By Jon Roberts – Denver, Colorado … In a presentation filled with tears and laughter, Lonnie Hetterle, VP of education, announced to RMC employees during their monthly staff meeting on October 6, his desire to retire at the end of December.
Holding back tears, Hetterle struggled to read the statement recalling the past 25 years of education in RMC, while staff listened in shock trying to absorb the news. He moved to his present position as RMC superintendent of education after serving as RMC assistant superintendent of education from 2001 – 2003. Prior to joining the conference, he worked at Mile High Academy where he served as principal for many years.
“The Book of Ecclesiastics gives us the guidance that for everything there is a season and a time,” began Hetterle in his statement to the staff. “What it does not do, nor can do is interpret the specific season and time for each of us individually. That is something that each one of us has to prayerfully and, with counsel and input, make for our own individual lives in specific situations. Just like I thought I would never be 66 years old, I also never dreamed that my time as VP of Education for the Rocky Mountain Conference would ever come to an end,” Hetterle said.
Educators across the conference were notified via email Tuesday afternoon of the pending retirement.
Staff at Vista Ridge Academy were surprised at the news of Lonnie’s retirement. “Lonnie has been part of our Academy from the beginning when the idea of a new school took root over 15 years ago,” said Sandy Hodgson, Vista Ridge Academy principal. “We have been blessed by Lonnie’s contribution to Adventist education in the Rocky Mountain Conference and know that this next phase for him is well deserved. Congratulations,” she commented.
When Michelle Velbis, Springs Adventist Academy principal heard news “I started crying. When I began my teaching career, Lonnie took a chance on me and hired me without any previous experience. Through the years he has mentored, inspired, and empowered me to become a better teacher and a better human being.”
Hetterle explained his decision to leave in the middle of the academic year saying, “It is always better, if possible, to be hired by someone who will be your boss than to be hired by someone who then leaves. If I leave this upcoming January 1, the new individual will be able to be involved in all of the new hires for the 2021-22 school year.”
The accomplishments made in the education department by Hetterle were quickly recognized and applauded by many.
“Lonnie has been a tremendous blessing to our entire conference. He has done a fabulous job of letting our teachers know that they are loved and supported. He will be missed and always loved for the great job that he has done,” Ed Barnett, RMC President commented.
Pastor Barnett explained that Conference administration will begin to search for a replacement soon. He asked all RMC members to keep the search process in prayer as they seek God’s guidance in filling this important role.
“At any school that I have been at, Lonnie has always been willing to give clarity, wisdom, guidance, and would even play basketball with a troubled teen to make a connection. I cannot fathom the RMC without him. At the same time, I know my friend needs to do what’s best for his health and family,” Velbis stated
“I am proposing to retire from my position December 31, 2020, but certainly never from ministry. May God bless Rocky Mountain Conference abundantly is my prayer,” Hetterle concluded.
—Jon Roberts is RMC communication/media assistant; photo by Jon Roberts