|It was the quality of the
science program and a chance to get involved once again
in a vocation that he loved, that brought George Rinker
back to the classroom after 16 years of retirement.
78, a former associate dean of the University of South
Dakota medical school in Vermillion, is volunteering his
expertise and experience as a lab assistant. He attends
class lectures taught by BHSU professors and then helps
students with their laboratory work. He is in the lab
twice a week and is also available evenings before finals
I needed something to do and I missed
teaching, he said. I realized I could fill
somewhat of a void; they don't have enough assistant
staff here. I let it be known that I was available.
Last fall he began assisting Dr. Brian Smith,
assistant professor of biology, with his mammals class
and this spring he has been working with Dr. Charles
Lamb, associate professor of biology, with his vertebrate
Dr. Rinker is a tremendous asset to Black Hills
State, said Lamb. I am always learning about
anatomy and about teaching science from watching him in
the lab. He represents a resource in the community that
we are actively seeking to utilize more effectively. I
just wish I had his help in all of my classes.
The former medical school dean still thinks of himself
as a mammalogist turned anatomist. Prior to completing
his Ph.D at the University of Michigan, he took a number
of anatomy courses. As he was finishing his course work,
university officials offered him a job teaching human
gross anatomy. He taught in the UM medical school from
1950 to 1962 and served the next 12 years as associate
dean at USD.
Helping students at BHSU is his first experience
teaching undergraduate students.
I've never dealt with undergraduates
before, he said. They run the gamut (of
ability and interest). Some are every bit as good as the
medical students I have taught. I find it very
refreshing, and I find the students very courteous.
They're appreciative. I just plain like them.
Being a volunteer and not having the overall
responsibility for the classes has its benefits.
It's been a delightful discovery, by not having
responsibility for their grades, I can relate to them in
a way that I would never relate to them if I were in
charge of the course. I can get down with them and joke
and have a one-to-one exchange of ideas ... kind of as a
He said most of the students get right into their
projects. They are eager to study and they have a desire
to learn. He described it as the old fashioned work
They're not squeamish about it (dissecting
animals). Some of the girls are the best dissectors I've
seen in a long time.
Rinker seems to truly enjoy working with the students.
He says, at my stage of the game, it's nice to make
a contribution, even if it's a small one.
Back to Campus
The students seem to like and appreciate
Rinker's help in the lab. They are aware of his
dedication and love of science.
Natashia Cushman, a junior wellness-management major
from Casper, Wyo., said, I think he really loves
what he does. He's willing to share it. ... He's willing
to teach and the students are thankful. We take advantage
of what he can do for us.
Cushman was impressed that he would spend the time
necessary to assist students in their lab work. He
really goes in to depth about things and tells you
everything you need to know. He's been a life saver to a
lot of students.
The lab work is Rinker's favorite aspect of
volunteering. He would, however, like to get involved
with research. He is currently collecting mammal
specimens and presents his collection to area elementary
school children. Because of that effort, he is helping to
build a mammal teaching collection at BHSU to assist
Smith with his mammals class. He also gives animal tissue
samples to Dr. Shane Sarver, assistant professor of
biology, who recently wrote a grant acquiring a genetic
analyzer for the school's new molecular genetics
I would like to do whatever I could do without
getting too committed, said Rinker.
The former medical school dean said he was impressed
with many of the non-traditional students at BH. They are
really making an effort to get on with their lives.
I have the greatest respect for them, he
said. They are making sacrifices to get themselves
ahead at a stage when a lot of people are twiddling their
thumbs on relief. ... There are people around here who
like them and want to help them.
With the school term coming to a close, Rinker says he
will leave his Spearfish apartment and head out to his
cabin near O'Neil Pass for the summer. He and his wife
fell in love with the Black Hills and purchased some land
in 1975. They had been spending summers there since 1984.
She passed away nearly three years ago and he moved from
Vermillion to Spearfish in 1998.
He plans to continue assisting students with their lab
work as long as he can. He even offered to allow students
to do field research on his 160 acres in the hills.
My whole life has involved contact with
students, he said. It's fun to deal with
students who want to learn.