Rusty Lynd and Kevin Bradley (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Rusty Lynd and Kevin Bradley (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
After graduating from Indiana State University in 1971, Don Heiderman took a job he didn't really want. He told himself it would only be temporary - something to help make ends meet before a better opportunity came along.

"I had a degree in physics, so I figured everyone would want me," Heiderman said with a broad grin.

His next-door neighbor, the regional director of Ivy Tech's Southeast region, offered him a job at the college.

"He asked me if I would be interested in working, in helping Ivy Tech kind of get started," he said.

Ivy Tech began operations in Madison on Main Street in 1971, but the school was working on a new location at First Street and Broadway, which opened in 1972. The present location on the hilltop opened in 1983 and was expanded in 2007.

Heiderman accepted a job assisting with the transition in those early days.

"I helped master electricians with all the electrical, and I helped the master plumbers with rerouting some of the plumbing, lowered ceilings and sanded floors and just the whole thing. I think I learned more in about three months than I had in my previous 16 years or so of formal education."

The job turned out to be more than temporary. Heiderman remained at the school for 42 years, working his way up to vice chancellor of the Southeastern Region.

Heiderman is one of a group of long-serving colleagues retiring from Ivy Tech this year.

Many of the soon-to-be retirees have been involved with the school since its early days and helped shepherd the community college through major transitions.

Among the retirees are: Cora Adams, associate professor in nursing; Hank Bentz, executive director of marketing and communications; Kevin Bradley, registrar; Joe Harsin, maintenance custodian; Paula Heiderman, executive director of resource development; Richard Hill, director of financial aid; Russel Lynd, associate director of the corporate college; Joe Moore, vice chancellor of academic affairs, and Margaret Seifert, director of academic support services.

Most are retiring at the end of the month.

Together, the retirees' cumulative experience at the college accounts for more than 300 years.

They have seen the college evolve from being a scattershot campus located throughout downtown Madison to its first permanent location on the hilltop, and now three regional facilities in Madison, Lawrenceburg and Batesville.

"It's going to be bittersweet," Paula Heiderman said about choosing to retire. "We're leaving a family. That will be the hard part ... but we know we're leaving it in good hands."

Paula Heiderman joined the college in 1985 as the executive secretary to the dean. In 1999, she became the executive director of resources. Her first major job was the capital campaign to raise money for the college's current building.

One thing Paula Heiderman and the rest of the group of retiring school leaders did throughout their tenure was change jobs.

Bradley was hired as the regional relations coordinator 37 years ago. He handled advertising and public relations for the school.

Eventually, Bradley was needed elsewhere. He was promoted to the assistant director of student affairs.

"I have done everything in student affairs, with the exception of running the department," Bradley said.

When Seifert was hired in 1982, she had seven job assignments that eventually turned into seven different full-time jobs.

"We all wore different hats," she said. "We all did whatever it took to grow this whole college."

And the college has grown.

In 1973, Ivy Tech had a graduating class of 11 students. Last year, the Southeast campus issued more than 300 certificates and diplomas.

While growth and change was always on their mind, the group said they still wanted to maintain the personal touch the school had when it was smaller.

"We always went above and beyond on customer service," Bradley said. "I'd put us up against any college in the state of Indiana, and we'd blow them away."

Bentz said the first impression of Ivy Tech has stayed true to form through his decades of employment.

"On my very first day, there was a student of maybe ... 18 to 20 years old, sitting at a table with a student who was 45 to 50 years old, and they were studying together," Bentz said. "If you came here today, you'd see that again somewhere."

One thing that has changed at the college over the years is the image, Don Heiderman said.

"We've gone from being a flunky to being pretty much respected among the community and state colleges."