A part of MCCC’s story has ended as of Wednesday, Aug 31. Following 36 years of employment at the college, Coordinator of Campus & Community Events and Student Activities, Tom Ryder retired.
During his time at MCCC, he was synonymous with the college’s Student Government, having taken the position of Student Government advisor one day and maintaining that title until his retirement.
“The Student Government advisor that was there had left,” Ryder said. “I was the same age as most of the members when I had started, and always enjoyed the events and activities they did, so when the advisor at the time had left, I actually went in and asked if I could take over Student Government.”
He talked about the amount of planning that required going into an event.
“Some events are really small and relatively easy to plan,” he explained. “While some require a lot of planning.”
“Once you get one event done, there’s another right away next week, so organization was the biggest part. You always had to be organized because you had to look ahead to what was coming.” Ryder said. “You couldn’t just focus on this one event, you had this one and this one also.”
Ryder then talked about the challenges in his job during the start of the COVID-19 era.
“That was probably the most challenging couple of years in doing events, because you’d plan an event and unfortunately you’d have to cancel because COVID-19 numbers went up, or the rules changed.” he said. “For example, if we were doing a cookout, I didn’t really know how many students were going to attend.”
He explained the process that went into deciding for Koda to become the school mascot.
“We did a contest, and we narrowed it down to, let’s say, five finalists.”
“We put it up to a vote for the students, and the students voted on the winner. We just went through and eliminated duplicates and ones that weren’t appropriate.” He said with a laugh. “We didn’t have too many of those!”
He says that he hopes whoever takes up Student Government continues with what he has already done and makes it better.
“I hope to see them still going strong, doing more events and activities for our students, getting more students involved, doing more than what we did.”
Elizabeth Hartig, whose job is a combination of Faculty Reference Librarian and Public Services, will be taking over as Student Government advisor.
Ryder said that during his time at MCCC, he was most passionate about Student Government.
“I love working with the students. Favorite part of my job. They kept me young, they kept me in the loop, kept me up with the lingo. My take on Student Government is I just always wanted to have fun with the students.” Ryder said. “I looked at it as this; I was there 40+ hours a week, while we’re there, we might as well have fun while doing it.”
Ryder also expressed his enjoyment in organizing the theater events.
“I certainly enjoyed doing the theater events, we had some great patrons, some great people that attended the events, so it was always fun to see them as well. It was always fun doing the theater events.”
Jimmy LeDuc, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Division, will be taking over events at Meyer Theater, although he is not sure of the details yet.
Regarding his retirement, Ryder recalled a special moment with President Welch, MCCC’s former president.
“I was really upset that he was retiring because he was a great president, and I didn’t understand why he would be retiring.” Ryder explains. “He took me aside, we had a cup of coffee, and I remember him saying that he wanted to go out on top of his game. He told me ‘You know when it’s time, and it’s just time for me to go.’”
Ryder then said that he feels the same way as Welch felt years prior.
“The college changed a lot in the last 36 years, so that was part of it for me. It was just time for me to go.” He said. “And I think the COVID years made it difficult. I’ve lost a good number of friends over the last few years. Some my age, some a little younger, some a little older.”
He then explained the importance of family in his choice to retire.
“I wanted to take some time for myself and my family, and I think that was the final reason, just to enjoy life and try something different. I don’t know what that is yet, but just do some different things.”
Ryder further explained that he wasn’t in agreement with the recent surge of online classes.
“I think what students need, and what’s best for students, is to be in person.” He said. “Maybe it’s because of the pandemic, I don’t know. But that makes it so much harder to do my job.”
“I think these are the best times of your life.” He said, explaining the importance of human interaction in the classroom. “This is when you meet people that influence your life and your career, it’s when you might meet your significant other, it’s when you make some of the closest friends you’ll ever have.”
“It’s when you learn communication, it’s when you learn diversity, and how you deal with other people. In classes you have different races, different ages, different genders.” Ryder explains. “And it’s not that you don’t have that in K-12, but it’s different when you get to college. You meet instructors that influence your life.”
He then explained how the pandemic and surge of online courses affected his job as the Student Government advisor.
“For the last two years, I don’t feel like I was able to give them the same experience as the previous Student Government. We start off with small events and team building, and by the end of the year, they’re doing major and big events, and I hope that along the way they learn friendship, they build a team, they build friendships, which makes all these bigger events easier to do. I think some of that is missing.”
He explained that his plans regarding retirement are very open.
“I’m not a sit in front of the TV kind of guy. I have a honey-do list at home of stuff I wanna get caught up on. I’ve been offered six, seven jobs already.” He said. “I will probably do something at least part time.”
“There’s a chance I may even walk back to the college doors and help there, if the college wants me back. They might not even want me back, I don’t know!” He said while laughing. “It’s been my life helping students, providing cultural opportunities for the community, that’s all I’ve ever known.”
Ryder proceeded to talk about the shift in his life that will come following retirement.
“You know, I’m 56, so I think about spending 36 years of my life at the college. I’ve spent more of my life at the college than I have away from the college. So it’s gonna be a change, but we’ll see! I’m open to all kinds of opportunities.”
Ryder’s time at the college will also be remembered by his coworkers and peers.
“Tom was a great mentor, friend, and colleague.” Mary Lyons, Administrative Assistant for Events and Reservations at MCCC said. “I learned so much from Tom and his great organizational skills!”
“Tom was always my go to person because of his years of experience here on campus.” She continued. “I will truly miss our laughs and how he always understood the crazy happenings of working with so many on and off campus.”