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Outlook - March 2005

Roeskes retire after 30 years of service

by Angela Schafer
        The day Sieg Roeske walked onto Union College’s campus as part of the religion department staff in 1975 was the day workers began to tear down the old administration building. Roeske stood next to a very sober Everett Dick as a 2,000-pound lead ball struck the first blow to the building’s facade. The destruction of the College Building was the end of an era at Union. Thirty years after the building was demolished, many people see Sieg and Carol Roeske’s retirement as the end of another era.
        Sieg Roeske spent most of his career at Union; first he worked part-time as a teacher and part-time as a pastor at College View church for four years, then as a full-time professor, and for the last 12 years, he served as chair of the religion department.
        Carol, who retired early last fall, worked at Union for the last 17 years. She began her Union employment at Kiddie Kollege, the on-campus day care. Later she moved to the Division of Business and most recently she worked in the academic administration office for more than 10 years. “Carol was always thoughtful and caring,” said Lowell Hagele, former vice president for academic administration. “On occasion we worked with students who were overwhelmed with their studies and she would send them a note or some other reminder that she cared. She will be missed.”
        Born in Germany in 1939, Roeske lost two of his younger sisters during World War II. He attended public school in Germany and then moved to Canada to attend Canadian Union College. Sieg met Carol while she was working in the women’s dorm. They were married in 1964. “Carol was the assistant women’s dean,” Roeske said. “I rescued her from having to enforce all those rules!”
        Before Union College, the Roeskes served Mid-America in the Dakotas and Iowa. “Our ministry began in 1965. I couldn’t speak English too well and the German people lived in North Dakota, so I thought that might be a good place to be,” Sieg said. After leaving the Dakotas for one year to work on a seminary degree at Andrews, the Roeskes returned to North Dakota for three years and then moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
        While in Iowa, they received a call to Milton Freewater, Washington, near Walla Walla. After visiting the church, they decided to accept the position. They were packing to move when Roeske received a call from Union College. “I came to interview and they asked me if I would come,” Roeske said. “When they told me it might only be for one year, I said no. Then about a half hour later, I said to Carol, ‘We might have done the wrong thing. This is an opportunity. We don’t know how long it will last, but the churches will always be there. Why don’t we give Union College a try.’ So I called back, and said, ‘I changed my mind. I’ll come.’”
        Roeske feels that God prepared his life to be a minister at Union. “My purpose in the Bible classes is to help young people to love the Lord and to prepare for the coming of Jesus,” Roeske said. “When I prayed for the presence of the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden I sensed kind of a reverent silence coming over the class, I knew the Holy Spirit was in the room. After class a student gave me a piece of paper that said ‘Elder Roeske, I met Jesus in class today. I’m a changed person.’ That was the high moment of my career.”
        According to Roeske, some of the best times in his career have been Friday mornings when the class sings, he enthusiastically accompanies on the piano, and he takes prayer requests. “The reason I do the music is that it opens the hearts of the kids, and it’s so un-academic to sing.”
        “I always loved Friday mornings in Roeske’s class,” said Jifer Proctor, senior biology education major. “I looked forward to a rousing chorus of ‘Alleluia’ and ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ He always added a flourish to the end of the song.”
        Roeske thinks Union is currently at the highest point it has been during his 30 years at the college. “The last few years have been the most spiritual, the most settled. I think Union College right now is riding the crest of spiritual, fiscal, administrative and enrollment strength.”
        The Roeskes are moving to the Loma Linda area, where they will be near their children and grandchildren. “As I leave here, I have no regrets,” Roeske said. “I have a deep sense of satisfaction. This has been my life. Union College has been my life.”