Bill Austen's family knows that nothing can ever fill the hole created by his loss. And the Roundup Rodeo community also knows something about the kind of loss created by the departure of a man who lived his life as Austen did.

    But it's a rare man whose death leaves a hole in an entire college.


Bill Austen's family knows that nothing can ever fill the hole created by his loss. And the Roundup Rodeo community also knows something about the kind of loss created by the departure of a man who lived his life as Austen did.
    But it's a rare man whose death leaves a hole in an entire college.
    That's probably because few colleges have been loved the way that Austen loved Dodge City Community College.
    Austen went far beyond his official duties as a trustee, and his lively interest in every aspect of the college endeared him to his fellow trustees, administrators, staff and students.
    "Bill was passionate about the college. He loved every part of it," said DCCC trustee Floris Jean Hampton, who had a 20-year friendship with Austen. "He was always so proud to be a part of the school, and that pride never changed."
    Hampton said that as a trustee, Austin was a classic team player.
"He didn't have a pet project to champion or a particular ax to grind," she said. "Bill was enthusiastic about everything and ready to cooperate with every other trustee. And you know, his enthusiasm was contagious and kept up our morale whenever times got a bit tough."
    Hampton said that Austin cared more about DCCC's athletic teams than any trustee or administrator she had ever known.
    "Bill really did attend every game. All the coaches loved him," she said. "And he took a personal interest in the well-being of every athlete. He knew them all, and he kept track of their grades so that he could get them academic help before they were in real trouble. Bill also talked to them about their plans for the future — he didn't want them to think of athletics as their whole lives."
    Hampton said that she has barely had time to absorb the loss of her old friend and colleague, and that her immediate focus is on the Austen family.
    "The college trustees haven't really had a chance to talk about Bill's death yet," Hampton said. "It's so sudden, and people are just beginning to deal with it. But I'm sure that we will come together when the time is right."

    Reach Claire O'Brien at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at claire.obrien@dodgeglobe.com.