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Five decades later: Bev Mathiesen continues career at UNK

Photo by Rachel Ostdiek / Antelope Staff

Bev Mathiesen has been at UNK for over five decades, working in the Chancellor’s office for the last 27 years. As one of the longest-serving employees, she has seen the university undergo significant changes.

With Chancellor Doug Kristensen set to retire at the end of the academic year, Matheisen will have witnessed the transition of four different leaders at UNK. 

“Chancellor Kristensen and I have worked together for so long,” Matheisen said. “We always joked about when he retired, I would retire, and vice versa. Now that it’s really happening, I’m taking my time.”

After all these years, the reason she has stayed is because of the people.

“I’m really blessed that this is where I landed and this is where I stayed,” Mathiesen said. “Everyone I have worked with and for at UNK have been wonderful, committed, and just really real people.”

Mathiesen started her career at UNK in 1972. At the time, Bev and her husband, Roger, had recently tied the knot and chose to relocate to Kearney to enroll at Kearney State College. They moved into University Heights, a housing option for married students or upperclassmen, which was at the current site of Village Flats Apartments.

“A job came open in the housing office, now called Residence Life, a few days after we arrived,” Mathiesen said. “I applied for it, got it, and that job was my first five years working for UNK. I loved it.”

While working in the housing office and earning her bachelor’s degree, Bev and Roger became house parents for Alpha Omicron Pi, a sorority newly moved on campus. Despite their initial hesitation, the offer of free rent and a garage convinced the couple, who took on the role at age 21, younger than some of the sorority members.

“It was fun, and the girls were fun,” Mathiesen said. “Roger helped move people in and out and would change light bulbs, and I more or less did paperwork and got to know the girls. There was just enough separation.”

Bev and Roger served as the Alpha Omicron Pi house parents for nine years, residing in Case Hall and then Conrad Hall, both of which have since been demolished. Living on campus provided this young couple with a taste of the traditional college experience, albeit in an unconventional role.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Mathiesen chose to remain at UNK. Over the years, she worked in the housing office, Math, Statistics, and Computer Science Department, the dean of education’s office and eventually the senior vice chancellor’s office, each for five years.

“Every job I hated to leave because I liked it there,” Mathiesen said. “I liked the people. Then I would worry about the new job. But every job was just as nice as the last one.”

She landed upon her role in the chancellor’s office by accident, while working for the senior vice chancellor. 

“At the time, Chancellor Johnston wanted a change in her office personnel,” Mathiesen said. “So one day she just switched me and the other person working for her. I don’t think human resources would’ve been pleased. There were no interviews.”

Since that impromptu switch, Mathiesen has been with the Chancellor since, even through the transition to Chancellor Kristensen; a rarity for office staff during changes in chancellors, she said.

While Mathiesen’s role isn’t forward facing, she has important duties that keep campus running. From planning the commencement ceremony three times a year to scheduling all meetings and appearances for the Chancellor, she is a busy woman.

“I feel like I’ve contributed,” Mathiesen said. “I choose to be a background type person, I don’t feel like I’m a leader. Even if everyone doesn’t know my name, I’m a part of something big.”

Mathiesen’s most memorable moments at UNK include the total solar eclipse of 2017, her experiences with rumored haunted Conrad Hall in the ‘70s and meeting President Bill Clinton during his trip to UNK in 2000.

After 52 years, her retirement isn’t far off but she’s taking time with the decision.

“I don’t want to leave the Chancellor’s office with no experience, and I think I could be helpful to the next person,” Mathiesen said. “If they want me to stay, I might stay a little longer. I just like what I do. It’s fulfilling. A friend of mine sent me something that said, ‘I thought it would take longer getting this old’, and that’s exactly how I feel. ”

Bev Mathiesen meets former President Bill Clinton in 2000. Courtesy Photo
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Rachel Ostdiek
Rachel Ostdiek, Executive Editor
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