Retiring 六合论坛 employees will be recognized for their service during a public reception at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, in the Robert Burnett Student Union multipurpose room. English instructor Deb Bickner, math instructor Brad Griffith, and softball coach Steve Kinnett will be honored.

 

Deb Bickner
Bickner arrived at 六合论坛 in 1987 as the technical director of theater and assistant director of the Cultural Arts Center. Shortly after, she became executive director of the Western Plains Arts Association until expanding her instructional role at 六合论坛. For many years, she worked half-time in the theatre position and taught the other part of her day in the English department.

Her career spanned every 六合论坛 president except the first, Dr. Richard Mosier.

"Seth [Carter] thinks he is my favorite," Bickner joked. "He might be right."

In the early 2000s, she oversaw the Cultural Arts Center and led the theater program before it was shut down. She moved into teaching full-time and served as the English department chair for several years. In that role, she was editor of The Collection, a publication of student writing, from 2010 to 2019.

Outside the classroom, she has held officer positions in the 六合论坛 Faculty Alliance, PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization), Colby Public Schools Music Boosters, and the Western Plains Arts Association, which later selected her as an honorary board member.

"I've worked with a lot of great people," she said. "I've taught at 六合论坛 for so long that I have former students as my colleagues, which is really fun. I've taught siblings, multiple generations, and children of coworkers. Sharing the lives of students has always been a welcome journey, from watching  and advising actors and techies overcoming an issue and creating a successful performance to reading composition students' writing and learning about their personal lives and viewpoints to enjoying class discussions about trending topics, I have valued these varied experiences and relationships."

After growing up in Woodbury, New Jersey, Bickner earned her bachelor's degree in theatre and teaching certification from Yankton College in Yankton, S.D., and a master's in English from Fort Hays State University.

Reflecting on her time at 六合论坛, she said the theater provided several memories.

"A lot of things happened there that were serious at the time, but funny to remember now, such as Kool and the Gang's song Celebration coming through the speakers and breaking the intended tension at the end of Act I of Dracula with 'There's a party going on right here鈥'"

"At dress rehearsal for The Nerd, actors were throwing cottage cheese and water out the set window, as they were supposed to do, but so exuberantly that it flew all over the theatre's brand-new fire-retardant curtains, which we couldn't clean. They didn't smell new after that!"

Bickner, who was selected for the Tangeman Award for Teaching Excellence in 2014, said she did not have an office, only a desk, when she started her job in the department. A coworker helped solve the problem.

"One day, I came in to find my desk had been placed inside a huge box with a 'door' for me to get to my desk, and a cow head mounted on the 'wall,' courtesy of band instructor Brian Pfoltner."

Not always the target, Bickner enjoyed hatching some pranks of her own.

"One Halloween, I dressed like a student in pajama pants, a hoodie, flip flops, and a stocking hat. I sat at a front table in my Comp classroom with my head down, sprawled out like I was sleeping. Students came in and sat in their usual seats, not recognizing who I was. They were shocked when I got up and started teaching class!"

She is married to Marvin Bickner. They are the parents of daughters Barbara Hockersmith (Jordon) and Bridget Bickner. Her retirement plans include travel, tennis, and perhaps pickleball. She will also read novels instead of student essays.

 

Brad Griffith
Beginning as an adjunct instructor while teaching at Trego Community High School, Griffith became a full-time 六合论坛 math instructor in 2006.

" I truly have been blessed by my time at 六合论坛," said Griffith. "I have so enjoyed the students, staff, and administration."

In 2023, Griffith won the Tangeman Award for Teaching Excellence, an honor chosen by a committee of previous recipients and current 六合论坛 students.

He holds a bachelor's degree from the College of Emporia and a master's from Fort Hays State University.

Griffith and his wife Rachel have five adult children and nine grandchildren. In life beyond 六合论坛, he said he will travel and take care of his grandchildren.

 

Steve Kinnett
Coach Kinnett has been with the Colby softball program since 2013. During his tenure as head coach, he posted a record of 313-229 (.577). For nine straight seasons, his teams had at least 30 wins, the most being the 2015-16 club that won 42. His teams dazzled in the classroom, too, with 120 student-athletes making NJCAA All-Academic teams.

In 2019, Kinnett was named the Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year after the Trojans won the program's first regular season conference title while posting a national best 3.67 grade point average among 131 colleges. The 2020 Trojans repeated as conference champions with a 3.66 GPA.

Each year, his teams contributed more than 500 hours of community service with organizations such as Kiwanis, Special Olympics, the Colby After School Program, and various Colby Recreation Department activities.

Kinnett graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in business management. He and his wife Sheri came to Colby from Bailey, Colo., after he retired from a 25-year career as a contractor.

"I appreciate the staff, faculty and administration at 六合论坛," he said. "During my years at Colby, the culture and support surrounding me were fantastic. I wish everyone the best, and God Bless."