Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness, began working at Kansas State in 1988. Now, a few decades later, Neihoff is set to retire on June 12.
Despite the lengthy time he’s spent at K-State, Niehoff’s journey to Wildcat territory wasn’t straight.
Niehoff, associate provost since 2009, is the fourth of eight kids from a middle-class family in Louisville, Kentucky. While all of his friends decided to go to the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky for college, Niehoff decided to take a scholarship to St. Joseph’s College, a small school in northern Indiana.
Niehoff said that at St. Joseph’s, he decided to study math simply because he was good at it. During the summer periods, Niehoff held a variety of jobs, like working in a restaurant and mowing cemeteries, but nothing quite piqued his interest.
While in school, Niehoff took a couple of computer classes and ended up back home in Louisville at a consulting firm. Because of the type of work and company disorganization, Niehoff became unhappy with what he was doing. He started taking night classes in organizational behavior at Louisville.
“This organization class opened my eyes to understanding how organization works and good management and core management,” Niehoff said, “so I decided I wanted to get my Ph.D. in organizational behavior.”
Niehoff applied and got accepted to the only doctoral school he applied to: Indiana University. He said he didn’t know until he got there that Indiana had one of the highest-rated organizational behavior programs in the country at the time.
While looking for a job post-college, Niehoff contacted K-State through some Indiana connections heading the program. Within a week of applying to K-State, Niehoff came down for an interview.
“I remember being in the Union in room 207, doing my interview in there,” Niehoff said. “Whenever I’m in there, it brings back memories as my first visit to K-State. I never thought I’d get a Ph.D.; I got a Ph.D. Never thought about K-State at the time, and here I am. I came here; it ended up being the perfect fit.”
Niehoff said K-State gave him the freedom to wear many hats during his tenure. Niehoff taught many business classes, oversaw planning and analysis, completed institutional research, dealt with faculty affairs issues, trained new faculty and department heads and worked on curriculum development.
Not everything Niehoff provided can be put on a resume, though. Jessica Elmore, associate director of diversity programs at the Alumni Association and former student of Niehoff, describes Niehoff as “the first white, male mentor in [her] life.”
“He’s what K-State family means to me,” Elmore said. “When I came [to K-State], he was my support system. Without him, I don’t know if I would have stayed.”
For colleagues, Niehoff leaving K-State is bittersweet. Donald Saucier, associate director of the Teaching and Learning Center and colleague of Niehoff, said he’s sad knowing that he won’t get to work with Niehoff anymore.
“I love working with [Niehoff],” Saucier said. “I’m sad he’s retiring. He truly gets how to work with people, he knows how to put people in positions to succeed. … It makes me a teeny bit apprehensive that the university is going to have to [recover from COVID-19] without one of its superheroes.”
Niehoff said he has looked forward to retirement for some time now, saying he has always had the age of 65 in his head to stop working. Part of this stems from his father retiring at age 62 and his mother passing away shortly after she retired. Niehoff turned 65 last October.
“My dad is now 93-years-old. He still drives a car, he still takes walks every day, he still plays trombone in a band,” Niehoff said. “I’ve always thought about him as I’ve been closer to 65 and I thought, ‘You know? That’s really what life is about.’ I don’t want to be one of those people who die working. I want to be happy, I want to be healthy. You never know when something bad could happen.”
Though he can’t play “noon-time basketball” with students in Ahearn Field House any longer because of knee surgeries, Niehoff already has plans of playing golf and music, along with working with a local non-profit. Niehoff says that his wife, city commissioner Usha Reddi, always says, “[Niehoff] has enough hobbies for the both of [them].”
Niehoff said he will miss K-State and the duties he held, as the university gave him more than he could ever dream of.
“This school gave me an opportunity I never thought I’d have,” Niehoff said. “The thing about academia, about being a professor, it continually brings you new life every year. You meet new students, you meet new colleagues, it’s a constant process of newness going on. I really took a lot of pride in the work that I’ve done with students.”