People of Rotary | stuart stofferahn

"Stuart Stofferahn: Tale of a Serial Co-Creator" as published in the Lincoln Journal Star on July 11, 2016

By Randy Bretz


Stuart Stofferahn is a serial co-creator. That’s right – as he’s navigated through life and encountered a need, he’s taken action. Learning of his involvement in the community is both encouraging and a bit overwhelming at the same time.
Let’s begin with some of the basics about Stuart. He’s in the midst of a Ph.D. program in education leadership at the University of Nebraska. Right now he’s debating about doing his dissertation on the impact of poverty on the education of children or the need for helping educate young adults who are autistic. He and his dog Buckley are trained hospice volunteers. He’s an instructor who teaches communication tips for Lincoln’s Community Action Program. And, he’s involved with youth in his church.
Stofferahn comes by his desire to serve naturally. His dad Ken, now retired, was a farmer, legislator in South Dakota and member of the South Dakota Public Service Commission. And his mom, Diane, was a teacher for many years.
“Dad’s one of my heroes,” noted Stuart. “He worked hard to serve the people of South Dakota. And Mom, well, she’s my inspiration, a real model for patience.” No doubt, it has been his mother’s life-long dedication to education that sent Stuart on his journey to complete his Ph.D. and work in education.
That desire to help educate young adults who are autistic has come from a cousin whose autistic son is learning how to live on his own by attending the Minnesota Life College. The college is a vocational and life skills training program for young adults with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders. “When I complete my degree, I want to start something like MLC in Nebraska,” says Stofferahn. That’s his co-creator nature at work – seeing a need and acting on it.
Another of Stofferahn’s models is Dale Rawson, superintendent of Meade Public Schools. “I’d love to be superintendent of a small school system,” noted Stofferahn. “My practicum for my degree connected me with Dale. He’s been a real inspiration.” “Stuart Stofferahn is passionate about education,” noted Rawson. “Put that in caps in a large font.” Rawson goes on to note that Stofferahn subscribes to the philosophy that every year in school for children is very important to help prepare them for life. So, we’ve considered Stofferahn’s involvement with education. What about his dog and hospice volunteering?
“When Buckley was 2 years old, I felt a need to share him with others,” said Stofferahn. “He has such a loving way with people.” So, Stuart and Buckley attended classes to learn how Buckley could be a therapy dog. Now the two of them are Tabitha hospice volunteers, visiting folks who are under hospice care at Tabitha Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln. “Did you realize that half of people in assisted living are never visited?” asked Stofferahn. “Buckley and I want to help change that.”
Then there’s the class at Community Action Program (CAP). When he participated in Leadership Lincoln, Stuart learned about CAP and how it helps the less fortunate in our community. Many of these people move frequently, and when they move, their children often are taken out of one school and moved to another.
“I realized that helping folks learn how to communicate their issues and challenges related to housing would help them be more stable so their children could stay in the same school,” said Stofferahn. He teaches a class each month at CAP to help people get better control of their lives.
And, we haven’t even told you about Stuart’s current job. He’s recruiting and retention superintendent for the Nebraska Air National Guard. His career with the Guard started as a way to pay for college, and has turned into a full-time job. “I was fueling planes and it was an OK job, a way to make ends meet. But when I got to know the people in the Air Guard, I enjoyed working with them so much I made it my full-time job.” A long list of co-creator examples are affiliated with the Guard. We’ll leave those for another time.
See what I mean about encouraging and yet overwhelming? Serial co-creator, hospice volunteer, CAP instructor, Air Guard sergeant and soon-to-be Dr. Stuart Stofferahn approaches life with open eyes and a caring heart. When he sees a need to help others, he doesn’t wait for someone to tell him what to do. Instead, he takes action and does something about it. After all, that’s what a real co-creator does. And you? Noticed anything that needs your attention this week?