Pathways to Success banquet honors alumni, educators

Published 5:07 am Friday, October 14, 2022

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Four alumni of Albert Lea Area Schools, as well as four distinguished educators, were honored Thursday in the 22nd annual Pathways to Success banquet at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club.

Among the alumni were Larry Brandt (class of 1969), Jay Johnson (class of 1979), Stacia Lang (class of 1982) and Kathy Nielsen (class of 1968). Educators recognized were Don Boom, who taught in the district from 1967 to 1996; Jim Munyer, who taught and was a counselor from 1969 to 2012; David Paschka, who taught from 1989 to 2001;  and Marion Drescher, who taught from 1952 to 1990.

“People get an opportunity to get together and see each other once again,” said Neal Skaar, chairman of the Education Foundation of Albert Lea. “The community gets an opportunity to see some of their teachers that stood out over the years, and alumni who have graduated from Albert Lea High School who have done very well.”

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Brandt, a 1969 graduate, was recognized for his accomplishments in the tire industry, as well as his service to the community.

Brandt admitted he was surprised to learn he was nominated for the award, and said he took away the life lesson of always trying to improve, something he took from his time playing sports in school to the workforce at Tires Plus.

Don Boom took the time to thank people in his reception speech, including fellow teachers.

Jay Johnson admitted he thought he would be a farmer and said he didn’t put much effort into high school.

“Right about now I wish I’d have swapped one of those many study halls I had for a public speaking class,” he said.

On a more serious note, he thanked the Education Foundation, his high school teachers, employees and partners for what he described as a “great honor.”

Drescher’s Distinguished Educator award was accepted by her son, Neal. He thanked the foundation and said Marion “would have been overjoyed to receive this.”

“It’s not unusual where we honor somebody who has died but who has had an outstanding life in some regard,” Skaar said.

Stacia Lang was a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award and is an artist, costume designer and fabricator, and has spent the past four decades working in television, movies and Broadway.

“There is no recognition in the world that could touch my heart more deeply than that from my hometown,” she said. “Over the years with each trip home, I’m more and more impressed with the beauty of this place.”

Jim Munyer, who taught in the district for over 40 years, admitted some of the people in attendance he remembered from the classroom.

He also shared a Chinese proverb.

“If you’re planning for a lifetime, educate people,” he said.

He also said it was more important what a teacher is than what they teach.

Kathy Nielsen came all the way from Colorado to get her award in-person.

In her speech, Nielsen admitted the town and school system played an important role in her life.

Two of her classmates were there to celebrate, and that was what was important.

“To me, that’s where success starts, relationships, communication, being close to people,” she said.

The final recipient of a Distinguished Education Award was David Paschka. During his speech, he acknowledged his family, thanked anyone who worked in the district and parents in the district. 

Before the event, Skaar noted one of his biggest hopes for the event was already met: a large turnout.