A legacy at SMSU

Stu Galstad has been a familiar face at Southwest Minnesota State University for the past 45 years. He’s seen plenty of changes in that time, he says.

Photo by Deb Gau Over the past 45 years, Stu Galstad, senior electronic technician at Southwest Minnesota State University, has played an important role in keeping the university’s technology runnin

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At one time or another, Stu Galstad said, he’s probably worked with people from all levels at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“It’s been kind of interesting that way, in that you meet a wide variety of people,” Galstad said.

It’s not hard to see why that would be. Galstad’s job as senior electronics technician takes him all over campus, often supporting the university’s video and audio technologies. He’s also got a long history with the university, and the people and students there.

Galstad will be retiring this month after a 45-year career at SMSU. He’s the longest-employed person at the university.

“I’ve been here since 1970, since I started here as a student,” Galstad said. Galstad, a Tracy High School graduate, enrolled at what was then Southwest Minnesota State College, in the electronic engineering technician program. His field of study ended up opening a career path.

“I had a work-study job in that area, and then I just moved with it,” he said. In 1972, he began working full time at the college. Galstad said it was his supervisor, Girard Parnell, who encouraged him to apply for the job.

One of the first jobs Galstad had at SMSC was maintaining a system called Random Access.

“That was a very advanced system” for the time, he said. In some ways, it was like an early version of online learning.

“They had the ability to record classes and events, and put them on a cassette tape,” Galstad said. Students could then dial in a phone number and listen to one of the recorded lectures.

“We had boxes of those modules,” he said. “They had modules that were burning out, and it was my job to maintain them.”

As advanced as the Random Access System was, eventually it was phased out. It turned out that the telephone wasn’t that popular a way to listen to the material, Galstad said.

Over time, Galstad has worked with a lot of different technologies and done a variety of technical work. He’s supported the university’s Radio and TV programs, made archival recordings of concerts for the music program, and more.

“Something I’ve been saying for a long time is that Stu is the brains of the operation,” said SMSU electronics technician Bob Schwoch. Schwoch has worked together with Galstad for almost 25 years, he said. “One of the things that impresses me so much about Stu is that he’s worked really hard to stay current with the technology.”

“It has changed over many times,” Galstad said of the technologies used at the university. By now, the tasks he does are completely different than when he was hired in the 1970s.

“In recent years, athletics has become more and more dependent on video,” he said.

Classrooms have gone from using overhead projectors to digital projectors and smart boards. As smart classrooms get smarter and computers become more important for the university, the Information Technology Services department has taken on a bigger role, Galstad said.

Sometimes Galstad’s work has taken unusual turns. He remembered being part of cleanup efforts after the 2002 fire that gutted the university’s former student center. Smoke from the fire damaged other parts of the campus, including electronic equipment.

“A lot of equipment that wasn’t so dirty we had to throw it out, we had to clean,” he said. He and Schwoch worked out of a construction trailer, in January, to clean off the equipment.

Over the years, Galstad has worked extensively with SMSU’s Radio and TV program. There have been a lot of technological changes there, as the broadcasting equipment students use has gone from analog to digital. One example of a project Galstad helped work on was bringing video editing capabilities to the TV studio. Today, video editing uses digital equipment.

“I really enjoyed that,” Galstad said of that change. Before digital editing, he said, “if you made a mistake and had to fix it, it was difficult.”

Keeping up with changing technology can be a challenge, Galstad said. But at the same time, he said, “It’s fun to have new stuff to work on.”

More recently, Galstad played a key part in planning major updates to the TV studio, to make it capable of high-definition broadcasts. The studio control room has also made the change to using digital equipment, Galstad said.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege working with Stu,” said Jos Ullian, assistant professor of communication studies at SMSU. Galstad’s expertise has been an important resource for the Radio and TV program. “We joke that he’s forgotten more than a lot of people know.”

“I’m going to miss his great experience, his great knowledge, his great personality. He’s a great guy to work with,” Schwoch said.

Galstad said his last day at work will be Dec. 26. When it came to reasons for retirement, he said “It just seemed like it was time.” However, Galstad said he’ll be busy until then.

“It’s hard to imagine I won’t be walking through these hallways anymore,” he said.

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