The St. Ambrose family suffered an unusual number of losses in the past seven months, from beloved professors, both former and current, to leaders and dedicated supporters of the university. They are all greatly missed.
Associate professor emeritus of music Robert Sutton '38 died Dec. 23, 2004, in Dunedin, Fla. A native of Chicago, he began a teaching career at St. Ambrose in 1947 that would span 36 years. Accomplished in piano and the clarinet and as a vocalist, Sutton dedicated much of his life to music and was instrumental, quite literally, in the development of many of the Music Department’s programs and performance groups.
Students returned for the spring semester to learn of the untimely passing of Rick Koehler PhD, associate professor of biology, on Jan. 14 in Moline. Koehler had taught in the Biology Department for the past 10 years. During that time, he was also involved in many SAU theatre productions in addition to his theatrical pursuits in Galesburg, Ill., where he lived with his wife, Gwen, and four children.
John Schmits, professor emeritus of art, died March 1 after battling cancer for two and a half years. Schmits, a student and close friend of Fr. Edward Catich, who nurtured the young man’s aptitude in painting and calligraphy, stayed on at St. Ambrose at Catich's request after graduating from the college in 1957. Schmits served as a member of the St. Ambrose faculty for 45 years, until his retirement in spring 2004. At that time, the Art Department established the John W. Schmits Award for senior art students to honor his remarkable career.
Father Charles Shepler, a St. Ambrose faculty member for several decades who was noted for securing space in the newly constructed Galvin Fine Arts Center for television equipment and a studio, died May 16 in Clinton, Iowa. Fr. Shepler earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose in 1940 and was ordained to the priesthood in September 1943. Over the years, he held positions as dean of men and chair of the department of speech and theatre.
Richard "Dick" Hollembaek, who served St. Ambrose in a number of advancement roles for more than 20 years, died Apr. 26 in Glendora, Calif. Hollembaek entered St. Ambrose College in 1946 after serving three years in the Army Air Force during World War II. When he graduated in 1950, he was hired as sports publicity director for the college. He eventually went on to a very successful career in the insurance industry, but remained connected to St. Ambrose and involved in alumni activities as a volunteer. In the early ’80s, he once again joined the St. Ambrose staff, with responsibilities for alumni affairs and development activities. He eventually moved to California, where he was an ambassador-at-large for St. Ambrose, assisting with the university’s alumni relations and fundraising efforts from several locations.