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Gerharter and Holmberg recognized with Northeast distinguished service award

Gerharter and Holmberg recognized with Northeast distinguished service award

NORFOLK, NE – Two individuals who have traced the history of Northeast Community College have been recognized for outstanding achievement.

Janelle Gerharter and Jerry Holmberg, both of Norfolk, are recipients of the College’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated active service to higher education and who have played a significant role in the development of Northeast Community College.

Gerharter and Holmberg, both retirees of the college, have authored a book that details the history of Northeast and its predecessor institutions. Success Started Here, A History of Northeast Community College 1928-2018, documents the storied past of the institution that begins with the founding of Norfolk Junior College in 1928.

Gerharter authored the main narrative of the book, while Holmberg documented the athletic portion. They were joined by Dr. Robert Cox, former Northeast president and a past Distinguished Service Award recipient.

A native of Watertown, S.D., Gerharter earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from South Dakota State University. After graduation, she worked as a staff writer for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Gerharter moved to Norfolk following her marriage to Dave Gerharter. She was employed at the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and First Presbyterian Church before beginning her 21 years at KNEN-FM. She was employed at KNEN in April 1979, when the radio station first signed-on the air. As continuity director, she was responsible for writing radio commercials.

Gerharter began her service to Northeast Community College in June 2000 as a news writer/photographer in the Community Relations Department. She was named director of public relations at the college in Feb. 2004. She retired in Oct. 2012.

Gerharter and her husband, Dave, have three adult sons, Justin, Christopher, and Erik, and three granddaughters. She is active on the Great American Comedy Festival planning committee.

“I have said countless times that I loved my job at Northeast Community College and the students even more,” Gerharter said. “When I started at the college, I was amazed at how very hard some of those first-generation students had to work for their community college education. They were an inspiration to me.” 

Holmberg grew up in rural Burt County and attended Lyons High School. He received a bachelor of science

degree in education from Wayne State College and participated in track. He then achieved a Master of Arts degree in Educational Psychology and Measurements from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Holmberg worked as a high school counselor, teacher and coach from 1967-77. During that time, he was employed at Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, Ia.; Norfolk Senior High School, and Lincoln High School in Nebraska.

He and his family moved to Norfolk in 1978 to begin his career at Northeast Community College. He served as the director of placement (student employment services)/counselor through 2000. Additional responsibilities at various times during his tenure included student activities coordinator, alumni coordinator, concessions stand coordinator, interim dean of student services, and recruiting assistant. Holmberg was appointed athletic director in Sept. 2000. He retired in June 2006.

He married Elaine Geisler, his high school sweetheart, and they have two adult sons - Greg and Dan, and five grandchildren. Holmberg has been active in the Morning Optimist Club of Norfolk for forty years. 

“I am proud to say I really enjoyed working at Northeast Community College,” Holmberg said. “I believe Northeast is an outstanding comprehensive community college, and I have and will continue to promote it at every opportunity I get.”

The 240-page hardcover Success Started Here, A History of Northeast Community College 1928-2018 is available through the Northeast Community College Hawks Shop on the Norfolk campus for $24.95. It may also be purchased online at the

Dr. Leah Barrett, Northeast president, said the work in the book authored by Gerharter and Holmberg is well done and serves as a beautiful reflection for which Northeast is so well known. She said they are worthy of the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award.

“Janelle and Jerry have a love for Northeast that is unmistakable. Their time at the college was rewarding and is evident by their commitment to higher education and to our college,” Barrett said. “Their achievement in earning this recognition is not only reflective of our effectiveness as a college, but also demonstrates the commitment of someone with close ties to Northeast in excelling the mission of the institution. They are two very special people who literally reflect the history of the college and are most deserving of this recognition.”

The awards are customarily presented in person during a formal ceremony each October. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Northeast’s Achievement Awards ceremony has been posponted. Gerharter and Holmberg will be formally recognized during the 2021 ceremony next October.