When Phil Pagel first came to the Dana College campus in 1952 as a student from Poi Sippi, Wis., he planned to stay for maybe a year. He never imagined that he would not only graduate from the small, liberal arts school, he would also spend nearly his entire professional career there.
"If you were of college age and a member of the UELC, there was only one choice of where you would go," he said. "Of course you come, it gets under your skin and you stay," he said.
After 40 years of service at Dana College, Pagel officially retired Dec. 31, 1998.
Pagel's career didn't start at Dana, however. After graduating from Dana College with the first ever degree in speech and theater in 1956, Pagel returned to Wisconsin to teach.
In the summer of 1958, he received a call from Dana President C.C. Madsen, recruiting him to return to Dana to work in the admissions office. Pagel accepted the position, starting at the beginning of the 1958-59 academic year. The position was broad with Pagel serving as director, staff and secretary. He prepared all of the printed materials sent out by the office and traveled from coast-to-coast six months out of the year.
The following year, he was promoted to director of public relations. In 1985 he was appointed vice president of institutional advancement with responsibilities for public relations, admissions, alumni and development. From 1994-1998, he served as assistant to the president.
Over the past 40 years, Pagel has had a hand in nearly every event and every publication of Dana College. He planned the visits of such famous people as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Victor Borge and Lauritz Melchior. He developed the Dana logo. He helped plan the first and successive Sights and Sounds of Christmas celebrations. He planned the dedications of all of the buildings on campus, except for Pioneer Memorial, Argo Hall and Elk Horn Hall. He coordinated the inaugurations of five Dana presidents.
Pagel considers the development of the logo one of his most significant contributions to the college. In 1979-80, he worked with a young artist at Bozell and Jacobs in Omaha to develop a concept for the logo.
"We needed something that said `Dana College.' We needed something that once you see it, you're never going to forget it," Pagel said.
The Dana "D" was born, incorporating the Danish flag, a Viking sail and the Christian cross. The red sail is still used on all Dana publications, signs and letterhead.
Another great accomplishment of the longtime employee was the creation of the Sights and Sounds of Christmas, one of the most renowned holiday celebrations in the Midwest.
For years prior to the first Sights and Sounds, Dana had presented traditional band and choir concerts at Christmastime. In 1973, what would become Sights and Sounds was first packaged as a "Christmas Open House." The band and choir concerts were combined with a couple of other events during the day.
In 1974, "Let's Make it Danish" and the Santa Lucia singers were added to the day's events as well as a coffee hour after the concert. The reception featured authentic Danish pastries flown to Blair from Denmark! This was also the first time the name "Sights and Sounds of Christmas" was used for the event.
In 1975, the Scandinavian smorgasbord was added and the modern Sights and Sounds was born.
Among the significant trips for Pagel as a Dana ambassador were with the Dana Folk Dancers to President Jimmy Carter's inauguration in Washington, D.C., and with the folk dancers and the Dana College Chorale to Disney World.
Pagel was honored in February by being inducted into the "Great Danes of Dana," an award he helped create, but had never received.
"It's been a great ride," said Pagel of his Dana career. "I've met a lot of interesting people. I've been blessed to have some great, great students work for me."
Pagel does not have many concrete plans for his retirement, although he plans to continue to garden and do some writing.
"I'm just going to enjoy anything and everything."