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The dean of employment

Barry McNamara
01/06/2011
Dean St. Ledger takes a moment to relax from his duties as supervisor of Monmouth College’s “Green Army.” St. Ledger said the nickname for the college’s building and grounds crew started in about 1960 when Paul Bunn ordered all-green uniforms for his crew. “They started calling us the ‘Green Army,’ and it’s stuck ever since, even though the uniforms aren’t green anymore,” he said. The bottom photo shows St. Ledger at the 1985 commencement ceremony with two of his children, Aileen and Raymond.
Dean St. Ledger barely made it through his first week at Monmouth College in 1957. But once he did, he went on to achieve one of the longest careers in the 158-year history of the institution.

“That was the closest I ever came to quitting,” recalls St. Ledger, who will officially be honored for a half-century of service on Jan. 10 at the college’s annual employee recognition party. “I was told I was going to be working with heavy equipment, but for that first week, I was inside the dismal, dirty heating plant. I grew up on a farm south of Roseville, and I had always been outdoors. I told them, ‘You’ve got to get me out of there,’ and that’s what they did. By the next week, I was mowing,”

The next week became the next year, the next year became the next decade, and the next decade became the next century. St. Ledger rose through the ranks, moving from custodian to utility man to electrician, a position he held for 17 years.

From 1974 to 1996, St. Ledger managed about 35 campus employees while serving as supervisor/superintendent of building and grounds, a position that had been held by previous bosses such as Gary Carlson and Paul Bunn. He did “quit” at the end of that 22-year management stint, but his retirement was short-lived. St. Ledger returned three years later at the start of the 1999-2000 school year, and he has worked part time in Wells Theater as the scene shop and lighting supervisor ever since.

St. Ledger has regularly performed jobs for area residents, and work that he did on theatre professor Bill Wallace’s home in the late 1990s led to his return. Wallace told him that the college would be hiring someone part-time to help build sets, and St. Ledger said he was interested.

He works four-hour shifts in the afternoons at Wells Theater, helping to construct the sets that theatre professor Doug Rankin designs. Asked how long he might continue in that role, he replied, “It just depends on my health and how I’m feeling.”

To hear Rankin talk, it appears St. Ledger still feels pretty good.

“Dean is unlike anyone I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “All I have to do is tell him an idea, and he figures out how to do it below budget. Dean is a master at recycling and has saved the college many thousands of dollars. He also does the work of two 20-year-olds and can still climb like a monkey. Dean has always been the ideal employee, and it is a joy to work with him and learn from him.”

When one thinks of longevity at Monmouth College, Gracie Peterson often comes to mind. Not only did Gracie work for 50 years at her alma mater, but she also lived to be 104 and famously performed at Galesburg’s Orpheum Theatre on her 100th birthday.

But if St. Ledger continues his job through commencement, he will be the new face of longevity at a college that was also the longtime professional home for such legendary individuals as Alice Winbigler (50 years), Sam Thompson (46 years) and Bobby Woll (44 years).

Right around Monmouth’s graduation ceremony in May, St. Ledger will have worked exactly 51 years at the college, longer than anyone else before him. The college’s exclusive 50-year club includes only St. Ledger, Peterson, Winbigler and former librarian Lois Blackstone.

“Leading by example, Dean has always been a soft-spoken, unselfish mentor to all of us who have had the privilege to work with him,” said Mike McNall, MC’s director of personnel. “His lifelong dedication to our institution, especially to our students and their families, is truly appreciated by all. We salute and congratulate Dean for over 50 years of extraordinary service to Monmouth College.”

While some active employees can claim they are veterans of Vietnam or the Gulf War, St. Ledger goes back even further. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1950 and served until 1953, including nine months in Korea.

Asked what he would have done had that first week at Monmouth been his last, St. Ledger replied, “There were four of us boys growing up on the farm, and it wasn’t big enough for all of us. I had received training as an electrician in the Army, so I might have tried to get into that with a company like IBM.”

But instead, St. Ledger stayed at Monmouth, and he said the campus community is the reason why.

“I’ve enjoyed doing it. The big thing is that I’ve enjoyed the people. There’s a real family atmosphere here. I’ve been treated fairly, and the college lets you do your own thing, as long as you’re doing it right.”

Monmouth’s “family” atmosphere has been especially strong for St. Ledger. His wife, Nancy, has been on staff since 1973, and two of their children, Aileen and Raymond, graduated from the college in 1985. Today, Nancy, who is a 1969 graduate of Monmouth, serves as an academic secretary in the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center.

Also being honored at the college’s employment recognition party are four individuals with either 25 or 30 years of service to Monmouth College. Receiving a 30-year pin will be Jacquelyn Condon, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Faculty members Mary Bruce and Sue Holm and chief information officer Daryl Carr will receive 25-year pins.