SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Coral Richards didn’t expect much of a turnout for her retirement reception Wednesday.
“Coral was sure nobody was going to come,” said Julie Walworth, Chairperson of the Western Community College Area (WCCA) Board of Governors.
Instead, about 200 people filled the John C. Bishop Dining Hall to honor Richards for her 58 years of service at Western Nebraska Community College.
“I am totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that I see here from family and friends,” Richards said. “It’s a bittersweet moment, I have to say, after all these years for me at the college, but I leave it in good hands.”
Richards, a 1959 alumna of Scottsbluff Junior College, has worked for the college as the director of community services, secretary to the president, and administrative assistant to the president. Plus, she was the first – and, to date, only – Secretary to the Board of Governors.
“She’s very well versed, she knows everything by heart,” Walworth said. “She’s worked it that long, it’s part of her life.”
Yet after 58 years of service, one thing will stick with Richards above everything else – the students.
“I think the students and having the students come back (is what I’ll remember the most),” she said. “I worked with lots of wonderful staff and administration, but what we’re really about is the success of our students and that’s truly important.”
Included in that student body is Larry Calfee – a member of the 1960s Student Action Committee. The committee, which worked closely with Richards, helped save the college from closure by expanding support throughout the community which eventually helped build the present day WNCC Scottsbluff Campus.
Calfee, who could not attend Wednesday, wrote a letter for Richards to be read during the reception.
“Those people that helped mentor me (at WNCC) are very special, and Coral stands tall on that list, vividly etched in my mind,” Calfee wrote. “I am certain that my thank you will not be the only shared as Coral is honored at this reception today.”
Perhaps the biggest honor Richards received Wednesday, though, was the Board of Governors voting to name the new WNCC Board Room, when finished, the Coral E. Richards Board Room.
“It just seemed to fit,” WNCC President Dr. Todd Holcomb said. “There was no other way to name the board room.”
Construction on the Scottsbluff Campus Main Building renovation is scheduled for completion in July 2019.
“I was very surprised, very humbled and very honored,” Richards said. “It’s really a great honor.”