After 25 years of groundbreaking work at the University of New Mexico and United Way, recently retired Chief Operations Officer for Student Affairs Kim Kloeppel was recognized with the UNM Zia award, an award that recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through their service to the University or greater community.
Kloeppel’s weighty list of accomplishments include serving as interim dean of students for three years, leading renovations of Smith Plaza, creating the Lobo Food Pantry and starting the UNM Random Acts of Kindness initiative, now known as BeKind UNM, a group which promotes kindness and respect on campus and in the greater Albuquerque community.
“I have so much gratitude for my life and the people that are in it, so it makes me feel good when I’m out there doing something for somebody else,” Kloeppel said.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology, Kloeppel worked in retail for some time, still in mind to find a career path where she could help people. She then found a job at Student Health and Counseling as a program manager where she worked for 10 years before moving to Student Affairs.
Dorene DiNaro worked under Kloeppel for 13 years and credits Kloeppel with helping her grow into her current position as program planning manager. She continues to be good friends with Kloeppel even after her retirement, indulging in monthly happy hour excursions among other things.
“She offered me opportunities which were good. I think I just never considered myself a leader or super confident and she had me chairing the marketing and social media committees … One of the biggest opportunities I think was chairing that committee and being able to mold that position into what I wanted it to be,” DiNaro said.
Outside of her work at the University, Kloeppel also worked with United Way on projects for the Hispano Philanthropic Society, where she helped give out grants to nonprofits and run programs encouraging middle school students in the South Valley to seek out higher education.
Kloeppel said she misses working with students in her retirement. Kloeppel found her life skills class, which she helped create at the University and became a primary instructor of, to be particularly rewarding. She recalled having several students from the class contact her years later to let her know how helpful the course was for them.
“Just being around students was very invigorating … It's something that I do miss now that I’ve been out for almost two years,” Kloeppel said.
Growing up Catholic, Kloeppel first got started with community service managing finances and fundraising for the church at UNM’s Aquinas Newman Center.
“I grew up being kind of an introvert and I also didn’t have a lot of self-confidence so I was never really sure if I was smart enough or if I was good enough … I always wanted to do something; I just wasn’t sure how to get started. And then once I did that, I felt good about it — it makes you feel good about how you are,” Kloeppel said.
DiNaro praised Kloeppel’s generosity and inclusivity and overall described her as somebody who is always there for those in her life. She said Kloeppel has always been incredibly generous with DiNaro’s son, who she had a year into working with Kloeppel, and there has “never been a time when she hasn’t thought of him.”
“She’s just always very inclusive; she’ll try and include me whenever she can. Even when life’s gotten hectic, you know, we have different lives, … she’s still always made time for me and tried to get me to do things as well,” DiNaro said. “She’s good at bringing people together, I can tell you that.”
Outside of homemaking projects and quilting, Kloeppel has spent her retirement reflecting on how important the connections in her life were. Her itch to help others has not gone away, and she now donates blood platelets every month and gives money to various nonprofits.
“She’s a good person. She’s a very kind person. I feel like her heart’s always in the right place,” DiNaro said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle