Dan Schnurr’s experience at Sterling College was anything but traditional; his school day did not consist of merely being a student, but also of being a husband and a father to his three children, as well as working a full-time job. Shnurr, now the warden of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas, recounts how he would get off work at 6 a.m. and proceed to class where he would sometimes struggle to stay awake.
He remembered the difficulty of getting homework done, but also that the professors were very understanding and compassionate. “There were so many caring individuals at Sterling College; I wasn’t just another number,” he recounted. “I enjoyed Sterling. It was hard going to school full-time. I remember the struggles at the time, but now I look back on it so fondly. It was so important and it really created a baseline for what we do in life. Sterling didn’t teach me how to be a warden; it didn’t teach how to be a corrections officer, but it taught me how to think through problems and work with others.”
Schnurr’s passion for the criminal justice field did not begin as such, but rather through the need for a job. Schnurr attributed his ability to work with inmates to Sterling College’s emphasis on servant leadership. Schnurr, now the warden at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility, also recounted how his non-traditional education prepared him for the work he does today. “Being non-traditional like I was, I had to work with people who were ten years younger, which wasn’t easy; I had to learn how to work well with others.”
Schnurr spoke of how the corrections field has a long wait for pay-off: it will usually take years before a former inmate will call and say “thank you.” Schnurr noted, however, that eventually, corrections officers can see the fruits of their labors. “As an individual, you’re rarely planting a seed—sometimes you’re watering it,” he said. “If we don’t have compassion for others, then we’re not really doing anything for them.”
Besides compassion for inmates, Schnurr is also passionate about fostering a close family-type relationship within the correctional facility. While it can be difficult in a large facility such as Hutchinson Correctional Facility, which supports over 600 staff members and houses around 1,860 inmates, Schnurr believes it is worth it to create a culture within the HCF. “This isn’t just another job; it really is an important aspect of society. We can’t treat it like it’s a warehouse: it’s real. It affects everybody,” he explained. Nearly all inmates will move back into the community at some point, which means that their time at the correctional facility influences the larger community, not just the inmates and staff at HCF.
Schnurr’s four years at Sterling College, while non-traditional, impacted him greatly in his career. He majored in business administration, getting to know the community of Sterling as he learned and worked his full-time job. “I really credit Sterling College for being able to help me create that baseline for doing what I do now. There were so many people that helped me through that process,” Schnurr stated. For Schnurr, Sterling helped create the standard by which he works within the criminal justice field, making a difference through servant leadership.
Dan ’93, wife Janet Sue (Webster) ’97, children Ashley, Dallas and Aspen.