Don Osterday MS’79, juggling the demands of family life and a full-time job, took 11 years to get his master’s degree in school counseling from UW–Madison.
“At the time, they told me that it was the longest anyone ever took,” says Osterday, now a retired Darlington High School counselor and a civic activist in Lafayette County.
But while it may have taken him extra time to graduate — from 1968 to 1979 — Osterday has never regretted his decision, and he says it helps to make him more effective in community affairs today. Osterday has served on the Darlington City Council since 2005, and he also sits on the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee, the Plan Commission, and the Finance and Personnel Committee.
The UW–Madison counselor education degree taught me to listen … and make decisions.
He’s active in the Darlington United Methodist Church, unloads trucks at the Lafayette County Food Pantry, is a former board member of the Darlington Country Club, and works part-time as a proofreader at Darlington’s Republican Journal newspaper. Osterday connects his education — he also has a bachelor’s in math and science and a master’s in science education from UW–Platteville — to his civic involvement.
“The UW–Madison counselor education degree taught me to listen, which I don’t think everyone does very well,” he says. “On the City Council, we get complaints about everything, from stray cats to street repairs, but my training helps me listen and make decisions.”
Osterday was a middle-school science teacher in Middleton from 1968 to 1974, and then returned to Darlington, where he worked as a counselor for 29 years.
“I liked the one-on-one contact with students,” he says.
And while Osterday never figured he’d return to his hometown, he’s glad he did.
“I just think that in small towns, you’ve got to help out,” he says, “and counselors are people who want to help.”