2005 Alumni Award
Albert Bacastow Jr., a 1965 graduate of Arkansas City Junior College and a member of the college’s Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years, is the 2005 recipient of the Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award. The award will be presented during the 82nd commencement exercises at 10:30 a.m. May 7 in W.S. Scott Auditorium. “I was surprised when I received the letter,” said Bacastow, 59, an Arkansas City native. “I think it’s a great honor. I always think, what did I do to deserve something like this. I’m very honored.”
The 1963 graduate of Arkansas City High School will have worked for the U.S. Postal Service 30 years on April 25. He has been postmaster in Winfield since Feb. 19, 1994, and plans to fully retire on Jan. 1, 2006. Bacastow, his wife Karen and daughter Kimberly farm 400 acres southeast of Arkansas City. It’s the same farm where Albert grew up, and it’s been in the Bacastow family for nearly a century.
Across the street
In the early 1960s, it was common for ACHS graduates to walk across Fifth Avenue and continue their education at the community college. Bacastow did the same, just as his father, Albert Bacastow Sr., did years before. “It was pretty automatic to go to ACJC,” Bacastow said. “About a half-dozen of us guys who ran around together got out of high school and went different ways. I always thought we’d been better off if we’d stayed together. A lot of kids want to get away from home. That goes on all the time. But I saw a lot of my friends who had gone off to school come back to Cowley.” Bacastow’s emphasis of study at ACJC was business, although he fondly remembers a math teacher. “Mrs. (Henrietta) Courtright was my calculus teacher,” he said. “She was outstanding.”
Rock Chalk, Jayhawk
After graduating from ACJC, Bacastow transferred to the University of Kansas with hopes of earning a degree in business management. He had thoughts of working for a business, and never gave farming a thought. “Farming was not at the top of my list,” Bacastow said. “But my folks never pressured any of us (he has two sisters) to do anything. They did encourage us to get an education.” Bacastow is the oldest of three children. Linda Neal of Arkansas City and Rose Ann Hendrickson of Winfield are his sisters. Although he didn’t figure to become a farmer, that’s exactly what happened. After two years at KU, he and Karen were married on July 16, 1967, and Bacastow left Lawrence one semester short of his bachelor’s degree.
U.S. Postal Service
Bacastow wasn’t seeking a career with the Postal Service, although his father used to work at the Arkansas City Post Office. “I was working at the APCO Refinery and worked a week of days, a week of nights and a week of midnights, and I couldn’t get acclimated to that schedule,” Bacastow said. “Irvin Kramer was postmaster (in Ark City) at the time, and I went and talked to him.” Bacastow scored high on the test and began working at the Ark City Post Office as a part-time flexible clerk in 1975. He was promoted to supervisor in January 1986. He trained seven months at the post office in Argonia, six months in Caldwell and two months in Caney. He also served as officer in charge for six months when Arkansas City was without a postmaster. His first postmaster job was in Newkirk, Okla., in 1993. “I’ve made some great acquaintances across the nation,” said Bacastow, who has served as president of the Kansas chapter of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States the past two years. “What’s been most rewarding are the friends I’ve made, great co-workers and other postmasters I’ve gotten to know throughout the United States. When I go out on the road, I’m never far from someone I know.”
Back to school
Not long after Dr. Pat McAtee became the third president of Cowley College in July 1987, Bacastow was talking about a return to school to finish his degree. “Dr. McAtee is the reason I went back to school and finished,” Bacastow said. “He and I went to a conference in Galveston, Texas, and had a lot of time to talk on the drive down there.” After looking at a few schools, Bacastow decided Southwestern College was the best choice. He picked up 30 credit hours, earned a 3.72 grade-point average, and received his bachelor’s degree in 1990.
Cowley Board of Trustees
A friend of Bacastow encouraged him to run for a seat on Cowley College’s Board of Trustees. He was elected in 1985 and has been a Board member every year since, except 1989-90 and 1990-91. During that two-year span, he served as chairman of the Tiger Booster Club associated with Cowley’s Athletic Department. “My philosophy has always been that we need to give back to our community, our church, and just be involved,” he said. “We need to serve.” Bacastow described his tenure on the Board as “a great ride.” “I’ve served with some excellent trustees and two good presidents,” he said. “Dr. (Gwen) Nelson was very good, and Dr. McAtee’s leadership has been amazing. We’ve built three dorms, the Brown Center, a dining hall, bookstore, renovated the front of the gym, expanded to Mulvane and Wichita, and are getting ready to open a new classroom building. I never dreamed we’d be in the position we’re in when I first got on in 1985.” Twenty years ago, Bacastow thought he’d probably be on the Board one or two terms. But as he prepares for another four-year term beginning July 1, he’s excited. “I wasn’t going to run again,” he said, “but I wanted to get away from having two jobs to deal with while serving on the Board.” Bacastow said he brought stability and a sense of business to Board meetings. “I think I’m level-headed, I get along with people well, and I bring a business aspect to the Board,” Bacastow said. “We’re not all the same, which is good.” Bacastow called his service on the college’s Board of Trustees “one of the greatest, if not the greatest, things I’ve been associated with.” “I think what stands out is the evolution of our campus,” he said. “We’ve got new buildings, off-campus sites, and enrollment growth. The college is really something to be proud of.”
A man who had a major influence on Bacastow was his grandfather, George Bacastow. “He was somebody I looked up to and was really close to,” he said. “He was very active in the community and did a lot of things. And everybody knew him. He was just a common guy who people liked.” Besides his long-time service to Cowley College, Bacastow is a member of the Winfield Rotary Club, is on the board of Rural Fire District No. 5, and is chairman of the Administrative Council at Grandview Church.
The farm waits
Come January, when Bacastow leaves the Postal Service, cattle on his cow-calf operation probably won’t know how to act. “It will be nice to feed the calves and look at them in the daylight,” Bacastow said with a laugh. “I’ve enjoyed the post office, but I’m looking forward to a change of pace. Hopefully, it will be a slower pace.” Bacastow praised his family. “I’ve been blessed with a great family and a lot of good friends,” Bacastow said. “Whatever little bit I’ve done has been because of friends and family.” A huge fan of KU athletics, Bacastow also hopes to do more hunting, one of his favorite pastimes.