SIOUX CITY - Thank heavens for those diplomas Pete Hansen picked up over the years. Otherwise, it might be tough to convince a younger audience he's a graduate of places like Ayshire High School, Iowa Central Community College of Eagle Grove, and Westmar College in Le Mars.
They're all gone now, but Hansen has certainly done them all proud, just the same.
And, as of Sept. 7, when the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that he'll be one of its 18 new hall of famers, he'll have yet another award to show for his unmistakable impact on college and high school athletics in the Siouxland area and beyond.
"Meritorious service'' is the category for which the NAIA will officially salute Hansen next March 6 at the NAIA Division II men's basketball championships in Point Lookout, MO.
The lifelong Northwest Iowa resident, now making his home in Storm Lake, is the director of officials for that tournament and also the supervisor of umpires at the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho, home of longtime baseball power Lewis & Clark State.
The numbers on Hansen's career are certainly formidable, which is to say he's been arbitrating football, basketball and baseball games for a very long time.
He'll be celebrating 40 years of high school baseball next summer and has been involved at the college level for nearly three decades. He's done high school football and basketball since 1979, expanding into the college ranks just a couple of years later.
You can go ahead and try this at home, but there are some challenging caveats.
First, you have to reach age 65 and remain as youthful and fit as someone no more than 50, which Pete most definitely has.
Next, you have to become knowledge enough about three very different sports to administer the rules, ever changing as they tend to be, for all of those decades.
Every bit as important, you have to go well beyond regurgitating those rulebooks, developing a sense for the spirit of the rules.
Then, if you've accomplished all of the above, you have to have the sort of temperament that will enable you to disregard loutish fans and maintain a healthy climate for competitive play between two teams that both generally want to win as much as the other.
With basketball being the game where an official's performance is most conspicuous, I can tell you what a treat it has been to cover games Pete has worked, confident they'll be decided as much as possible by the athletes on the floor.
Hansen definitely maintains order. And, he does it by drawing upon his experience as a player and a coach.
Graduating in 1964 from Ayrshire, now part of Ruthven-Ayrshire, he spent two years at Iowa Central's Eagle Grove campus, now absorbed into the main center in Fort Dodge. Then, he spent his junior and senior years at Westmar, which officially closed its doors on Nov. 21, 1997.
Pete was a standout guard on a Westmar team that Coach Paul Knudtson led to the 1968 NAIA Tournament in Kansas City. With 6-foot 10-inch Chicago Bulls draft pick Roger Moller in the post, the Eagles' one and only national tourney trip ended in a 62-57 loss to Valdosta State of Georgia, now an NCAA Division II program.
Also a member of the Westmar baseball team, Hansen graduated with a degree in physical education, minoring in history, and wound up teaching and coaching for 10 years with two each at LDF of Le Grand, near Marshalltown, and Exira, before a six-year stint at Graettinger. His 1976 Graettinger basketball team reached the state tournament before falling 69-68 to a Corning squad that later dropped a 68-62 Class A championship game to Mark Gannon and Iowa City Regina.
A couple of years later, though, it was time for a change of pace. Hansen found it as the manager of a hardware store and lumber company in Spencer, where he spent nine years. After that, he found the job that worked best with the new hobby in which he'd grown increasingly involved after leaving education - officiating.
Over the next 23 years, working for "World's Finest Chocolates,'' one of the best and most fattening school fund-raising organizations in the world, he had a schedule that enabled him to expand three sports worth of officiating to as many as 260 nights a year.
"I used to tell people I have the month of August off, but now they're starting football so much earlier,'' shrugged Hansen.
"I think probably the biggest thing in sports officiating is you've got to love it,'' he said. "And, yes, you've got to know the rules.
"You've got to think on your feet, too. You can detect and deflect a lot of problems that could arise on the field by simply observing and knowing when somebody's going to act up. There's a lot of stuff you can deflect before it ever gets started.
"Judgment, of course, is a gift. You've got to dictate advantage, disadvantage. And you've got to be able to take criticism.''
The biggest problem in officiating today? That's an easy one: Too many promising young referees or umpires don't stick around because the job doesn't pay nearly enough to make up for all the fan abuse.
"Young guys will come in and get started, catch hell a few times and decide this isn't for me,'' said Hansen. "If he's got a wife and young kids, that could be an issue.''
End result: Instead of having a stronger pool of officials, it becomes a matter of settling for the people who are still available, willing to put up with all the negatives the job will always entail.
The middle child of seven kids raised on a farm near Ayrshire by Edgar and Ivan Hansen, Pete was a sophomore in college when his dad died at age 55. His mother passed away two years ago at 94. Three sisters live in Spencer and another in Oklahoma City while he also has brothers in Grimes and Warsaw, Mo.
A bachelor, Hansen has daughters in Farmington, Minn. (Angie Beschorner) and Spencer (Melanie Peterson). He also has two grandsons and two granddaughters.
And, even though he's retired from the chocolate business, he's still constantly on the go.
A few weeks ago, he worked the Class 4A state baseball championship game, his 29th Iowa state baseball tournament. Barring a major surprise, he'll be doing the Iowa prep football playoffs for the 26th straight year this fall. And, that doesn't count all the college baseball and football, or his crowded winter slate of college basketball.
You really don't want to pile up the miles Pete travels to do high school football on Friday nights and then head two or three states away for a college game on Saturday. You don't want to mess with so many of the wintry road conditions he has battled for years, all for the sheer joy of hearing the rude second-guessing from some numbskull with limited knowledge of the rules.
The truly good ones like Pete Hansen shrug it all off because the coaches and athletes and, yes, even sports writers who've followed the games for any length of time know the good ones when we see 'em. And, he's definitely one of the best.