OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Jim Bies has come to serve as Interim Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life after working in the same roles at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for 32 years.
Bies feels a strong sense of devotion to community and was drawn to a feeling of togetherness on the Wartburg campus.
“I’ve always maintained that whatever your place of employment is, if that place has the same shared values, like a campus culture, and that culture aligns with your own personal values, it’s just magic. Everything comes together,” said Bies.
Since arriving on Wartburg’s campus, Bies has enjoyed seeing the similarities between Wartburg and Augustana.
“I’m in my second week and the similarities are almost uncanny,” said Bies. “[Augustana and Wartburg] are sister institutions. So when I got the call from President Colson, I didn’t have to think very long and hard. I have high regard for this place.”
Bies retired from his administrative positions at Augustana in 2018. During his retirement, Bies has kept busy as Assistant Track and Field Coach for Augustana along with teaching graduate-level counseling courses at South Dakota State University.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been travelling with the track team and the head coach is one of my best friends, so I wanted to keep working witht the team after I retired,” said Bies.
Even though most of his career has been spent in administrative positions, Bies is passionate about connecting with students and being involved on campus.
“The ability to be a spectator to the lives and accomplishments od students is so special. Seeing theater, music, athletic, and other performances has shown me student work coming to fruition,” said Bies.
Bies feels grateful for having a career that has never felt like work.
“You never feel like you’re overworked if you just get up in the morning and go do what you like to do. So I had the opportunity to do that,” said Bies. “And sometimes, there’s long days, but a lot of the long days are because I want to stay and go to a theater production or hear a recital or go to an athletic event.”
At Wartburg, Bies has been able to reconnect with former students and coworkers. Associate Dean of Students Derek Solheim, Interim Dean of Spiritual Life Halcyon Bjornstad, and Professor of Religion Caryn Riswold are all familiar faces to Bies.
“It’s pretty cool to work with former colleagues and students again,” said Bies.
When he was an undergraduate in college, Bies attended Wartburg’s nemesis, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The rivalry between Wartburg and Luther was still going strong when Bies attended Luther.
“It was a rivalry to define all rivalries,” said Bies. “I think the best prank of all time was when a group of Wartburg students came to Decorah under the cover of darkness and applied atrazine, which is a herbicide, to make a big W in the middle of the football field. Grass wouldn’t grow in the shape of a W for two years.”
Despite being a Luther alum, Bies enjoys working at Wartburg.
“I think that there is a respect for the other school from both sides,” said Bies. “The schools are so similar and the rivalry seems to be something that faculty and students acan both enjoy.”
Bies will remain at Wartburg until August, when he will return home to South Dakota.
When Bies looks into the future beyond Wartburg, he plans to continue teaching at South Dakota State University along with flyfishing during his free time.
“One of my favorite things, more than anything, is flyfishing for trout. I spend a few weeks every year fishing in mountain streams. I love the setting. Sometimes I go fishing with my two sons and other times it’s a solitary, peaceful pastime,” said Bies. “Just do be one in the wilderness doing what I love is so special.”
During his free time, Bies enjoys flyfishing and spending time with his wife, Susan.
“We built our dream home out in the country, in the prairies of South Dakota,” said Bies. “We’ve got a couple of horses and a special dog. Susan loves to ride and spends her day around the horses. We love to take walks in the countryside with our dog.”