The Nodaway County Historical Society inducted renowned writer, teacher and listener Bob Bohlken into the selective “Stairway to the Stars.”
The recognition is given to Bohlken after a 65-year career spanning multiple fields and organizations, a stint in the military, and perhaps what he considers most important, raising a family with his wife of 60 years, Mary K. Bohlken. Bohlken led the speaking at his induction ceremony, but several people he had influenced over time made the trip to speak on his behalf. Northwest Missouri State University faculty Theophil Ross and Bayo Joachim, both recommended for employment at Northwest by Bohlken, and Maryville High School teacher Trudy Kinman gave speeches about his influence on their careers. Bohlken spoke fondly about his ability to mentor these educators and said he felt that was one of the best parts of his career.
Alongside his colleagues, multiple former students made an appearance to speak the praises of their high school teacher. Bohlken said he taught the students more than 53 years ago.
“I think I was fortunate that they remembered me at all,” Bohlken said.
He started his career with three years in the military before being discharged with good conduct in 1956 and immediately enrolled in college at Nebraska State Teachers’ College at Peru. Two years later, Bohlken married Mary. He spent the next years of his life finishing his bachelor’s degree, starting his teaching career at high schools in Iowa and Nebraska, gaining a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska and having his daughter, Katy, and son, Dan.
He specialized in teaching all things English, forensics and drama at the high school level. He said he found that calling years before on the stage.
“I was an outstanding actor at Peru State a long time ago,” Bohlken said.
However, he said practice did not necessarily prepare him right away for the difficulty of teaching.
“It was a little difficult for me because you had to make all the classes different for freshmen, sophomores and seniors,” Bohlken said.
Bohlken continued to hone his teaching prowess as an assistant and associate professor at Peru State College before receiving his PhD from the University of Kansas in speech communication. With doctorate in hand, Bohlken joined the Bearcat team in 1970 as an associate professor of speech and chair of the speech and theater department.
He would spend 30 years in green and white pioneering new areas in broadcasting, video, film, semantics and listening. The university would go on to name the student’s film award after him.
Outside of his work in academics, Bohlken helped write grants for organizations, was a high-ranking member in groups like the American Legion and the International Listening Association and was a published author multiple times writing books, essays in academic journals and articles for the Nodaway News Leader.
Bohlken has received countless awards over his lifetime including induction into the International Society of General Semantics Hall of Fame. However, Bohlken said this recognition especially feels special to him.
“It’s recognition here, after I got out of academia and it’s local recognition,” Bohlken said.
After the honor, Bohlken is able to look back at his long, vibrant career and give advice to those looking to achieve the same level of success in their professional and personal life.
“I think the number one thing missing now is commitment,” Bohlken said. “If you commit to something then you follow through. And to accept change. I never expected anything; I thought I had to earn it.”