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Koepke posthumously honored with NCCA-Northeast distinguished alumnus award

Koepke posthumously honored with NCCA-Northeast distinguished alumnus award

GRAND ISLAND – A Hadar man has been recognized by the Nebraska Community College Association (NCCA) as a distinguished alumnus.

Darin Koepke was honored posthumously for outstanding career achievement recently with the NCCA’s Northeast Community College Area Distinguished Alumni Award during the organization’s annual meeting in Grand Island. His wife, Kelli, accepted the award on his behalf. The award is presented annually to one alumnus from each of five of the state’s community college areas. 

Koepke was a farmer and sheep herder his entire life. A graduate of Pierce High School in 1986, he went on to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Agriculture-Livestock Option from Northeast Technical Community College in 1988 and served on the college livestock judging team. He was named to the Alumni Hall of Success in 2010. 

Koepke was employed by Agrex, Inc. for more than 25 years, working and supervising other employees at locations in Enola, Laurel, and Superior. At the time of his death, he was the assistant regional manager for the western division of Agrex, Inc.  

Koepke lost his life in a workplace violence incident in Superior, Neb. on Oct. 21, 2021. At a news conference three weeks after the incident, Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Brent Bockstadter said, “The actions of Mr. Koepke saved lives, and he unfortunately ended up giving his own life in the process.” 

In accepting the distinguished alumni award on behalf of her husband, Kelli Koepke said he never worked to gain awards, status or notoriety. His faith, family and the people around him were the things he cherished. 

“Northeast Community College brought him so many opportunities that he wouldn’t have had had he not attended. Darin made a lot of his lifelong friends there. One of those friends was the best man at our wedding. He loved to tell stories, he loved to laugh. He was an amazing man.”

Koepke said her husband took his leadership role very seriously. He kept in contact with the people at Northeast who impacted his life for years after he graduated.

“Darin would often lean on his past professors at Northeast for guidance because he respected and looked up to them as mentors. They quickly went from professors to friends; many whom today still reach out to our family and for which we are grateful,” she said. “Darin was a great leader and that leadership, I believe, was learned from his college professors. He then took that mentoring those professors gave to him and he passed that on to his employees.”

The family is keeping Koepke’s memory alive through a scholarship at Northeast. The Darin L. Koepke Agriculture Memorial Scholarship is to be awarded annually to a second-year agriculture student at Northeast. The family provided additional funds so that the first scholarship was awarded to a student enrolled in the Fall 2022 semester.

Koepke actively served in his local church, St. John’s Lutheran Church in rural Pierce. He was a board member and served as an officer of the Pierce High School Athletic Booster Club and the Northeast Nebraska Sheep Breeders Association. 

In addition to his wife, Kelli, his family includes daughter Kayla (Shea) Scalise of Omaha, daughter Krystina (Maddie) Koepke of Lincoln; grandchildren Naomi, Celeste, Uriah, Malachi, and Ella Scalise; his father Larry Koepke of Hoskins; a brother, Dennis (Jennifer) Koepke of Pierce; and a sister Dawn (Brett) Schroeder of West Point.

Kelli Koepke said her husband would be honored to receive acknowledgement from the NCCA and Northeast.

“I think what he would want you to know most is that he loved God. His faith was strong. He would be thankful for an amazing life. He would thank Northeast Community College for an outstanding education. That education opened doors and opportunities that he would have never had otherwise. Through his life and his death, he was able to do what he loved. He died doing what he loved. He was a dearly loved man. A well-respected member of the community and one that we miss each and every day. He would be so very honored tonight.”


                                                                                                    PHOTO CUTLINE 

Kelli Koepke, Hadar, (right) and her daughter, Krystina Koepke, Lincoln, accept the Nebraska Community College Association-Northeast Community College Area Distinguished Alumni Award on behalf of their late husband and father, Darin Koepke, during the organization’s annual meeting in Grand Island recently. The award is presented annually to one alumnus from each of five of the state’s community college areas.