Evelyn Steddom served Central College for almost 20 years in the ’80s and ’90s. During her time at Central, she worked for five academic deans before retiring in 1996. She still lives in Pella.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was married directly out of high school, so I did not attend college as a student. It’s interesting because my first major job after I was married was at William Penn College, and I worked there for eight years. I was their only bookkeeper—we are talking early ages here! I was the secretary to their Board of Trustees and then my children were born.
My husband was an elementary principal in Oskaloosa, which is our hometown. Both of us grew up there. As he moved to Marshalltown, then Newton and then Pella, I took part time jobs that were usually school-related. I took classes along the way—so I am probably about a junior if I counted all the credits between William Penn and Central.
What major would you be?
Oh, I definitely think psychology. It was very interesting to me. Or history. I love history.
What did you do at Central?
I had owned a small bookstore in Newton, but my husband was teaching in Pella at that time, so we moved here after we sold the bookstore. I started out in the clerical pool, and that’s when Central had a batch of secretaries that sat downstairs in the basement of Central Hall. We did all the professors’ typing and so forth. That does seem archaic, doesn’t it? I was there for a few months and then moved up to the development office and worked for Gary Timmer, who was vice president of development at that time. I worked there for about three years and then moved up to the office of the academic dean under Dr. Harold Kolenbrander ’60. During my tenure there, I worked for Kolenbraner, Dr. William Julian, Dr. W. Hutch Bearce, Dr. Coombs and Dr. Tom Iverson. It was a wonderful environment to work in.
What did you do after retiring?
When I was 62, I retired, and I was at home for a few months. Then Dr. Pam Steinke was charged with developing a program called PLACES, (a forerunner of the Center for Community-Based Learning). They asked me to come and work with Cheri Doane on that. My office was the closet in the computer lab in Jordan Hall. It truly was a closet. There was just room for a desk area and files!
I worked part-time for two years after retiring. My husband and I had an acreage, and we enjoyed fixing that up and having a farm for our grandchildren to come to. In 2002, we moved back to Pella. After my husband passed away in 2008, I needed something to do, so I started working at the Pella Crier doing some handwork. There is a cadre of about five older ladies who come in and do folding and stapling or inserting—things that can’t be done by the machines.
What hobbies do you have?
I read a lot. I am secretary for the hospital auxiliary. And I am very busy in the church. I also go out for lunch a lot. I tell people that I work to support my lunch habit because I really do enjoy people. Never having lived very far from this area—just Oskaloosa, Newton and Pella—I have friends in all of those communities that I still keep in touch with. It makes for a fairly lively social life!
Did any family members decide to attend Central?
I have three sons, and they all attended Central—though they all didn’t graduate from there! My oldest son, Jeff, went to Central for one year. The other two, Steve ’86 and John ‘85, graduated from Central.
Actually, we lived on campus. As you go down Broadway, there is the welcome sign and the Central Market—our house sat right where that sign is. It was the old Baptist church parsonage. We lived there, and the kids stayed at home. I just walked to the office, and Steve and John both attended classes. My husband worked at Webster, where the facilities building is now. We really had it made for a few years!
I have seven grandchildren, with six in college all over the United States. And none at Central!
Do you have any vivid memories of Central?
I am leaving out all the juicy parts! I have a distinctive southern Iowa twang—I am sure people would remember that as being something characteristic about me. Dr. Weber, who was a linguistics professor, he always said he could tell I grew up south of highway 92.
I’m sure there are many stories that could be shared, but I worked closely with the president’s secretary because the office was right there next to mine. For many years, I worked with Louise Hallenbeck and then Ardie Sutphen ’64. Ardie and I are still friends.
The people I worked with were just incredible. They really were. I worked mostly with the faculty, as opposed to the students, because I was secretary to the faculty. They always were so respectful, and it makes it hard for you to work in another situation because a lot of work places aren’t like that.
In the dean’s office, at the time, all of the applications for faculty positions came through us. We ran the ads for the searches, and all the materials came into the dean’s office. We were responsible for keeping the materials in order and helping the search committees make their decisions.
Any final thoughts?
It was a very building time at Central. It was an exciting time to work there. I’m sure schools go through a lot of metamorphosis over the years. I always enjoyed the relationships—I will leave it at that.