At its March 16 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board honored Show Low resident, Lindasue Landes, as an Outstanding Northland Pioneer College Alumna. The award is presented to those persons who have used their NPC degree or skills training to succeed in the pursuit of a career or educational goal.
It would be hard to find a more unexpected success story than that of the current NPC outstanding alum honoree. How often do you find a grandmother going back to school at a small, rural community college and within five years begin to earn a salary in the six figures? And if that isn’t unusual enough, her new career field is in an area dominated almost entirely by men – welding.
Landes, a third generation Arizonan, was one of 10 children born and raised on a dairy southwest of Phoenix in 1949. She says she learned to “farm weld” (mending broken equipment in a way that wasn’t necessarily pretty) from her three brothers.
She admits to being a terrible student in high school. “I had A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder) and made an art form of ditching.” It was only through the kindness of one of her teachers that she got a diploma, and Landes felt that going on to more schooling was not an option. She entered the work force, eventually earning her living as a sheet metal worker until her “retirement.”
Landes and her husband and family have lived in Show Low now for over 28 years. After her retirement as a full-time sheet metal worker, she says she grew bored and made the decision that changed her life; she took a welding class from NPC instructor and department chairman, Curtis Casey (Receiving a hug from Landes after presenting the award). She recalls, “Mr. Casey was so outstanding; I just kept taking his courses until there weren’t any more to take.”
In fact, it was Casey who nominated Landes for the outstanding alum award citing her unusual curiosity and ambition. He writes, “It wasn’t good enough to have passed the written test after a lecture, Lindasue was compelled to search out other subjects that caught her interest while studying the textbooks.” He added that when she had finished her core welding courses and picked his brain clean, he recommended that she go on to take courses at a national training institute to become a certified welding inspector.
Landes did just that and on her second try passed the American Welding Society certification exam to become a welding inspector.
Within six months she landed a job with Bureau Veritas, one of the largest inspection and assurance firms in the world providing services to virtually every kind of industrial construction and maintenance operation. Her position with Veritas involved inspecting Wal-Mart stores across America that had suffered structural damage as a result of floods, hurricanes and other disasters, and then assessing what went wrong and what didn’t.
Landes’ philosophy of work centers on honesty and integrity:
“Never assume you know something, and if you don’t know something, say so (and then go find the answer), and document whatever you do.”
Casey applauds this integrity, writing that Landes, “…is routinely courted by head hunters for her skills and ethics on the job. [And] because of her forthright work ethics, she can ‘write her own ticket’ on upcoming jobs.”
Landes agrees saying she can pretty much pick and choose her job opportunities, and has absolutely no plans for retirement saying, “Heck, no! Retirement’s a dirty word… We can now live on the hubby’s money and spend mine on saving for the grandchildren’s education.”
But Landes does take an occasional opportunity to bring balance to her demanding, seven-day a week, 12-hour-a-day jobs to indulge a passion for hunting and adventure. She and her husband have enjoyed an African safari and, in the summer of 2011, plan to visit the rugged terrain of Mongolia to hunt ibex, a species of wild goat.
Perhaps because of her difficulties with school in her early life, Landes says she can now see the wisdom of her own mother’s words about learning:
“Everything can be taken away from you but your knowledge.” She is now a firm believer in education. “I tell my grandkids get every bit of education you can when you can.”
Whether or not they will attend NPC is a decision down the road, but in the meantime, her son Gary is following his mom’s lead and is in his second year in the college’s welding and metal arts classes, aiming for both experience in the field and earning his own national welding inspection certification.
It is obvious that Landes is genuinely sincere in her support for NPC and the welding program. “I tell folks that it may be hard to believe, but if it hadn’t been for this little college in this little town, I’d never have gotten where I am today. It changed my life.”
As an outstanding alumna, Landes receives a commemorative plaque, a three-credit-hour tuition gift certificate, a $25 bookstore gift certificate and a pass to NPC Performing Arts events. To nominate former NPC students for the award, click on www.npc.edu/support-npc/alumni-association.