LA JUNTA — One of the first people on campus each morning, and one of the last people to leave each night, will be retiring from Otero Junior College the end of this month. Carl Otteman, director of Auxiliary Services for the past 20 years, will bid farewell to the OJC campus on Sept. 30. A reception in his honor will be held on Friday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. in the OJC Student Center. Campus faculty and staff, as well as community members, who have worked with Otteman over the years, are invited to attend to wish him well.
Otteman began his career at OJC in 1992 as director of Auxiliary Services. His duties have included the management of the OJC Student Center facility, booking and setting up for events, supervising maintenance and upkeep, overseeing the food service contractor and kitchen facilities, as well as overseeing the management and maintenance of student housing.
His responsibilities bring him to campus early and keep him there until all hours of the night and weekends. On any given day his range of responsibilities have spanned from arranging a formal banquet, shoveling snow off the sidewalks, fixing a freezer compressor to mediating student issues in the dormitory. Over the years he has answered to three OJC presidents, worked with six food service managers and supervised six dorm directors.
Otteman, originally from Flagler, Colo., is a graduate of Adams State College. Prior to working for OJC, he spent 20 years as the patient accounts manager for the Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center.
Otteman’s efficiencies in the management of the Student Center are well respected both on campus and in the community. In addition, his involvement with the students and support of other campus activities has made him a central figure on the campus. Over the years Otteman has been the advisor for Campus Crusade, supported student meetings and activities at the Student Center, worked the gate for hundreds of athletic events, and most recently was the race day director for the Rattler Run.
As he reflects back on his years at OJC, Otteman said he thinks his greatest accomplishments have been the expansion and renovation of student housing and the renovation of the Student Center. He recalls that in 1992 the census in the dorms was 110 during Fall Semester, and often dropped to as low as 70 during Spring Semester.
“Currently the dorms are at capacity, with about 290 students. Our space includes 185 beds in Wunsch Hall, 32 beds at the South Site location and 74 beds at the new Conley Student Housing and Law Academy dorm. I’m very proud of the upgrades we’ve been able to do over the years that have made our student housing safe and comfortable,” said Otteman.
He estimates that over 20 years, several thousand meetings have been held in his building and an untold number of meals served. He’s seen a lot of changes over the years, such as helping people set up their movie and slide show projectors back in 1992 to helping them today connect to the Internet and utilize other technology available in the meeting and banquet areas.
In addition to meetings and banquets, Otteman recalls some unique uses for the Student Center.
“I’ll never forget the year our building was retrofitted to accommodate La Junta Middle School classes while the Middle School was being remodeled. And I’m sure there are not many Student Centers that can claim that the President’s office is in their building, as ours was while Macdonald Hall was being remodeled,” said Otteman.
Three of his fondest memories are of President Joe Treece telling him ‘job well done’ after the renovation of the Student Center Food Court, watching President Bill Richards play ping pong with the students and working closely with current President Jim Rizzuto on remodeling the banquet room.
“My job has given me great satisfaction in that I’ve been given the opportunity to work with college staff in assisting them with their functions that were hosted on campus. I’ve enjoyed meeting people from all over Colorado and especially people from the local area as I worked to help them make their events go as smoothly as possible. But the greatest joy I’ve had from my job has been the opportunity to be around college students. Our college students are so vibrant and full of life and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get caught up in their energy,” said Otteman.
Gary Ashida, VP of Administrative Services at OJC, has been Otteman’s supervisor throughout his tenure at OJC. As the college looks to hire a replacement for Otteman, Ashida said that Otteman’s track record and his attention to detail will be hard to replace.
“When I think of Carl I think of customer service. To him the student or client always came first and he took the time to accommodate special needs. In the 20 years I’ve worked with him I can honestly say I’ve never had to deal with a customer complaint,” said Ashida.
Jim Rizzuto, president of OJC, said that he is very proud of the accomplishments made by Carl Otteman as he was a continual advocate for enhancing facilities for students and the community.
“Carl has truly made a difference at OJC that will be felt for many years to come. We wish him well in his retirement and thank him for his continued vision and desire to make our auxiliary facilities what they are today. He has been an invaluable employee over his years of service and will be greatly missed not only by our campus community, but the community at large,” said Rizzuto.
As Otteman looks ahead to retirement, his plans include traveling with his wife, Becky, visiting his three daughters, spoiling his grandsons and spending more time with the volunteer work he enjoys.
A reception in honor of Carl Otteman will be held on Friday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. in the OJC Student Center. Campus faculty and staff, as well as community members, who have worked with Otteman over the years, are invited to attend to wish him well.