‘She exemplifies UNK in every sense’: Patricia Hoehner recognized with Distinguished Faculty Award

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen presents the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award to professor Patricia Hoehner during Friday’s winter commencement ceremony at the Health and Sports Center on campus. (Photo by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)
UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen presents the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award to professor Patricia Hoehner during Friday’s winter commencement ceremony at the Health and Sports Center on campus. (Photo by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Patricia Hoehner’s impact on education extends across the state, from K-12 schools to colleges and universities.

She’s mentored and inspired countless students, teachers, administrators and colleagues during her career.

On Friday, the University of Nebraska at Kearney recognized Hoehner for her decades of dedication to the education field. She received the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award during UNK’s winter commencement ceremony.

The university’s most prestigious faculty honor, the award is presented each year to an individual who demonstrates excellence in teaching, research and service. It’s named after UNK alumnus Leland Holdt and comes with a $5,000 stipend.

Hoehner received a remarkable 13 letters of support, an indication of the many lives she’s influenced.

“Pat has truly dedicated her life’s work to impacting education. Students across Nebraska will continue to benefit from the influence she has had on administrators of public schools for many years to come,” stated Scott Unruh, a professor of athletic training and assistant dean in the UNK College of Education.

Born and raised on a wheat farm in Kansas, Hoehner attended high school in McCook before enrolling at UNK. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education, master’s degree in educational administration and education specialist degree from UNK, along with a Doctor of Education in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Hoehner taught in Overton and Bertrand, then moved to McCook, where she developed a public school program for gifted learners. She also worked as a school administrator.

A faculty member since 1998, Hoehner was the first full-time professor in educational administration at UNK and later served as the first female chair of the department, a position she held for five years.

“When Dr. Hoehner arrived on campus, she became a windshield warrior. EDAD faculty were driving miles to teach their students,” Martonia Gaskill, an associate professor of teacher education, noted. “While she was the department chair, there was a move toward online classes, and she took the lead by attending workshops and seminars to ensure the quality of teaching was not going to diminish by moving from face-to-face classes to the online format.”

Thanks to her vision and guidance, the educational administration program continues to grow.

More than 80 current Nebraska school superintendents and 200-plus principals have an educational administration degree from UNK, along with numerous special education directors. The program has its highest-ever enrollment this semester, with 145 people pursuing degrees or endorsements to serve in these positions.

“In the world of education, we encounter many individuals along the way who make a difference in our lives. Dr. Hoehner is one with whom I have the deepest gratitude and immense respect for the impact she has had on both my personal and professional lives,” wrote Stephanie Kaczor, superintendent at Riverside Public Schools. “Her dedication to teaching and her passion for lifelong learning have had a profound influence on my academic journey and shaped my future in ways I could not have imagined.”

Kaczor called Hoehner a role model for women in education who challenged her students to go above and beyond while providing continuous support both inside and outside the classroom.

“In the years following my time at UNK, her encouragement and guidance continued to inspire me to delve deeper into education, and her constructive feedback and advice motivated me to strive for excellence,” she wrote. “Her unwavering support has empowered me to overcome challenges and pursue academic and professional opportunities that at times I thought would be out of my reach.”

Mitch Kubicek, director of learning at Milford Public Schools, echoed those thoughts. He described Hoehner as a responsible, energetic and good-humored teacher who is passionate about education and the development of educational leaders.

“Dr. Hoehner is an outstanding educator in all respects. She possesses a strong background in content and experience in education, consistently demonstrates effective pedagogical skills, and has shown a commitment to supporting and advocating for her students and for the educational community. She is someone who I can contact to discuss a difficult issue, and she always provides sound advice and consistently offers guidance and support. I am fortunate to have been able to get to know her,” he stated.

A former president of the Nebraska Association of School Administrators, Hoehner also advances education through her service. She’s a member of the Nebraska Department of Education State Accreditation Committee and UNK Faculty Senate and has served on the UNK Alumni Association Board of Directors and numerous campus committees.

Her research has contributed to several textbooks and other publications, and she’s presented at state, national and international conferences as a recognized expert on education-related topics.

“Dr. Hoehner is an active participant in a number of the activities serving on state committees and leading conferences. She is always ready to help and represent central Nebraska. She helps ensure that topics at the state meetings and conferences focus on current research, bringing the best scholarship to the table or to the conferences. Her service to the profession is worthy of mention because she is good at it and takes it seriously. She is a leader in central Nebraska for both students and teachers. She carries the banner of the university and the banner of a model for service to the profession and to the university community,” stated Doug Christensen, the former state education commissioner and a professor emeritus at Doane University.

Members of the Hoehner family are pictured outside UNK’s College of Education in 2020.
Members of the Hoehner family are pictured outside UNK’s College of Education in 2020.

In addition to the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award, Hoehner has received the UNK Leadership in Education and Service Award, College of Education Outstanding Service Award, Nebraska Association for the Gifted Extra Mile Award and Fischer Family Hall of Fame Award recognizing outstanding contributions to Nebraska high school sports.

Hoehner and her family are longtime supporters of UNK athletic and academic programs, including a gift that allowed the College of Education to renovate and upgrade a frequently used conference room. That space is now known as the Hoehner Family Conference Room.

All told, members of the Hoehner family have received nearly 30 degrees from UNK.

“Dr. Hoehner bleeds blue and is a true supporter of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She exemplifies UNK in every sense,” according to her colleagues Gaskill and Unruh.

“The impact she’s had on the scholastic landscape is indescribable and may never be measured,” Unruh added.

Here’s what others had to say about professor Patricia Hoehner:

“During the time I have known Dr. Hoehner, it has become obvious to me that she is a person of integrity. She works diligently to build relationships with those who surround her. She conscientiously states her opinion in a diplomatic manner while still being very straightforward. Additionally, she communicates high expectations for all and models what commitment to any process entails. In short, Dr. Hoehner is competent, articulate, genuine and people-centered. I consider her both a valued mentor and a friend.” – Jan Hoegh, educational author and consultant for Marzano Resources-Solution Tree and Leading, Aspiring, and Achieving, LLC

“During my time with UNK, I had the privilege of working with many wonderful, intelligent, creative people. In every category that I can think of, Dr. Patricia is at the top of every list. She is very deserving of the very prestigious and coveted Leland Holdt Award. I know there will be some wonderful and deserving faculty who should qualify for the Leland Holdt Award, too. There are none this year, however, who are as deserving as our Dr. Patricia Hoehner.” – Scott Fredrickson, UNK professor emeritus

“Dr. Hoehner’s unwavering commitment to the intellectual and personal development of her students is second to none. I have several advanced degrees, and I can honestly say the courses I have taken from Dr. Hoehner have been the most memorable and impactful. Importantly, I am not alone when it comes to this sentiment. Her stimulating and inclusive teaching methods are not only innovative, but also deeply rooted in pedagogical theory, ensuring that her students receive a comprehensive and stimulating education. Dr. Hoehner is not just a teacher; she is a mentor who invests considerable time and effort in nurturing the potential of her students. Her passion for education is infectious, inspiring both her colleagues and students alike.” – Kraig Lofquist, executive director, ESU Coordinating Council