A veteran member of the Garden City Community College staff is leaving after nearly 25 years of service.
Steve Quakenbush, GCCC executive director of public relations, will become executive director of the Finney County Historical Society and Museum on Feb. 1, and his last day with the college will be Jan. 31. He is taking a position vacated by the upcoming retirement of Mary Regan, who has served 25 years with the society and museum, including the last 23 as executive director.
Both the incoming and outgoing FCHS directors are natives of Finney County, and Regan is staying on temporarily, on a part-time basis, to assist with the transition. Regan has been responsible for extensive growth of the historical society and the museum, and is credited with embodying the organization’s mission statement: “Preserving the past to enlighten the future.”
In addition to chronicling the early-day pioneering of the area, she has championed the need to record latter-day developments, including the extensive immigration that has dramatically shifted the population and makeup of the community since the 1980s – a phenomenon that has also affected the college.
Regan’s years as director have spanned one of the greatest periods of growth and change in the history of the Garden City and Holcomb area, and Quakenbush said he is as anxious to learn from her experience as he is to begin the new position.
Quakenbush, who began as GCCC director of information services and publications on May 23, 1988, is a third generation Finney County resident. He graduated from Garden City High School in 1974 after attending Garfield Elementary School and what was then known as Garden City Junior High. He earned an associate in arts degree from GCCC in 1976 and a bachelor of arts in communications at Fort Hays State University in 1979.
“Steve Quakenbush has made a positive difference for this college and will be missed,” said Dr. Herbert J. Swender, GCCC president. “I have personally enjoyed working with him. His tenure is greatly appreciated and he will definitely be an asset as the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society.”
Before taking charge of public relations at GCCC, he worked in 1980-1988 as news editor of the Southwest Daily Times, Liberal, after six months there as a reporter. He was editor of the Haskell County Monitor-Chief, Sublette, in 1979-80.
Quakenbush holds a certificate in marketing and market research and a Skillpath certificate in management by teamwork. He has earned eight Medallion Awards from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations and served three times as a presenter at NCMPR conferences in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. His work has been published by the Associated Press, Kansas! Magazine, Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, Community College Times, Community College Week, Kansas Trooper Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other periodicals.
He was editor of the student newspaper and a student government officer during his days as a GCCC student. At FHSU he was elected vice president of the Society for Collegiate Journalists, earned a series of awards in Associated Collegiate Press competition, and worked on the staff of the University Leader as reporter, feature editor and managing editor. He also served as a campus photographer.
In addition to marketing, public relations, news media relations and advertising at GCCC for most of his tenure, he has been in charge of broadcast programs, event publicity, publication management, market research and additional responsibilities over 24 years and seven months.
He designed the election campaign that led to voter approval in 2004 of the GCCC Student and Community Services Center. He organized and led the college’s 75th and 90th anniversary celebrations in 1994 and 2009, as well as organizing opening celebrations for the GCCC Residential Apartments, Beth Tedrow Student Center, GCCC Student and Community Services Center, Southwest Kansas Fire Training Center and the dedication of the Gary Jarmer Technical Annex.
He led publicity for the first two Tumbleweed Festival celebrations in Garden City, as well as chairing publicity for two successful Finney County United Way campaigns during the 1990s. He served four years as marketing group chairman for the EduKan online community college consortium, developed national advertising for GCCC presidential searches in 2000 and 2010, and has served on boards or advisory boards for the Finney County Convention and Tourism Bureau, Finney County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and March of Dimes WalkAmerica event.
Quakenbush, who has towed GCCC’s familiar victory bell up Main Street in 85 Garden City parades, displays an 11-word philosophy on his office wall: “None of the secrets of life will work, unless you do.” He and his wife, Neva, a Deerfield native who works part-time at GCCC, were married in 1979 and enjoy staying in bed and breakfast inns throughout the Central U.S., as well as visiting regional wineries and historic sites. They devote extensive time to upkeep and improvements at their home, a 1929-era Craftsman house in an older Garden City neighborhood.
“I’m gratified and excited to take a new fork in the road and follow in the footsteps of Mary Regan, who is retiring after 25 years of leadership for the historical society,” Quakenbush said. “I am also truly honored to take on what I see as the preservation of our heritage here in Southwest Kansas.”
“To those I have known both on and off campus, so many that I count among my friends, I want to wish all the best,” he said. “I hope that we can work together in new ways and endeavors over the years to come.”
“I also wish continued success to GCCC, and offer special thanks to each and every member of the faculty and staff, past and present,” Quakenbush concluded. “Serving with so many wonderful people at the first and finest community college in Kansas has been an honor that I will carry forever in my heart. For 93 years, this has been an institution that changes lives, and I will always be proud to say that my own life has been among them.”