Midland University - Fremont, Ne

Trautrimas Looks Back on 40 Years at Midland

Trautrimas Looks Back on 40 Years at Midland

Dec 30th , 2010

Betsy Hansen/Tribune correspondent |

Patricia Trautrimas is retiring from Midland University this year.

It's been 41 years since a newly married young woman began her work at the university.

Pat and Martin Trautrimas were married in 1962 and Pat Trautrimas was hired by Midland in 1964. The young couple began a body of work that would influence students in many areas of their academic careers.

"I began part time, just doing English lab work with students who needed help," she said. "It evolved. Midland kept saying, ‘Do you suppose you could' and I kept saying, ‘Yes.'"

Pat remembers working under seven different administrations and observing the changes as the university went from a being a pastor-led institution to becoming a university with leadership tuned to a business model.

"There has been a change in the country as a whole," she said. "Liberal arts are seen as less valuable. Yet, it is out of that heritage that our system of ethics comes. One of the roles of this particular liberal arts university is to explore what it means to be human. Philosophical and religious ideas come together. The whole process of thinking and questioning is central to liberal arts institutions. I want our students to go out in the world and carry those values with them."

This last semester her students read about 70 short stories, works carefully selected to introduce readers to writers and characters. They discussed in class and wrote papers dissecting what they had read.

"My reputation is that I am hard, that I push the student," she said. "It is an insult to say to a student that I would not push them. I want them to be comfortable in the most stringent situation. I should help them to be able to cope with the highest standards."

If Pat Trautrimas has any regrets in her academic career, it is that she did not finish her doctorate. She had done all the preliminary work, taken the courses, done the research and passed the oral and written exams.

"Then I had an opportunity to spend the summer traveling in Russia, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine," she said. "It was easy then, not to go ahead when I really should have done so, but the connections I made that summer have become important to me. We still get together once or twice a year."

The group was comprised of Lutheran college professors. Relationships became friendships and became a rewarding part of Trautrimas' life. She served as president of the associated Lutheran College Faculties.

"I was asked if I would be willing to serve," she said.

Trautrimas smiled.

"People kept saying, ‘Would you?' with me saying ‘Yes.' Working with faculties in diverse fields is so much fun," she added.

One important contribution Trautrimas has made to Midland students is the international trips she had led, first in collaboration with her husband, Martin. After his retirement, she said she found that, "I had the courage to do it on my own." She works with another faculty member to arrange all the details of taking a group of college-age adults to places they have never been.

She believes that "no learning occurs without change. We prefer a body at rest. Change required that we open our mind to new things. It requires more than we actually want to give.

"Students are not always open to new ideas. For example: When teaching a new way to take notes, I once heard an 18-year-old say, ‘Well, I've always done it that way.' Eighteen years old and not willing to change! Resistant to change!"

She shakes her head in disbelief.

"I was working with this group of students because they were in a ‘good risk' program," she said. "One would think that the young would be open to change. That is not always the case. Freshmen are fresh students. They are scared. My task was to awaken them to a world well beyond what they knew. We sometimes forget that some of the freshmen have never flown beyond Nebraska. The diversity we live in has yet to be exposed."

Another aspect of her style of teaching is that she pushes her students to be literate, to communicate as effectively as possible.

"To be human is to use language," she said. "If we are unable to communicate well, we will be diminished. I kid them. I say, ‘If someone comes and knocks at your door and you say, ‘Who is it?' and the answer is ‘It is I'. You know it's your English teacher."

Proficiency in communicating goes back to the reader. Literature opens doors. It gives the reader different view of life and lets them know that other people do things differently.

The fondness Pat Trautrimas has for her students is a part of her. Her determination to make them the best they can be is what drives her. And, when their academic career at Midland University is finished, there is the poignancy of letting go.

"I like the traditional campus, of being able to engage with students beyond the classroom, in the line at the cafeteria, while walking on campus. It's a real joy to see them when they graduate, to see the growth that has occurred, to have found a way of reaching them where they are and moving them onward," she said.

She gives credit to her husband, Martin, for the career she has loved.

"I would have done none of this without Martin blazing the path," she said.

Forty-one years of teaching has come to an end, but 48 years of marriage continues as strong as when began.