Steve Malecek didn't know it when he graduated from SMSU in 1973 with degrees in math and physics, but his educational career was only beginning.
Malecek and his wife Roxane (Kabe) will be traveling the 900 miles between Plano, Texas and Marshall to attend Homecoming at SMSU this weekend. They arrived last night and are looking forward to experiencing the campus in a way they haven't been able to for nearly 40 years.
Steve is a geophysical adviser for Kosmos Energy, an international oil and gas exploration firm based in Dallas.
"There's a lot of work done in West Africa and South America," he said. "I've done a lot of work in Suriname, in northern South America."
Roxane, a 1975 alumna, was for years a math teacher at Willow Bend Academy. Today, "I do admissions work for them now," she said. "It's a private, small school for students who don't succeed in a regular classroom setting."
Both chose SMSU because they liked the fact it was new and was both close enough to, and far enough away from, their respective hometowns of Morgan (Steve) and Fairmont (Roxane).
It was over some ice cream that they first met at SMSU (Southwest Minnesota State College back then).
"He had a roommate who was quite the opposite of him," said Roxane. "His roommate used to hang out in our dorm. One day he said he was going to the Dairy Queen and asked if anyone wanted to go. Three or four of us girls went, and Steve was one of the guys who showed up." Thirty seven years of marriage and two daughters later, they're still going strong.
Prior to Kosmos Energy, where he's been for a year, Steve worked for Mobile Oil for 24 years before joining a local consulting company in Dallas for 11 years.
Some people go on and get a master's degree, perhaps a doctorate, after college. Steve has earned four master's degrees and last June received his doctorate. He has master's degrees in geophysics, engineering management, business (MBA) and energy law. He just received is doctorate in water law and policy.
His job has taken him to many locations, and he's a poster child for the term "lifelong learner." He's lived in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Scotland, as well as Colorado and Texas. Their oldest daughter Julie was born in Saudi Arabia. Their other daughter, Rachel, is a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital she was born at in Dallas - Medical City, Dallas.
They've driven through Marshall a couple of times on trips back to Morgan, but they haven't explored the campus thoroughly, or been a part of a real Homecoming, since graduating.
"I guess we decided to come back because for me, it's 40 years, and with the completion of my (doctorate) degree, it has freed me up. I was busy every weekend and evening for years, and that made traveling almost impossible."
Roxane looks forward to seeing the changes she's heard about to the campus.
"Where I lived, it was like one big happy family. I liked the underground tunnels, too," she said. "We had a locker assigned, and you could spend the day without lugging around your coat. The Religious Center was an integral part of our lives. I worked there for a while."
For Steve, SMSU "seemed so big. It was a different level of experience for me. I was from a very small community, and many of the guys I went to school with stayed locally. Southwest gave me a foothold for the life I've had."
Homecoming is a time so many alumni choose to come back and reconnect with friends from years gone by, just like the Maleceks are doing this year. If you run into the Maleceks this weekend, give them a big welcome back to campus.