Chadron State College’s Winter Commencement for graduate and undergraduate students is Friday, Dec. 14. The graduate ceremony is at 2 p.m. in Memorial Hall’s Auditorium with Dr. Robert Stack as the speaker. The undergraduate ceremony is at 4 p.m. in the Chicoine Center with Judge Russell Harford as the speaker. There are 79 candidates for master’s degrees and 159 candidates for bachelor’s degrees. Both events can be seen on CSC Live.
Dr. Robert Stack
Dr. Robert Stack has been involved in both academics and athletics since coming to Chadron State College 20 years ago. He has been chair of the college’s Mathematics Department for 14 years and served as the Eagles’ softball coach for 10 years before relinquishing those duties at the end of the 2017 season.
A native of Tabor, South Dakota, Stack attended the University of South Dakota, where he earned each of his degrees: a bachelor’s in 1990, a master’s in 1991 and a doctorate in 1998, just before he came to Chadron State as a mathematics professor.
While completing his doctorate, he also taught in USD’s Math Department and coached baseball four years after having been a standout player for the Coyotes as an undergraduate. He also was the university’s homecoming king as a senior.
After receiving Chadron State’s Teacher Excellence Award twice, Stack was the 2004 recipient of the George Rebensdorf Teaching Excellence Award presented annually to the individual selected as the outstanding professor in the Nebraska State College System.
He was nominated for the award by one of his colleagues, who called Stack “an excellent practitioner of the art and science of undergraduate instruction, the first priority of the system.” The nomination also said Stack was popular with students, blending strategies of instruction in courses and maintaining student involvement in his courses.
It was also noted that Stack’s technical skills helped Chadron State develop the first completely online undergraduate mathematics degree program in the nation.
Despite receiving the coveted award and also earning tenure as a professor in 2004, Stack stepped away from academics for two years to serve as the college’s Dean of Students. Already well-known on campus, he became even more visible as he participated in student services, attended numerous student organization meetings and initiated regular dinner with the dean luncheons.
While Stack enjoyed his involvement with students outside the classroom, in the fall of 2007, he returned to academics and was appointed chair of the Mathematics Department again in 2008. Already the college’s Faculty Athletics Representative, his role on campus expanded even more when he agreed to become the college’s softball coach in 2007.
For the next 10 years, he did double duty, teaching math and leading the department while also building the softball program, which required long hours recruiting and coaching.
As the Eagles’ coach, Stack led the team to average 22 wins a season and achieved a program-best 32 wins his final year. Three of his final four teams reached the conference playoffs and finished among the top four in the final standings. He was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2014.
During his tenure at Chadron State, Stack has presented research papers at state, regional and national math education conferences. He also has been president of the Nebraska Association of Mathematics and was on the association’s board of directors seven years. In addition, he has served in various capacities related to the evaluation and certification of math programs for both the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Stack and his wife, Jill, have three sons – Riley, Caston, and Jayden – and three daughters – Kiya, Brooklyn, and Kennady.
Judge Russell Harford
Judge Russell Harford, a native of Lead, South Dakota, and a 30-plus year resident of Chadron, began his law career as a night police dispatcher in his hometown, before working in the administrative division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. He earned his bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from the University of Maryland in 1975 and his wife, Colleen, earned her degree in sociology. The couple has been married since 1973.
Harford took a job with the Nebraska State Patrol in Lincoln and transferred to northwest Nebraska in 1978 as a drug investigator. He soon began taking classes at Chadron State College and earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. Following his graduation in 1983, Harford began studying for a law degree at the University of Nebraska law school. He completed that degree in 1987 and in 1989 joined a Chadron law firm. He practiced law for 20 years and in 2009 former Governor Dave Heineman appointed him to a County Judge position in Chadron.
“Since I was appointed, I’ve always encouraged students, both high school and college, to attend court when it is in session. After court is over, I try to answer their questions. While I can’t speak directly about the cases they observe, I can give them general information about the court system and how it works. I have always felt that providing some insight into the court system is part of what being a judge is about,” Harford said.
Currently in his 10th year as one of five County Judges in the panhandle, Harford primarily serves Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux Counties. Harford remains busy with numerous activities, including a juvenile welfare initiative, “Thru the Eyes of the Child” mentoring young lawyers and court staff, and assisting debtors and tenants who represent themselves in county court. Harford also encourages lawyers to practice in rural areas. His efforts were recognized in 2016 when he was honored with the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Distinguished Judge for Community Service Award.
Harford stays involved with Chadron State College. He participated in early conversations that eventually led to the establishment of the Rural Law Opportunity Program at CSC. Earlier this fall, Harford received the Chadron State College Distinguished Alumni Award. He is also the president of the Chadron State College Alumni Board.
For the past four years, Harford has been a key resource for senior Social Work students during the planning phase of their annual Social Work conference. He helps identify speakers in his professional network who are legal or criminal justice experts and provides other resources, information and feedback. He has also participated in panel discussions.
In 2017, Harford was influential in securing the Nebraska Court of Appeals hearing oral arguments on campus. It was the first event of its type at CSC and he was pleased to see the Court of Appeals convene at CSC after convening at high schools and colleges in other parts of the state. He said he anticipates the Court of Appeals will return to the CSC campus.
With the assistance of Legal Studies professors Dr. Lisette Leesch and Dr. Mike Bogner, Harford was able to secure a Legal Aid of Nebraska kiosk in the King Library. The kiosk provides assistance to anyone with landlord/tenant or creditor/debtor issues.
Harford also remains active in his community. He’s a long-time member and past president of the Chadron Rotary Club, and he is treasurer of the Chadron Public School Foundation.
Following is the list of local candidates by degree. Undergraduate honor graduates are designated with asterisks.
***Summa cum laude, 3.9-4.0 GPA
**Magna cum laude, 3.75-3.89 GPA
*Cum laude, 3.6-3.74 GPA
Bachelor of Arts
Chadron: Keenan Johnson**, Elizabeth O'Conner**, Kristavia Strotheide*, Trace Strotheide**, Tatum Westemeier
Hay Springs: Laurin Bronson
Hemingford: Rebecca Wignall
Whitney: Kelli Haynes
Bachelor of Science
Crawford: Benjamin Absalon
Bachelor of Science in Education
Chadron: Gatlin Mack
Master of Business Administration
Chadron: James Healy, Gabrielle Michna
Master of Education
Hay Springs: Jana Binger
Master of Science in Organizational Management
Chadron: Jessica McConnell