as a legal secretary in Hebron before marrying her husband, Roger.
In 1972, the newlyweds moved to Kearney to attend Kearney State College. They lived in University Heights, where they paid $60 a month for an efficiency apartment.
Mathiesen worked in the housing office, now called Residence Life, while she earned her bachelor’s degree. Fraternities and sororities had recently moved into housing on campus and were in need of house parents. After a couple months in University Heights, Bev and Roger moved into Case Hall to serve as house parents for Alpha Omicron Pi. The following year, the sorority and the couple moved into Conrad Hall.
“We were really involved in campus life. Financially it helped us a great deal. It was a good way for us to start,” she recalled. “It helped us to feel like traditional students even though we were non-traditional.”
Living on campus allowed Bev and Roger to stay involved in campus activities and learn more about the university. They lived in the sorority house nine years before purchasing their own home.
“A bright memory is the campus-wide streak. Those of us who didn’t participate knew it was going to happen. It was a huge thing. Hundreds of streakers came from across the highway through campus. That was one of the first things I told my parents about.”
Mathiesen earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and student taught at an elementary school. But she decided to continue working at UNK instead of becoming a teacher. She kept her teaching certificate updated until a few years ago.
After five years in the housing office, Mathiesen worked in the Math, Statistics and Computer Science Department. After five years there, she worked for the dean of education. After another five years, she worked in the vice chancellors office.
“It was like the five-year itch,” Mathiesen said laughing.
She moved from the vice chancellor’s office to the chancellor’s office in 1995, where she’s remained. Working on campus for the last 44 years, Mathiesen has seen significant change.
“We were a lot slower and less sophisticated. That has changed because that was before the days of computers. Everything was done on typewriters, carbon paper and mimeograph machines.
“When I first started, I made all the room assignments by hand. We typed up letters and sent them to students to tell them their roommates and room assignments. Technology has changed my life greatly.”
The campus has also changed physically, she said.
“You used to be able to drive through it north and south. There was a stop sign in the center where the fountain is now. The campus just keeps changing.”
Each office she worked in provided her with a new perspective of campus, she said.
“I’m a lot more confident. I’ve always wanted to do a good job, but as I get older I want to do a better job. I’ve done a million commencements, but I know it’s the only time a student will graduate. So I really do try to make it personal and special,” she said.
Mathiesen isn’t sure when she’ll retire – maybe in two or three years.
“Ten years ago, I thought I would be retired by now. But here I am, and I find it just as interesting. I never dread coming to work. I’ve been that way all along,” she said.
“I tell people that I’ve worked at UNK for almost forever. But I still just love it. It’s a wonderful place to have had a career. I feel very blessed to have been here and seen all the changes.”