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Hastings College honors all alums working in education field

America’s teachers have been designated as “essential workers” meriting high placement on the priority list for vaccination against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Indeed, teachers from coast to coast have stepped into the breach in many ways since late last winter, meeting the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and doing their best to keep students healthy, safe and engaged with their studies amid tumultuous times.

To express its gratitude and pride in the nearly 3,000 Hastings College graduates now helping schools and their students to keep moving forward, the HC Alumni Association recently presented all of them with its 2020 Outstanding Alumni Award.

Each is to receive an award poster and a face mask.

Matt Fong, associate vice president for external relations at the college, said the award is a gesture of HC’s esteem for its graduates now working in schools across the United States and beyond.

“There’s no doubt families and community members across the country have recognized the vital work of educators in our communities,” Fong said in an early December news release announcing the awards. “Hastings College has a long and successful history of educating teachers, and nearly 3,000 alumni are currently serving in classrooms around the world. We’re thrilled to be able to recognize them for the good work they do, and the extra effort they continue to make to put their kids first.”

According to the college, the Outstanding Alumni Award honors HC alums “who have made significant achievements in their professional or personal lives, made a significant contribution to society through personal leadership and service or have demonstrated leadership in support of the advancement or welfare of Hastings College.”

The award was established in 1951. Never before has it been presented to a group of alumni.

“Teaching is a rewarding profession and one that can also be exhausting and pull at a teacher’s heartstrings,” said Darci Karr, chair of the Hastings College Teacher Education Department. “It has been heartwarming to hear from our alumni about the work they are doing to support students in these unique times.

“Flexibility has always been part of teaching, but that has new meaning this year. Teachers are creative and doing amazing things to help all students learn and to support their needs. It is an honor to recognize that creativity, hard work and caring that comes from deep inside each teacher. We are very proud of all our teachers. You make a difference!”

Jeff Schneider, superintendent of Hastings Public Schools, employs many Hastings College graduates as members of the HPS faculty and staff.

Schneider said it’s hard to overstate his admiration for teachers’ work this year and the sacrifices they are making to help keep schools open and students learning and growing — no matter where those teachers earned their degrees.

Teachers have been asked to cover for one another in the classroom and for supervision duties because of large numbers of staff absences related to COVID-19, Schneider said — often giving up precious planning time to do so.

Teachers also have been spending many hours gathering send-home materials for students in quarantine, then working with them upon their return to re-teach critical lessons they missed.

“There’s constant shuffling that takes place every day in every building because of class absences,” Schneider said. “I could just keep going.”

Administrators, faculty and staff at all Hastings area public and private schools recently celebrated the completion of the fall semester — a semester many had expected to be marred by the collapse of in-person instruction under pressure from the virus.

Schneider said as the semester began, the HPS faculty and staff had talked about focusing on what is truly important in education and life, taking care of students and taking care of one another through times of personal and professional difficulty, including anxiety and illness in their own families.

“They took care of the kids, and they took care of each other so we could get through it,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for that.”

Schneider said he’s more convinced than ever how important it is for students to be in school for in-person instruction, even when it’s complicated to make that happen safely.

‘There’s no substitute for the discussion, the interaction, the lessons you learn,” he said.

And while this fall semester was the toughest he ever has experienced in 26 years in education, Schneider said, being able to complete it with buildings open and students in the desks was immensely gratifying.

“It’s outstanding,” he said. “It’s what we’re about. It’s our mission and our vision.

“There’s never been a semester like this — not even close.”

Graduates of the 2020 class of Hastings College process into a commencement ceremony held Sept. 26 during homecoming weekend for graduates who could attend.

Dealership strives to make customers for life
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Scott Sterling, owner of Hastings Ford Lincoln, has been in the car business for a large portion of his life.

He got his start by attending technical school and learning how to be an auto technician.

“That wasn’t my number one goal, but that’s what I ended up doing and ended up just loving it,” Sterling said.

From there, he had many opportunities to grow and gain experience in the auto industry.

Eventually, the opportunity arose to own his own dealership.

In 2012, the Rydell Automotive Group purchased Frontier Ford Lincoln in Hastings and renamed it Hastings Ford Lincoln.

Rydell Automotive Group began looking for someone to run the business.

“At the time, I was working in Iowa and so they called me up and said great news it’s you and your family’s opportunity,” Sterling said.

So his family left Iowa and moved to Hastings to run the dealership. The business has grown from 16 employees in 2012 to more than 60 today.

Later, Sterling was offered another opportunity by the Rydell Automotive Group.

“After growing Hastings Ford Lincoln and making it successful, the Rydell Auto Group gave me the opportunity to purchase it from them and become the sole owner,” Sterling said.

Sterling and his wife, Susan, took ownership of the business in 2019, continuing on the same path that had made the dealership successful.

“We strive to provide an honest, transparent and hassle-free experience for our customers,” he said.

He said the business strives to create a place that makes customers feel welcome when they first arrive.

“Each guest is greeted and personally escorted to where they need to go,” Sterling said.

He said he knows that sometimes car dealerships can be perceived in a bad light, which is why they try hard to provide an individualized experience that will make a customer feel comfortable.

“Customers will feel right at home, as if they are conversing with an old friend as we help address their needs and concerns,” Sterling said. “Our number one priority is providing great customer service and only having customers for life.”

Year in Review: July, August and September
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  • Fire destroyed a workshop in Hansen owned by Ken Hegwood. Volunteers later raised money and pitched in to rebuild it for the 87-year-old World War II veteran.
  • The Minden city government planned to reassess the impending threat to the community’s ash tree population after emerald ash borer was discovered in a tree in Kearney.
  • Much of Adams County Fairfest was postponed and merged with next year’s fair but the 4-H livestock projects continued.
  • Three Tribland rodeo competitors — Hunter Heath of Minden, Chance Mignery of Hastings and Caitlin Tibbs of Hastings — qualified to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
  • Blue Hill celebrated the Fourth of July with a full day of activities modified to follow directed health measur


aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune/  

Pat Huffaker (left), Cindy Johnson and Carol Yost recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a Constitutional Rally and March July 4, 2020, in Clay Center in honor of the Fourth of July.

  • Clay Center residents recognized Independence Day with a Constitutional Rally and March following disappointment from the city’s Fourth of July celebration being canceled.
  • Hastings College hired Josh Erickson as the new wrestling coach to replace Tyson Springer.
  • Clay County hosted a shortened county fair with only the 4-H shows and exhibits remaining on the schedule.
  • The Hastings City Council approved the appointment of Erik Nielsen as director of information technology for the city.
  • Hebron voters approved a bond issue for construction of a new municipal swimming pool, opting for a smaller bond amount than in a previous election and stipulating that property tax would backstop a half-cent city sales tax in covering the debt service payments.
  • Kool-Aid Days Festival was postponed until 2021 due to the novel coronavirus disease.
  • Officials with Nebraska Health and Human Services announced plans to move teenage girls from the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers in Geneva and Kearney to the Hastings Regional Center campus.
  • Shay Schanaman threw the Sodbusters’ first no-hitter to shut out the Western Nebraska Pioneers 7-0 at Oregon Trail Park Stadium in Gering.
  • A forensic evaluation by Engineering Specialists Inc. of Omaha concluded that the 16th Street viaduct can’t be repaired given the state of its substructure.
  • Area high schools got the chance to hold in-person graduation ceremonies, which had been postponed due to COVID-19.


  • The Old Trusty Antique Engine and Collectors Show in Clay Center was canceled due to public health concerns.
  • The Platte Valley Antique Machinery and Collectors Show near Ayr was scaled down to help with social distancing this year.
  • Allen’s of Hastings, a fixture in Hastings’ retail landscape since 1958, was sold to Russ’s Market operator B&R Stores Inc.
  • Area schools made plans to reopen for the fall semester, most including a face covering requirement for students and staff.
  • Hastings Public Schools boosted its e-learning program to provide an alternative to students returning to in-person classes.
  • Hastings Kiwanis installed outdoor musical instruments at every elementary school in and near the city.
  • Rich Lloyd was named executive president of Hastings College in a special arrangement with Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln, where Lloyd remains president.
  • The Oregon Trail Rodeo on the Adams County Fairgrounds had one of its best years in terms of crowds and competition.


  • After months of construction, a roundabout opened at U.S. Highway 6/34 and Adams Central Road in the interest of traffic safety near the Adams Central schools.
  • Joshua Drake, who had served nine years as the fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Bladen and five years as head high school girls basketball coach, took over his new duties as principal of Silver Lake High in Roseland.
  • On the same day Rich Lloyd took over his new duties as executive president of Hastings College, HC, Mary Lanning Healthcare and the Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln announced they were conducting a feasibility study to examine the prospects for a new Bryan nursing education program in Hastings.
  • Central Community College announced it was beginning the fall semester with 8.3% fewer students than it had at the start of fall 2019, but was expecting enrollment to grow somewhat throughout the fall with the start of short-term training programs and midterm courses.
  • St. Cecilia high school football players and coaches were sidelined for two weeks after a positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed. In all, more than 10% of the students body of St. Cecilia Middle School and High School was put into quarantine.
  • Longtime Hastings lawyer Robert Sullivan argued before the Nebraska Supreme Court on behalf of a local client appealing the granting of a divorce sought by the man’s wife, asserting that the man’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the law had been violated. The appeal challenged the constitutionality of no-fault divorce. The Supreme Court later upheld the granting of the divorce.
  • The Minden Opera House presented free outdoor concerts in the newly rehabilitated bandshell in Minden’s Chautauqua Park, seeking to bring live music back to the community safely after several months’ hiatus related to COVID-19.
  • Area 4-H and FFA participants were grateful to participate in youth competitions at the scaled-back version of the 2020 Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.
  • Jim Heyen, a former longtime member and president of the Hastings Board of Education, was sworn in to serve the remaining four months of an unexpired term. Robert Sullivan had vacated the seat when he moved from Hastings to Wahoo.
  • Hastings Fire and Rescue and Livingston-Butler-Volland Funeral Home organized a ceremony at Lincoln Park Fire Station to memorialize the 19th anniversary of terrorist attacks on the United States Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Lt. Gov. Mike Foley was guest speaker at a ceremony in Hastings’ Parkview marking the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. Members of the newly organized local chapter of Life Runners participated in the event.
  • The Hastings Downtown Center Association announced its decision to cancel its annual Halloween Trick-or-Treat and Celebration of Lights activities for this year due to public health concerns.
  • Several parents attended a meeting of the Adams Central Board of Education to speak out against a requirement that students wear face coverings as a public health precaution.
  • The Hastings City Council approved a “frugal” budget for city and utility operations in 2020-21, with a bottom line of $141,502,119, down from $149,402,450 for 2019-20. Although the new budget relies on a 6% increase in property tax funding, the property tax levy rate remains at 44.97 cents per $100 valuation — the same as it has been since 2016.
  • Work was beginning on installation of a new interactive playground in the kiddie pool area at the Aquacourt Water Park.
  • Harriett McFeely, founder of the Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum and Research Center in Hastings, unveiled the newest addition to the museum’s collection: an American flag recovered from the Garrison Cemetery in Butler County over Memorial Day Weekend with braids in it.
  • After a 42-year hiatus, a 1950s neon lighted sign pointing the way to downtown Geneva was returned to use at 13th and G streets.
  • Excavation for the new Blue Hill municipal swimming pool on the site of the old elementary school turned up contents of time capsules buried years earlier by sixth-graders.
  • The Nebraska Arts Council presented an Outstanding Artist award to Dave Stewart on the porch at The Kensington, where he resides. The award originally was to have been presented in March at the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, but the ceremony was deferred for public health reasons.
  • Hastings College homecoming festivities included a “reverse” Melody Round-Up parade on the campus and an in-person, outdoor celebration for 2020 graduates whose regular commencement ceremony in May was canceled due to COVID-19.