Beloved administrative assistant retires

Photo by Charlotte Reilly

Kamrin Baker

Milk the cows, go to school, attend cheerleading practice, milk the cows again, cheer at the football game… repeat. This was the life of Karen Ressegieu, pre-University of Nebraska at Omaha, over 53 years ago.

Karen Ressegieu is currently an administrative assistant for the Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service John Bartle, but has worked for eight deans, three vice-chancellors and six directors at the university. She was the first assistant in the aviation program and sat on the floor of the new building until desks became available, sitting crosslegged across from any student who needed her help.

“People say ‘everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten,’ but for me, everything I learned, I learned on the farm,” Karen Ressegieu said. “My dad was ill when I was in high school…I had to take care of everything. It taught me so much responsibility, organization and a sense of accomplishment.”

Karen will retire on Oct. 2 of this year, which is a milestone for anyone, but a 53-year-old milestone in the making for her. After graduating high school in Bertrand, Nebraska in 1962, Karen came to UNO and spent 10 years getting her degree in business education. She said she only took classes at night when her husband was in the military, while she endeavored to buy a house and worked for the university from the very start.

She started off as a stenographer, or typist, and then grew into administrative positions that allowed for more decision-making and active involvement. From working in arts and sciences, to aviation, criminal justice and now public affairs and community service, Karen has seen every corner of UNO.

“What I appreciate most about Karen’s service is the very high quality of her professionalism,” Dean Bartle said. “Nothing comes out of our office that is not done right. She is highly organized, efficient and knows everything about UNO.”

Although she has stuck to a schedule and routine in the CPACS office for 11 years now, Karen said each day behind the desk is different with each student and staff member that seeks out her help.

“It’s all been such a blur,” Karen said. “I’ve lived my entire life a semester at a time. I love being a part of a team and working on the goings-on of each college… I have the knowledge that other people forget… I immensely enjoy my work with all the staff and faculty; they’re my family.”

Karen’s strongest family unit outside of work, however, is her faithful and invested relationship with her husband, Jim. The couple has been married for 51 years, a few years less than Karen has been working at UNO.

“I was on academic probation when we met,” Jim said. “But then I turned my life around. When I look at my college transcripts, I always like to say that it was BK and AK; Before Karen and After Karen.”

Besides helping others (including her husband), Karen’s interests outside of the dean’s office lay in gardening, baking, exercising and advocating for women’s athletics at UNO. For over half of her career, Karen fundraised approximately $70,000 in scholarships and programs for women’s athletics.

“When I was in high school, girls couldn’t really participate in sports,” Karen said. “I wanted to give gals the opportunity to do that here and study at the same time.”

The overall tone of Karen’s career has been altruism and faith; creating an environment of efficiency and kindness in her various work-places. In all her years at UNO, Karen had only been interviewed once. The rest of the way, she was simply called upon to work in different offices, allowing her to become a constant on campus.

After retirement, the Ressegieus will take a few small vacations around the Midwest and continue serving in their communities on Sundays at church, for radio talking book services, and whenever UNO comes calling.

No matter the moments of relaxation and adventure to come, Karen said she will miss her post at UNO. Just a bit over a semi-centennial of working for the same employer has made her loyal to the Mavericks and attached to routine.

“Whatever her plans are, they will involve UNO,” Jim said. “We’ve been fans for over 50 years. You don’t just stop that because of a date on the calendar.”