Phyllis Hitchcock

When Phyllis (Osteraard) Hitchcock went looking for a teaching job in 1977, classroom positions were hard to come by.

“Those were tough years to find a teaching job,” she said. “I sent out a lot of applications. I decided to pick up the telephone and start calling schools. Today you can’t do that. I happened to call Centennial Junior High School in August, thinking I wasn’t going to find a full-time job. A teacher had just resigned so they were looking for someone with water safety instruction. My resume happened to be on the principal’s desk.”

Thus began a successful 40-year teaching career for the Arco, Minnesota, native, who attended Ivanhoe High School. She retired in 2017.

She graduated from what was then SSU in 1977 with a double major in Health and Physical Education. Within two weeks of starting at Centennial Schools, located in Circle Pines, Minnesota, she accepted the position of girls varsity swim team coach.

She taught PE and Health at the junior high and high school levels during her career. She also coached junior high basketball.

Her involvement in athletics was on a whim.

“I was standing in line to register my sophomore year and decided I’d go out for volleyball, and played JV for two years. I grew up swimming, climbing trees, and played some softball. There wasn’t much for girls organized high school sports back then. For me, playing women’s sports in college was a big step. There were girls that came from Iowa and other places that had more formal training in sports. I enjoyed my participation at SSU.”

She was also on the swimming and diving team, and the tennis team. She played three years of tennis, and swam for two years.

She was inducted into the Centennial School District Hall of Fame last year, and in 2013 was awarded the Exceptional Teacher Technology Award for Centennial High School.

She looks back at her time at SMSU with fondness, and mentions Jeri Madden, Don Palm, R.A. Colvin, Lew Shaver, Glenn Mattke, Jean Replinger, Mike Sterner and Jody Mohr as influential individuals during her academic career at the University.

“SSU was close to home, and education was important to my parents,” she said. “My mother went to college one year, and my dad did not. SSU fit financially with what we could do.”

She has been married to David Hitchcock, a 1976 alumnus, for 41 years. They have two married children: Stephen, and Sara Henrikson.

 “I’m very humbled to receive this honor,” she said of the Alumni Association award. “There are a lot of other individuals who are also deserving. Thank you.”