A young Kathleen Urban smiles for the camera.
Posted on April 28, 2014
Queen of one-liners
bids farewell to college
After 25 years at Laramie County Community College, Albany County Campus Interim Associate Vice President Kathleen Urban is retiring from LCCC… again.
During the past 10 years, Urban has attempted to retire several times, but each time she found a reason to return.
The redhead dressed in a cheetah pantsuit is known at the college for her sense of humor. “They call me the queen of one-liners,” Urban said, laughing.
Queen of one-liners, indeed.
Urban’s sense of humor infiltrates every topic of conversation. Her big smiles, and her memory, never seem to fade as she recounted her time spent in academia in amazing detail.
Urban grew up in Wyoming, completing her undergraduate degree in American studies at the University of Wyoming and her graduate in American studies at the University of Maryland. She then decided to pursue “something more marketable” and earned a law degree from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Urban begin her career in teaching at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., an old copper mining town that she described as “a funky little art colony.” When Urban began at the new campus, the college was operating out of an old high school. “Because it was a newer college, a lot of the faculty was really young,” Urban said. “It was a lot of fun. If felt like starting a college with someone else’s money.”
When she was first hired, Urban was one of two full-time faculty employed at Yavapai. “I used to be 50 percent of the faculty,” Urban said, laughing. “I was the liberal arts guy, and the other guy was the fine arts guy.”
Woman of many talents
During the course of the next three years at the college, Urban taught nine different subjects. Urban said because the campus was new, she was given a lot of courses that didn’t line up exactly with her degree, so she taught English, literature, U.S. history, Western civilization, and arts and ideas. Then the college started a women’s studies program, and Urban taught women in history and society, women in literature and women in the arts.
Urban said her experience at Yavapai made her fall in love with new projects and start-ups. “There was a pioneering quality about it,” Urban said. “Ever since then I’ve loved things that were just getting off the ground. I’m addicted to new things and new ideas.”
In 1988, Urban began at LCCC as a paralegal instructor, which was a new program and right up her alley. The college’s advertisement for someone who had a valid license to practice law in Wyoming but wanted to teach full time fit Urban perfectly, she said. “The only thing it didn’t say was ‘Kathleen Urban,’” she joked.
When she first started teaching paralegal, Urban taught night classes. “I was not a night person,” Urban said. “Working four nights a week really killed me.” Despite this, Urban said she loved working with the paralegal students. “They were very committed and driven,” she recalled.
Urban ran the paralegal program until 1998 when she became interim dean of the social science division, then permanent dean of social sciences from 2000-2003.
In 2003, Urban attempted to retire for the first time. “Two weeks before I retired, my boss, who was also retiring, said, ‘Would you mind staying for a year and being interim dean of health, science and ag?’” Urban said. “So, I did, and then I left again.”
In 2006, Urban was asked to return to LCCC to fill the position of interim dean of the arts and humanities division while the college was searching for a permanent dean. “In the interim I’d traveled, and I’d done adjunct. I did this and that. I’d tried to find something entertaining to do in retirement,” Urban said. When her predecessor retired in 2010, Urban was again asked to be interim, then permanent, dean of arts and humanities.
“That was a good gig,” Urban said. “It was a good blend of both the left and right sides of my brain.” During this time, Urban became known as a defender of First Amendment rights in the eyes of many involved with the journalism and multimedia programs as well as art, music and theatre program at LCCC.
Urban's take on student journalism
“While First Amendment rights are not unlimited, they do deserve the highest level of protection, especially when state action is involved,” Urban said. She added the staff members on college newspapers are usually students who intend to enter journalism after college, and, therefore, their experiences should be as close to what they will encounter in the “real world” as possible.
“While I might not always agree with articles or opinions published in school newspapers, I believe there is a responsibility to protect their right to do so, both as an educator and a citizen,” Urban said.
Urban was dean of arts and humanities until the summer of 2013, when she was made interim associate vice president of the Albany County Campus in Laramie.
Urban said some of her best memories of the college were the people who work there. “I love the camaraderie,” she said. “I liked the goofiness.”
Urban was involved in some of the music program’s performances. Urban began singing in choirs when she was 8. During her first few years at LCCC, there was no opportunity to sing in a choir. Then, in 1993, the college established a vocal choir, and Urban joined.
“I had no idea how much I had desperately missed that,” Urban said. “Some of my most delightful memories are of the music program here.” She now sings with the Cheyenne Chamber Singers.
“So, what’s next?” Urban said. “Well, I thought I would just, like, really try to retire again for a while.”
But, once again, retirement wasn’t meant to be, and Urban is now interviewing for other interim positions at other campuses. “I could be doing hit-and-run for a while,” Urban said. “I thought: ‘Well, that could be fun. I could shop for a new retirement location.”
All we can say is “Good luck with that.” , end up being the things that bind them,” he added.