When SMSU opened its doors in 1967, there were three academic buildings that greeted the 509 students who were part of the charter class: Central Academic Building (now Bellows Hall), PE and Fine Arts.
"There were a couple of dorms, too," recalled Bill Ward, a class of 1973 alumnus. "I worked on construction crews that were building the dormitories. I worked in many of the dorms that stand on campus today," said Ward, who retired two weeks ago as the administrator of the Lakeside Health Care Center in Dassel.
Ward will be the keynote speaker at the May 20 Caregiver Expo at the Marshall Area YMCA.
"The event is for family caregivers who have someone in the family who needs their help," he said. "It could be a child with a handicap, or an elderly parent. There will be a lot of vendors there, and I'll talk about the things I've seen with family members. I'll give a little bit of advice and tell some interesting stories."
The expo runs from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the Marshall Area YMCA.
The Lakeside Health Care Center in Dassel is a long-term, transitional care, assisted living and independent senior housing facility. He had intended to stay for a few years, tops.
"Then we started to have the roots stuck in the ground. My wife was involved, and the community felt like home,"?he said.
His wife is Sandra (Freiborg), who he met at SMSU.
"It was in the dorm HA2, a co-ed dorm. That was pretty risqu back then," he said. They have two daughters and a son, all grown.
Ward was one of five members of the band Paradox while at SMSU.
"Two Canby guys, Russ Tibbits and Doug Fraseur, were the regulars. We had two others, but several guys came and went for those spots," he said. "Back then, where were three bands on campus - Fox, Wire and Paradox."
He followed the band to the University of Minnesota for a year - "they needed a bass player" - then transferred back to SMSU.
"It was either that or having to take 25 credits of a foreign language," he said with a chuckle.
He initially went into law enforcement.
"Back then, they'd accept you and then send you to (law enforcement) school," he said. He found himself on patrol in Spencer, Iowa, one day, thinking about his future.
"I realized in a lot of ways that law enforcement was for the young, and I wasn't always going to be young. I stumbled into long-term care administration, went back to school for two years for another degree, answered a (Minneapolis) Tribune ad for an administrator in Dassel, and 33 years later I retired. That's the short version," he said.
When he arrived at SMSU - Southwest Minnesota State College back then - "I wanted to be a civil engineer. That lasted nine weeks," he said. "I drifted a year and found sociology."
His talk on Tuesday will include advice about "planning, and having a Plan B when it comes to caregiving. You should always take care of business before you need it, because you will need it. You need to get the rest of the family on board, get everyone on board, because you never know when are you are going to be in the emergency room, wondering what to do next."
There are plenty of lakes near Dassel, and Ward is an avid fisherman. He also likes to write, and pens a column, "Senior Reality Check," which appears in the newspaper Senior Perspective.
"We just switched the approach to that," he said. "It's now more of a look at things I've learned as I've aged. It's less of a helpful approach; it's more fun and irreverent now."
He's still trying to figure out retirement.
"I think I've been back to work about every day, helping train the new person," he said.
"Dassel is a small town, and it's about relationships, a lot like Southwest is."