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SAU communication professor to retire at the end of the spring semester

If WQAD channel 8 reporter Alan Sivell hadn’t gotten coffee one winter morning in 1986, his life would have been much, much different.

As he walked into the newsroom, Sivell caught the tail-end of a phone call from another TV reporter who was on the line with Father Charles Shepler, chair of the communication department at St. Ambrose University.

 Does anyone want to teach the broadcasting classes? the reporter called. They need somebody with a master’s degree. Nobody raised their hand or said a word, except for Alan Sivell. A couple of years out of the University of Iowa’s grad school with a master’s degree, he figured he had nothing to lose. Two days later the spring semester started, and he turned out to be right.

WQAD Active 8 News. 1980.

“Things have definitely changed,” Sivell said. “There are so many different career paths people can go down nowadays, which is something I guess I realized.”

Professor Sivell taught as an adjunct professor for three years until 1988, when dean Dan Bozik offered him a full-time position. He became faculty advisor of the student newspaper, The Buzz, in the fall of 1993. During his tenure as advisor, he was able to switch to computers to edit, design, and layout the newspaper. Soon after he bought an Apple QuickTake 100 digital camera to produce more pictures for each issue.

Apple QuickTake 100, similar to the one Sivell introduced.

As the years passed, fewer and fewer students began to pick up the paper, which was a driving force behind the creation of the all-digital integrated media platform, The Hive. It’s through his time as newspaper advisor and communication professor that Sivell will remember as he enters retirement.

“The things I’ll remember are the individual relationships I had with students,” Sivell said. “I’ve got to work with a lot of smart people across the university with so many different perspectives. I haven’t gotten rich doing it, but I have relationships with students and faculty all over the US.”

Chair of the communication department Dr. Jim Baumann will remember the presence Sivell had within the department and how he was mentored by him when he started.

“He’s always provided some levity and guidance to situations within the department,” Baumann said. “He has seen it all, at least at one point in time. It’s going to take a team effort to replace him.”

Sivell’s office, in the basement of the Galvin Fine Arts Center. He says his office has a lot less clutter than in former years!

Along with Sivell’s retirement, St. Ambrose is losing another communication department mainstay. Class of 1976 graduate Donald “Duke” Schneider is retiring from SAUtv TV-11 at St. Ambrose after 42 years as TV operations manager. This follows former department chair Ann Preston’s phased retirement last year. Sivell fears what the future holds for the school and the communication department.

“Duke and I aren’t necessarily irreplaceable,” Sivell said, “but the thing I’m worried about is that the school doesn’t realize quite what they have.”

“‘How the department moves on’ is the million-dollar question,” Baumann said. “The idea is to hire a candidate with the academic background and some professional experience.”

According to Sivell, he swears he will not be bored when he retires.

Sivell, reading his favorite book on his favorite historical subject, the Watergate Scandal.

“I’ll never be bored,” he continued. “I’ve never been bored. How can you be? If you’re bored, you’re an idiot.”

Over the years, Sivell has collected his fair share of books, records, cameras, and many more things. He plans on, begrudgingly, selling most of it. Also, he wants to read more and start up a long-defunct opinion column he did years previously, along with writing in his blog, A Boomer Life.