Tucked away in a relatively small office in Memorial Auditorium is the office of Larry Papenfuss. Although his work space may be small, his experience certainly is not. Athletic Director of the college since 2004 and faculty member since 1994, Papenfuss has seemingly been involved with athletics his entire life.
Born in La Cresent, Minn. Papenfuss excelled in both basketball and baseball. All-conference in both sports, schools from all three divisions of the NCAA and NAIA expressed interest. Papenfuss chose to play both sports at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where his older brother was the head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach.
Papenfuss transferred to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse after two years, in part because Luther did not have his intended major, Health Education. Once there, Papenfuss was originally cut trying out as a pitcher. His coach recommended he redshirt and go back out for the team the next year. In what Papenfuss describes as â€œthe best decision he could have made,â€ he redshirted, and in his fifth year as a senior, Papenfuss and his teammates reached the College World Series in 1979, where he was chosen to the All-Star team. That year, La Crosse finished fifth in the country, defeating Wichita State, Oklahoma State and the University of Minnesota during the season.
After graduation in â€˜79, Papenfuss took a job as a middle school health teacher in Mt. Horeb, Wisc., a small town 16 miles outside of Madison. Papenfuss taught there until 1984, when he moved to Alburquee, N.M. where he taught middle school health and physical education while pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. He continued to travel back to La Crosse in the summers to play amateur baseball until he married his wife Dawn in 1987.
Papenfuss worked as a graduate teaching assistant, a health educator at New Heart Cardiac Rehabilition, and as a health educator at Sandia National Laboratories, a company that did and still does help sustain and modernize nuclear weapons. Papenfussâ€™ job at Sandia was to teach and coordinate stress management courses for itâ€™s employees.
â€œI had to be escorted [at Sandia] by a man with a machine gun,â€ Papenfuss said.. â€œHe even stood next to me while I taught.â€
Â Papenfuss graduated in 1991 with academic distinction. Upon graduation, he and his wife elected to move back to the midwest to raise their eventual family. He took a job at Moorhead State University in 1991 as an assistant professor of health education, helping to prepare future health teachers.
In 1993, Papenfuss and his wife gave birth to their first child. Luke was born premature and was just over two pounds at birth. After a few months in the hospital, Luke was allowed to leave and remains healthy today.
In 1994, an assistant professor of health education opened up at Concordia.
â€œIt was one of those things that I believed was more than coincidence,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œMy goal was to return to a school like Luther, and here the perfect job opened up at Concordia.â€
Papenfuss stormed on campus and became an active member in many faculty and campus-wide organizations, including the Faculty Executive Committee that was involved in the hiring of the last few deans of the college and helping other faculty members to understand the meaning and relationship of the college and the church.
In 1998, the Papenfussâ€™ second child, daughter Hannah, was born. Hannah too was premature weighing under two pounds. Hannah was also born with cerebral palsy; she willÂ be in a wheel chair for the rest of her life.
â€œ[Hannah] didnâ€™t have any neurological setbacks,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œShe was and still remains a bright person.â€
In 2002, the athletic director at Concordia, Armin Pipho, retired early to deal with his wifeâ€™s cancer, and Papenfuss was named Interim Chair of Health and Physical Education. In the spring of 2003, Papenfuss was named the new athletic director at the college.
â€œThey were in the process of searching for a new president of the college as well as a new dean,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œIt just felt like they needed someone they trusted and knew.â€
Papenfuss enjoys being the athletic director at Concordia, and is extremely proud of the integrity Concordiaâ€™s coaches and team captains have.
â€œI donâ€™t think I would be the athletic director anywhere else,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œThe college has a strategic plan involving academics and athletics, and athletics is now a part of the educational mission of the college.â€
Papenfussâ€™ favorite part of his job is the Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting former Cobber athletes for accomplishments both on and off the field.
â€œItâ€™s just great to be able to recognize those who give back to both academics and athletics,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œBeing able to hear their stories after theyâ€™ve been away from the college for a while is really neat.â€
Papenfussâ€™ only regret is that he doesnâ€™t get to know as large a number of people as when he was teaching.
â€œIt is a big job, but we work with great people from the coaches to the athletes,â€ Papenfuss said. â€œI do it because of a shared belief of the collegeâ€™s mission, and because of all the great people I get to meet and interact with on a daily basis.â€