Luther Alumni Magazine

Jane (Greene) Hildebrand '74 retires after 31 years in coaching and Student Life

At Jane (Greene) Hildebrand's retirement reception in June, Kristen Agena, right, clinical education coordinator, presented to her a table Agena made from old bleacher boards that were replaced in the Main Gym. Photo by Grant Preheim '18
At Jane (Greene) Hildebrand's retirement reception in June, Kristen Agena, right, clinical education coordinator, presented to her a table Agena made from old bleacher boards that were replaced in the Main Gym. Photo by Grant Preheim '18

Jane (Greene) Hildebrand ’74 worked both parts of campus at Luther, as a coach in the Regents Center for 27 years and, for the past five years, as assistant dean for student life, up the hill in Dahl Centennial Union. She retired from Luther in June, and one early summer day, in her office overlooking the playing fields, she visited about her Luther career.

Hildebrand laid the foundation for her career by majoring in health and physical education (teaching) at Luther. In 1973, she and Steve Hildebrand ’73 married, and he joined the United States Air Force. They lived in California, Kansas, and Nebraska—Jane teaching high school and coaching multiple sports—before returning to Decorah in 1982, when Steve left the air force. Property along the Upper Iowa River that they’d planned to retire on became the home where they’d raise their three children, Josh ’02, Jake ’02, and Jim ’06.

Their first year back, Hildebrand was an assistant coach for field hockey, track and field, and women’s basketball. She became head coach for women’s basketball in 1985, also teaching physical education and eventually taking on the roles of senior women’s administrator and associate athletic director.

Hildebrand led her teams to seven Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships while posting an IIAC record of 293-155. She was named Iowa Conference Coach of the Year five times. Her teams made nine appearances in the NCAA III National Tournament, advancing to the round of 16 twice and the round of eight twice. In 1992, she led the Norse to the Final Four and returned home with a third-place finish. When she left coaching, Hildebrand was the longest-tenured coach in the IIAC and in the history of Luther women’s basketball, with a career record of 438-260.

Some things remain unchanged since Hildebrand got involved with Luther athletics. The floorboards and bleachers of the basketball courts are the same ones she played on as a student, and many of her early influencers, such as Betty Hoff ’60, Paul Solberg ’61, and Kent Finanger ’54—who, like her, coached multiple sports, taught, and did advising—are still her friends and supporters. “They have been critical role models and mentors for me, and continue to be,” she says.

But she’s also seen big changes, in part because of larger athletics budgets in recent decades. When she was a student, she says, “Our basketball team would ride in the coaches’ cars to get to away games. We would stay overnight in our families’ homes. I remember my mother putting up our team in the basement and making breakfast for us before we went to play Iowa Wesleyan [near her hometown of Columbus Junction, Iowa]. Freshman year, we didn’t have uniforms, so we wore our own shorts and shirts and wore little pinnies over the top.”

Asked about some of her best Luther memories, Hildebrand says: “The first thing that pops into my mind is just having meaningful conversations with students, whether it’s a cup of coffee and a roll at Sunnyside or a chat in my office about how they played in the game.” Most of all, she’s glad she was able to be there for students, for the happy times and for the sad, such as telling a student that a grandparent had passed away.

Hildebrand says she has enjoyed working with this age group because the students are going through a transitional period in their lives—children growing into adults. It’s been a pleasure to see students “becoming themselves,” she says.
It’s a pleasure too when she gets to talk with alumni returning to campus, and she says she remembers everyone—even by their voices. In the Student Life Office, she sat around a corner from the main entrance, but when former students came into the office, she says, “You heard voices and you thought, Oh my gosh, that’s a voice from the past—I know who that is!

Hildebrand says she’s looking forward to having a little more time for her immediate family and for visiting grandchildren in Iowa City and Saudi Arabia. She appreciates the support she’s received over the years from across the Luther community and from other Decorah residents—many of them strong fans of the women’s basketball program—and the sense of family she has felt at Luther. But she says it’s the day-to-day talks and engagement with students she’ll miss the most.