‘Truly an STC Family’
Four sibs ditch debt and kick-start careers
A radio personality over the last 58 years, Rodger Kauffmann says his family has created a college-going tradition at South Texas College for more than two decades now. His sons Chris, William, and Matthew as well as his daughter Amanda have all gone on to successful careers after graduating from STC.
The old college “catch-22” is all too familiar for many families.
With a degree under their belts, college grads command a whopping $30,000 more every year compared to those with only a high school education, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Yet, the cost of college has skyrocketed by nearly 500 percent since the early 80s. Student loans now weigh in at $1.4 trillion, comprising more U.S. household debt than both credit cards and auto loans, according to Forbes Magazine.
The paradox persists in 2021, in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. But for one RGV family, finding South Texas College meant not having to choose between schooling and savings.
“STC is so affordable,” says Rodger Kauffmann, known as “Rodger Kay” in the broadcasting world. “It is a way for people down here to send their kids to college without having to get a mortgage on the home.”
A radio personality for 58 years and father of six, Rodger moved to the Valley in 1988 to become the general manager of Wild 104 and has since worked for KTEX and many more. When it was time for his third son to go to college, there was only one choice for the family.
Christopher “Chris” Kauffmann kick-started the STC tradition back in 1999, where he majored in Business Administration before enlisting in the military.
“The Financial Management career field was the perfect fit,” Chris recalls. Twenty years later, he’s a Senior Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, having served all over the country and the world, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Because of my education at STC, this helped guide me to be an Air Force Comptroller,” says Chris, who will soon be stationed in Japan. “It has been an amazing experience, and my time at STC laid the groundwork for my career.”
“He's at one of the highest grades in non-comms [Senior Non-Commissioned Officers] in the Air Force,” beams his proud father. And though it would be another decade before his next child was college-ready, in Rodger’s mind, there was no doubt she would follow in her brother’s footsteps… though on a totally different path.
Known as Amanda Mae of KTEX radio, Kauffmann’s oldest child of the “second brood of kids” recently completed a degree in Kinesiology, with hopes of opening up her own gym one day. Her journey to physical fitness all started at STC.
“She really loved going there,” her father recalls. An honor student who doubled as a radio show host and instructor at Gold’s Gym, Amanda is currently expecting her first child – perhaps the next Kauffmann to carry on the Jaguar tradition.
“STC is so affordable. It is a way for people down here to send their kids to college without having to get a mortgage on the home.”
“It’s the best,” Amanda says about her alma mater. “I really like that it’s a smaller campus, with smaller classes and a much smaller amount to pay.”
Just two years younger than Amanda is her brother William, or “Will,” who followed her example by majoring in kinesiology. Now a South Texas College graduate, he’s living his own unique dream.
A dancer since he was six years old and a Deborah Case Dance Academy instructor by 17, Will earned his kinesiology degree in hopes of becoming a better professional dancer and teacher. He’s since transferred to The University of Texas at Austin and credits STC for giving him the discipline, teamwork and understanding of the human body to take his training and teaching to the next level.
“I can thank STC for giving me the knowledge and resources I needed to further my education,” says Will, who is especially grateful to Kinesiology Professor Dr. Rebecca De Los Santos for inspiring him and shaping his work ethic.
He’s also proud of his alma mater for offering a new dance major: “With this new degree, it will open up so many opportunities for aspiring artists to learn,” says Will, who hopes to stay connected to the progressive department. “This program is going to flourish.”
While a full-time student, Will continues to teach dance as well as piano lessons, and he also hosts a weekend radio show on iHeartMedia. In each of the past 15-plus years, he has performed The Nutcracker with the Rio Grande Valley Ballet, now handling the coveted roles of “Snow King” and “Cavalier.”
As a professional dancer, he knows a thing or two about finding solid footing.
“There is no doubt that STC is the way to go,” says the grateful grad. “I can definitely speak for all my siblings when I say STC has played a huge role in following our career paths.”
Just take the youngest Kauffmann brother, Matthew, or “Matt.” He found the fast-track to a certificate in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), and after just a few semesters at STC, started his ideal career.
“I was able to dive head-first into the workforce,” says Matt, now a technician at Polar Air. He aims to earn his associate degree in HVAC this fall, all while working at his dream job.
His secret to landing a cool career so quickly? Matt credits the combo of hands-on experience and powerful theory shared by STC industry-expert instructors. His professors also helped him gain placements at well-known companies to obtain the real-world, on-the-job training he needed to be successful and start networking.
Says the technician, “The wonderful faculty at STC gave me the best foundation I could have asked for in my career.”
For Matt, HVAC was the smart choice – and not just because his grandfather was a technician and it seemed to run in the family. It’s a career that will likely never go out of style in the Valley, where the weather is hot and the population keeps on booming.
“Demand for talented HVAC professionals will not only remain consistent but will likely continue to grow,” predicts the youngest Kauffmann sibling.
Matt has dreams of opening his own industrial systems company, aiming to be one of the best in the science of keeping people cool. He’s grateful to STC for giving him the support and the skills he needed to take off:
“I feel beyond ready for my future, thanks to the strong foundation that South Texas College has provided me.”
“We’re very pleased with STC,” echoes proud papa Rodger. “It didn’t take a big bite out of our budget… and it enabled them to move forward and to extend their careers.”
The kids couldn’t agree more.
Says Will, “STC is, and will always be, home to me.”
“STC will meet anyone’s educational needs,” adds Chris. “My siblings and I are truly an STC family.”