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Thayer reflects on her two decades of design at CWC

Jan 20, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The public information assistant was hired in 1989, and she creates all of the college's visual communications, from the quarterly magazine to posters advertising upcoming events.

She may not be the most prominent person retiring from Central Wyoming College this year, but RoJean Thayer's absence will be felt -- and seen -- throughout the community when she leaves her post as publications coordinator this month.

Thayer designs all of CWC's visual communications, applying her own personal style to everything from the quarterly "Connect" magazine, to posters advertising upcoming events at the school.

Once she leaves, she said her replacement will take ownership of design at the school, and publications produced by CWC may look drastically different as a result.

"I'm anticipating they'll want to do maybe some focus groups and see if they want to continue with that particular look, feel or brand," Thayer said. "A lot of that depends on who they hire to replace me."

Thayer was hired as CWC's public information assistant in 1989, the same year Jo Anne McFarland became president at the school. McFarland also is retiring this year, effective June 30.

"She does leave a very fine legacy," McFarland said in December, complimenting Thayer's work. "During her 24 years at the college she has (developed) lasting relationships."

In particular, McFarland said public information officer Carolyn Aanestad will be sad to see Thayer leave. The women work together on CWC publications, with Aanestad providing content while Thayer handles design.

"I figure I've spent more waking time with RoJean than my own husband," Aanestad said with a laugh. "We have worked for about 25 years together at CWC."

Previous publications

Even before that, the two were co-workers at The Ranger. Thayer, who was born in Riverton, worked for the newspaper off and on between 1977 and 1988, starting as a proof reader.

She had worked for the Wyoming State Journal in Lander since 1972.

"I had actually planned on being a journalist," Thayer said. "I went to the University of Wyoming, and then my husband got a teaching job in Lander, so I quit school."

Five years later they moved to Riverton. While at The Ranger, Thayer said she got involved with some residents looking to start a publication in Shoshoni. With Ranger publisher Bob Peck's blessing, she said, "the Shoshoni Pioneer was born."

"I did that about a year and a half," Thayer said.

Next, she returned to work part-time at Ranger Printers, also acquiring employment through the Riverton Valley Electric Association, the Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service, and CWC.

"At one point I had four part-time jobs," Thayer recalled.

Eventually, she worked full-time on the CWC campus, splitting her days between the WPBS office and the college communications department. She designed the WPBS program guide for 17 years.

Thayer was asked to transition to communications full time about 10 years ago, when college administrators wanted to enhance the school's online presence. They asked Thayer to update her skills to help with the project, and she said she took courses at CWC to learn about html and web design.

The web wasn't the only big change she experienced during her career. Thayer said the industry was transformed with the introduction of desktop publishing.

"It's made it easier," Thayer said. "I used to use an X-Acto knife and my pica pole to cut color separations out. (Or) if you wanted to do a screened background of a logo, you had to do a double burn on your plate. Now I just put a graphic in there and screen it back a certain percentage and it's done."

She won't be thinking about technical terms after she retires Jan. 21, however. After heading south for a trip, Thayer said she is looking forward to being "super grandma." She has two grandchildren, ages 3 and 2, in town as well as a 1-year-old great-grandson. Her 14-year-old granddaughter goes to school in Shoshoni, and her oldest grandchild is in Glenrock. Thayer intends to spend time visiting them along with her husband, Terry, who also is retiring this year from AD Martin Lumber.

"I've been collecting a lot of little projects I want him to do," Thayer said.

She hopes to stay in touch with her co-workers at CWC, many of whom have become close, personal friends. She said she'll miss sharing their excitement as school starts each fall.

"That's going to be tough," she said. "As we begin a new semester (I'll miss knowing) all the possibilities of things that can happen."

Looking back over her career, she shared some high points of her time at CWC. In the early 1990s, she helped host multi-day "Microsoft conferences," bringing in presenters to work with several hundred high school students interested in computers.

Thayer also worked with former CWC vice president Joe Dolan and student services dean Mohammad Waheed for three years to secure the school's Title 3 grant, allowing CWC to generate millions of dollars to help meet the educational needs of the community.

"The early efforts to secure the Title 3 grant gave CWC an edge in 'technology,'" Thayer said.

The school soon was named as one of the top-10 digitally savvy, cutting-edge community colleges by the Center for Digital Education and the American Association of Community Colleges.

The initial rejections of Title 3 funding were counted in her low points at the college, along with local voters' rejection of a 1 percent optional tax in 2008.

"I thought we put together a very effective, informative campaign, and I was surprised that voters told us 'no,'" Thayer said.

She also mentioned positives, including the building of the Main Hall and food court on the Riverton campus, along with the remodeling of existing spaces as part of the $8.5 million bond proposal that voters eventually approved in 2010.

The school also expanded services at the CWC Field Station and provided a Lander classroom facility.

"Improving our presence in Lander was huge for the college," Thayer said.

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