After Three Decades of Making Students Smile, Albert Wendt Retires
Some people just have that little something — that charisma, that charm, that warmth that makes others remember them despite years passed.
For anyone who's called Augustana's Solberg Hall home over the last 30 years, that someone could likely be Albert Wendt, the ever-smiling, always-happy hall custodian.
"I always make it a point to say 'good morning,'" Wendt says. "Pretty soon, the students start saying it back to me. I hold the door open for them and, pretty soon, I see them holding the door open for others."
After serving Augustana students for more than 32 years, Wendt is preparing to retire from his position, where he serves as the custodian for Solberg Hall and Costello Apartments.
As he reflects back on his three decades on campus, he says the opportunity to interact with students has been the most meaningful.
"I always try to be the first one to say 'hi.' I tease them a little bit. I have six kids of my own so I know how it goes. Kids are kids. I try to look out for them. Eventually, they see my name on my shirt and they start to know me, too."
— Albert Wendt
Two former students he calls "his special ones" are Mark '84 and Carmen '87 Hecht.
"I knew Mark and Carmen, and I knew all their kids, too," Wendt says.
Carmen Hecht, who now serves as Augustana's recreation coordinator, knows Wendt well.
"He knows our whole family as we have all lived in the dorms," she said, referring to herself, her husband, Mark, and their three children: Keegan, Peyton and Cale.
"He still knows my room number in Granskou — I don't even know it! That's 30 some years ago! Albert has always taken an interest in our kids and kept an eye out for them while in the dorms. He is the 'grandfather figure' that notices you, takes an interest in you and wants the best for you. He makes me smile. He's always met us with 'that grin' and a hug that's so authentic and genuine."
Her daughter, senior Peyton Hecht, lived in Solberg Hall her freshman year and had the opportunity to interact with Wendt each day.
"Albert always took the time to ask me how my day was going," Peyton said. "He genuinely cares about everyone. He'll be missed."
Carmen Hecht says Wendt has "shown up day-in and day-out, year after year with an amazing attitude and servant heart."
John Schuety, Augustana's housekeeping manager, agrees.
"He's quite the guy. He loves the students. He loves Augie. He identifies himself as part of Augustana and, I think the students really do keep him young," Schuety said.
Katie Rivers, a sophomore from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, who lived in Solberg her freshman year, echoes Schuety's sentiments.
"He's just the nicest, sweetest person," Rivers said.
Wendt came to Augustana in 1983 after running his own dairy farm outside of Marion, South Dakota, for more than 25 years. He still lives on the farm, along with his wife of 56 years, Mildred.
When asked what he'll do after his retirement from Augustana, Wendt just smiles.
"I'll always keep busy. I still live on the farm, so I've got my mower and tractor. I'll keep busy," he said.
An open house is planned to celebrate Wendt's retirement beginning at 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2, in the Nelson Service Center on campus. Those who know Albert are encouraged to share memories and good wishes via Facebook. Those will be printed and shared at the open house.