May 05, 2017 3:15PM
He tries to call him Mike. Sometimes it seems that he really wants to.
But he can’t.
To Byron Mckay, Mike will always be Mr. Neden.
“When we talk about Mike’s … when we talk about Mr. Neden’s legacy, I just grin,” Mckay said. “He wouldn’t like us to say that word. That not’s him. It was never about him. He was a team player to the core.”
Mike Neden, who served as associate professor in Pittsburg State University’s Technology and Workforce Learning department, died in July 2016 after a short illness. Among the speakers at his funeral was Mckay, a 2013 graduate of the program who considered “Mr. Neden” a close friend and mentor.
“When I was asked to speak at his funeral, I was extremely honored,” Mckay said. “But what do you say? What can you say? There’s so much to say. The one thing I did know is that I know what he wanted for the program. He talked about it a lot. He made sure we all understood.”
Mckay will soon have the chance to carry forward Neden’s hopes and dreams, as he was recently hired to fill the vacancy left by his mentor’s death. Beginning this summer, Mckay will serve as assistant professor in the Technology and Engineering Education program.
“It’s very exciting,” Mckay said of joining the PSU faculty. “It’s also a little nerve-wracking, just because I know how important it is to have good teachers. Mr. Neden taught me a lot. He taught me how to be a good teacher. Now that he’s not here with us anymore, I owe it to him to be that person for our current and future students.”
Andy Klenke, associate professor in the program, said Mckay will be a valuable asset to the program.
“Byron will be an outstanding addition to the Technology and Engineering Education program,” Klenke said. “His experience as a high school teacher, as a Great Gorilla Games assistant under Mr. Neden and as a student member/officer of TEECA will all contribute to the success of the program.”
When Mckay accepted the position at PSU, he created a vacancy at Liberal High School, where he teaches technology education. That role will soon be filled by Don Flora, a senior in the PSU Technology and Engineering Education program.
“When I think about Mr. Neden, his legacy is that he instilled in us that we always need to be thinking about what is best for students,” Flora said. “So when I learned that Byron earned the position here at PSU, I thought about the position he was vacating and it sounded like a good fit.
“Not only do I get to teach and use the knowledge and skills I learned here at PSU,” he said, “I also get to continue this educational journey that, for many of us, started with Mr. Neden and Dr. Klenke.”
Mckay said Mike, err, Mr. Neden, would have appreciated this “full circle” scenario.
“He was here to bring his students up so they could bring their students up,” Mckay said. “He wanted it to be a full circle. That was always his goal … educate students to be teachers who can then go out and help educate the next generation of teachers.”