Alumni & Friends

Recognition Awards

Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award


William Austen

Class of 1956


William AustenWilliam Austen has spent most of his life making the lives of others more pleasant. Extending a helping hand has always come natural for him. Austen, an Arkansas City native who lives in Dodge City, will be honored Saturday as an Outstanding Tiger Alum from the class of 1956 during commencement exercises at Cowley County Community College. Austen, Selby Funk from the class of 1936, and Melville Marnix from the class of 1946, will be honored.


Like so many students who attended Arkansas City Junior College , Austen's education was interrupted. He is a 1951 graduate of Arkansas City High School, then was drafted into the U.S. Army where he was assigned to a military police unit. It launched his career in law enforcement. "This opportunity presented itself to me," said Austen, who for the past 18 years has served as chief court services officer for the 16th judicial district. "Before I started the judge encouraged me to get my degree. I've been in law enforcement ever since." After graduating from ACJC in 1956, Austen transferred to Emporia State . In 1976 he finished at St. Mary of the Plains in Dodge City . Austen remembers the winning tradition of Cowley basketball teams during his two years. He remembers Dan Kahler, the coach, and the national runner-up finish in 1953. "I was team manager for the college at that time," Austen said. "I wasn't much of a player. I warmed the bench for people." Austen said his primary goal at ACJC was to get a degree, to prepare for life after college. Little did he know then that his life would be spent serving others.


"I'm basically in the probation department," Austen said of his current job. "We do a lot of investigative work for the court. The job changes every day. You never know what's going to come up next." When Austen began his duties, he was a one-man band. Now he has a staff of nine. The staff supervises both adults and juveniles on probation, as well as other functions under the direction of the district court judges. Austen's staff serves a six-county area of Ford, Gray, Comanche, Kiowa, Clark and Meade counties in southwest Kansas .


One of the most fulfilling projects that Austen has been involved in is as attendance officer with school districts in the six-county area. "After school officials have exhausted all their efforts, I come in and make some changes," Austen said. "We bring the students into the court and let them talk to the judge directly. They are not arrested. It's a chance for the judge to talk to the students and their parents about why they aren't attending school." Austen said the program, in its fourth year, has been successful. He said about 45 percent of all students in the program stay in school. He sees about 35 students per month, grades kindergarten through 12th grade, from all six counties. "Two other districts have copied and started their own program," Austen said. "We're in the running for an award for new programs developed in the United States . There's $10,000 involved, which would go to the district." Austen said some of the problems solved in the program include seating a student closer to the front of the room so he could see. "He was in the back of the room and they couldn't figure out what was the matter," Austen said. "Different things have come out of this and are shocking to administrators at the schools."


Austen and his wife of 35 years, Jo, have three children. When he isn't spending time with them, he is heavily involved in the rodeo and has been for the past 20 years. "We have the fifth-largest rodeo in the United States ," Austen said of Dodge City 's summer showcase. "It's really a community deal. The rodeo has become so successful because of community involvement from Dodge City and the surrounding area." Austen hasn't been to Arkansas City for more than a year, but he still has many friends here. His award as Outstanding Tiger Alum caught him off guard. "I was really surprised," he said. "I filled out the questionnaire and when I opened the letter I told my wife I can't believe this. We immediately made plans to be there. I'm looking forward to it."