ADRIAN - Russ Lofthus can’t think of anything that would have made his more than two decades at Adrian Elementary School better than his years surrounded by excellent students and staff alike.

When the final bell of the school year rang Friday, the longtime Adrian Elementary principal said his final goodbyes to students as he closed the last chapter on his 30-year career in education and opened his next book - retirement. The public is invited to attend a 5 to 6 p.m. May 29 retirement reception at Adrian Elementary.

“This is a great district and I’ve been treated so well here,” Lofthus said. “There’s really good families, and the kids are a joy. I’ve been very fortunate.”

Lofthus has been making an impression on Adrian students for more than two decades. His acceptance of the administrative role allowed him to reduce his commute from his family’s Luverne home. Prior to Adrian, Lofthus was the principal at Fulda Elementary School.

Aside from the excitement of accepting a position that would be where he’d plant himself for the next 21 years, Lofthus’ first year in the district was swarming with plenty of other excitement.

“The very first day on the job was the day we started planning (the elementary) building,” Lofthus said about the building that still exists today. “I got on the ground floor of that and got to be a part of the planning process. It was really a great process for me. Our school district built a beautiful building.”  

It’s easy to see that the students will be one of the things Lofthus misses most in retirement.

“The day-to-day opportunities to be around kids and just see the joy they bring to our school and all the good things that happen with the kids as they learn and grow,” he said, reflecting on his fondest memories. “That’s the biggest reward you can take away from a job like this.”

One of the joys about working in the smaller school district like Adrian, Lofthus said, has been bearing witness to the life cycle.

“You watch (students) go all the way through 12th grade and graduate,” he said. “Some are back in the community and having their own kids.”

Lofthus said he’s also been fortunate to work with others that care so much about the district’s children. Teachers, support staff, paraprofessionals and school board members all want the best for the students, he added.

With Lofthus’ retirement, administration changes are on the horizon for the Adrian School District.

The current Adrian middle/high school principal, Cate Koehne, will become the interim K-12 principal, while current middle school math teacher Randy Schettler completes his administrative degree. In the meantime, Schettler will serve as the dean of students.

“That’s one of the things that has made (my retirement) easier for me,” Lofthus said of feeling comfortable that leadership will be left in capable hands.

While he continues to enjoy what he does, Lofthus called the timing right to retire and enjoy his other interests. Those include, first and foremost, some grandchildren. Lofthus said he and his wife, Nancy, are fortunate to have their children and grandchildren close by in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Fishing, boating and maybe even camping are also likely imminent in Lofthus’ retirement.

He’ll also find himself with more time to travel back to his hometown of McVille, N.D., where he and his brothers own a farm.

He’s also considering finding a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization with which to get involved.