Many people dream of taking it easy after they retire. But Wanda Samson hasn’t slowed down. She’s just as busy as ever, working to give back to her community.
The 68-year-old former Fremont High School business teacher is in charge of treasury and membership for both the Nebraska and Fremont Area Associations of Retired School Personnel.
She’s still involved in Fremont Public Schools, too. For decades, she’s done results from the press box at school track and cross country meets. She runs the clock and announces the starting lineups at volleyball games, and has done the clock for junior varsity and varsity girls basketball games as well.
She’s also an assisting minister at St. Timothy Lutheran Church, and a passionate volunteer and blood donor with the American Red Cross.
And for more than a dozen years, she’s taught information systems and literacy classes as an adjunct teacher at Metro Community College.
For Samson, her involvement in the community is a matter of momentum. Giving back to the community and going the extra mile has always been a part of her life — and she sees no reason to stop now.
“It keeps me younger,” she said. “I’m just in the habit of doing it, and giving it up would definitely be a change. I hope to be able to contribute like this as long as I’m physically able.”
Samson first became interested in business education while attending Tarkio High School in Tarkio, Missouri.
“I liked being in school, and I liked business classes. At my high school we only had five and I had taken all of them by the time I was a junior,” she said. “It just made sense to put everything together: being a teacher and majoring in business.”
She would end up attending Midland University — then known as the Midland Lutheran College — and began work as a business teacher at Fremont High School in 1972, where she’d spend her entire career until she retired in 2005.
Samson’s heavy involvement in the Fremont community dates back to her days as an educator. While she was teaching, she began doing the results and announcements in various school sports. She frequently attended professional development conventions to gain new skills and keep up to date in business and education world. She still attends those conventions every summer to pursue what she calls “lifelong learning,” and to stay in touch with friends she’s made from attending throughout the years.
As a teacher, she also worked on committees in the business department, helping to organize things like Fremont’s Business Student of the Month and Business Student of the Year. And she started Fremont High School’s first bloodmobile, where students are invited to give blood. It’s been 21 years since the first one and it’s still going strong.
“Getting to do the other things like working with sports or doing the professional things outside the classroom or being allowed to do those things outside the classroom made it special,” she said of Fremont Public Schools.
After retiring, Samson wasted no time getting back involved in the education world. She learned of the Retired School Personnel Association and attended the first meeting that she was eligible for. In addition to managing memberships of the association on both the local and state level, she’s geared her business acumen into a position as treasurer in both the Fremont Area Retired School Personnel Association and the statewide Nebraska Retired School Personnel Association.
Through that association, she’s volunteered at the Keep Fremont Beautiful Eco-Fair, which invites area fourth-graders to learn about the environment. She’s also helped to pack and distribute Christmas bags for disabled veterans. All of the group’s members log all of the hours they spend volunteering. And with 105 members — one of the largest units in the state, Samson said — Fremont’s retired school personnel are proud of their contribution to the community.
“There’s a lot of volunteer work going on in Fremont based on our volunteering,” Samson said.
Fremont Public Schools Superintendent Mark Shepard said Samson has left a lasting effect on Fremont Public Schools.
“Wanda is a very giving person and continues to give back to the school district where she spent her whole career, whether it’s announcing a volleyball game or keeping the book for a basketball game or whatever happens, Wanda’s always ready and willing to help,” Shepard said. “She’s very dedicated to the profession.”
But Samson’s volunteer work in Fremont extends beyond her involvement in the education world — and particularly into the world of her church, St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church.
A lifelong ELCA Lutheran, Samson served as treasurer at the church for four years, and remains the chair of the church’s finance and stewardship committee. She helps out with FACE, organizing events geared toward adults with mental and physical challenges. Those range from attending Midland University volleyball games or Storm Chaser’s games, or some activities coordinated with students at Midland or Fremont High School.
“It’s a good thing to bring in the students at Midland and students at Fremont High when I can, to see the importance of volunteering,” Samson said.
More recently, Samson was involved in setting up the church’s first “Christmas in July, which led to 140 pounds of food being donated to the Low Income Ministry.
And, in another, Samson helped steer the church through its latest contribution to the Summer Lunch Programs, where area churches and nonprofits team up to provide meals for children in need over the summer. St. Timothy’s is involved every year, helping to put together “Weekend Totes,” but it was up in the air when the church’s pastor, Russ McDowell announced his retirement. Samson ended up taking over.
St. Timothy invites its FACE participants to volunteer in packing the food, and this year, Samson logged hours of work organizing the food and its packaging. In the end, St. Timothy’s provided 520 Weekend Totes — providing regular food for 65 kids, Samson said.
“It was quite the project, but I knew it was one that St. Timothy could not give up,” she said. “If St. Timothy hadn’t stepped up and continued, there’d be 65 students who didn’t have food.”
But her passion project has been her involvement with the American Red Cross. An avid volunteer and blood donor — whose O-negative blood type can be donated universally — Samson’s given 219 pints — more than 27 gallons — of her own blood in her life.
She recalls her first donation. It was 1972, when she’d first started teaching, and she heard on the radio that the Red Cross
would be having a
bloodmobile. The radio spot talked about how giving blood would be a good gift for somebody, with Christmas right around the corner.
“I thought to myself, well I guess I can do that,” she said. “After school, I closed my room and went over there, everything worked out OK and I’ve been giving ever since.”
Samson says that her business skills, which she taught for decades and still teaches at Metro Community College, have helped her to organize her volunteer work, and prepared her for the roles of treasurer that she would ultimately take at her church and in the Retired School Personnel Associations.
“My high school yearbook said ‘she’s all business,’” Samson said. “I’ve worked my life proving this to be true.”