One Thing to Know: Legacy of Learning and Love Makes Powerful Impact

Everyone has the power to make a positive impact in this world. That is one thing I know for sure after working at NWTC for nearly as long as "Seinfeld" reruns have been airing. Over the years, I've met some remarkable students, staff, and faculty - each one worthy of being an ABC News "Person of the Week."

One such student: Robert Callender. In 2008, I wrote a story about Callender, an 84-year-old who at that time had been taking a class nearly every semester at NWTC for more than 30 years. Pretty cool, right?

Little did I know then that Callender’s love for learning, vehicles, and his family would lead to the creation of what is now the Robert E. Callender Classroom in the new NWTC Transportation Center. After Callender and his wife passed away, their children established the Robert E. and Jewel Callender Scholarship to honor their parents in recognition of their commitment to lifelong learning and NWTC.

Now the memory of the Callender family will live on forever – through the classroom that bears his name, and through the students who receive their scholarship and become part of the transportation workforce. 

Picture of Robert E. Callender Classroom  Picture of Robert Callender's children with scholarship recipient
Pictured above, left: the permanent sign that hangs outside the Robert E. Callender Classroom in the NWTC Transportation Center; right: the children of Mr. Callender meet past scholarship recipient Luis Rios, a graduate of the NWTC Auto Collision and Repair program. 

Below is Mr. Callender’s story from 2008:

84-year-old NWTC student: ‘Knowledge and the desire to learn are good things’

December 10, 2008 – Green Bay When it comes to lifelong learning, 84-year-old Northeast Wisconsin Technical College student Bob Callender is the real deal. The Green Bay resident has taken a course nearly every semester at NWTC for more than 30 years.
Callender can recall taking classes at NWTC’s old Broadway Street location in Green Bay before the college moved to its current site on West Mason in 1972. He started at NWTC, or NWTI (Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute) as it was known back then, by taking machine shop and welding courses. Since then he’s taken a variety of non-credit autobody, real estate, architectural drafting, and computer courses. He even took NWTC’s popular motorcycle rider course – at age 77!
“I think knowledge and the desire to learn are good things,” said Callender. “It’s been satisfying for me.”
According to Callender, taking the courses helped advance his career as well. In April of 1946, he started working for the City of Green Bay, driving truck. He worked his way up to become the senior carpenter, retiring in 1985. 
Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, Callender also owned a few rental properties and did some small engine repair work over the years. He ensured the success of his small business ventures with the education and skills he gained at NWTC.
Since his retirement, Callender has taken mostly automotive courses so that he can take care of his own vehicles. “Down the line, it’s saved me money,” said Callender, a true “do-it-yourselfer.”
Callender recently wrapped up his latest class, Auto Mechanics-Advanced Consumer. The class gave him the opportunity to change the oil on his vehicle, balance the wheels, and rotate the tires.
“When you’ve got vehicles,” said Callender, “you’ve always got something to do.”
The Auto Mechanics course also allowed Callender to get hands-on experience with computers. Just like the younger, more computer-savvy students in the class, Callender was required to log on to the internet to read modules and take short quizzes/tests in order to work in the auto lab.
“This was a challenge for Bob because it had been some time since he used a computer,” said instructor Mark Ledvina. “We logged him in and helped him get started. The next week he came to class and asked me, ‘Did you check my scores?’ It was very evident that he was proud of what he had accomplished.”
 “I’ve had new students grumble a little about the testing,” Ledvina added.  “My answer is, if an 84-year-old can do this, you can too.”
Callender is a World War II veteran. He and his wife, Jewel, have been married for more than 57 years. They have three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
“We’ve had a good life and a wonderful family,” Callender said. “If everyone had as good a family, there wouldn’t be such trouble in the world.”

The Callender children established the scholarship and classroom name through the NWTC Educational Foundation. Learn how you can support NWTC students and honor your loved ones. Visit the Foundation webpage.