As general manager for a precision machine shop in Marshfield, Keegan Hastreiter makes sure projects go out the door on time and meet customers’ specifications.
Committed to excellence. That’s how he might describe family-owned Hastreiter Industries, which works with aerospace and defense industry contractors.
That’s pretty much the opposite of how he would describe himself as a college student eight years ago at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“I was much more focused on goofing around and playing video games,” he said. “I loved my time at Stout. I loved the classes. It was just the homework I didn’t want to do.”
He was so focused on having fun that he thought he was expelled — for the second time — after the spring 2013 semester 12 credits shy of a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
“I was out, and I figured there was no way they’d let me back in school,” Keegan said. “I was resigned to the fact that this was the way things were going to be because of my mistakes.”
As his life and career progressed, it nagged at him. Now married with a young son and daughter and managing a growing business with 25 employees, it bothered him even more.
“Not having the degree has been a huge point of shame. What would I tell my kids?” he said.
Then one day this spring, serendipity arrived in the form of a man named Joe, service engineer for Morris Midwest. He visited Hastreiter Industries to install a new Okuma CNC lathe the company had purchased.
Keegan and Joe talked about school. Keegan explained how close he was to a degree at UW-Stout. Joe interjected — his wife happens to be chancellor at UW-Stout.
Coincidence? “I really believe there are no coincidences. Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous,” Keegan said.
Joe Dvorsky went home and told Katherine Frank, whose mantra is that “students are the center of everything we do at UW-Stout.” She wanted to know more and scheduled a virtual meeting with Keegan.
During their meeting, Frank and Professor Anne Hoel, business department, ascertained that Keegan, during his career, had essentially done the work that his capstone course required. This included writing a 67-page business plan and finishing a yearlong leadership training program.
Then came words of redemption and reconciliation: He hadn’t been expelled as he thought but rather put on academic probation. If he submitted a Credit for Prior Learning portfolio and could demonstrate how he met the objectives of the Strategic Management and Business Policies course, he could receive the capstone credits — and his bachelor’s degree.
“When they told me that I could get the degree, I started crying. I was just hoping for an opportunity to get back into class. I was emotionally overwhelmed,” Keegan said.
This time, he completed his classwork. On Saturday, May 8, he will receive a degree in management and the diploma he thought he’d left behind with his video game consoles.
He will be one of 1,075 new graduates.
“Joe and I couldn’t be happier for Keegan and are delighted that we could help him complete his UW-Stout story,” Frank said. “I saw someone with a strong desire to reach their educational goal, and I was able to help make the connections necessary for him to find a path to graduation.”
Dvorsky said it was “gratifying to know that I was able to play a small part in helping Keegan” achieve his goal.
Hoel also was excited to help facilitate the final step for an appreciative Keegan.
“Keegan’s heartfelt description of the gratitude he feels being able to tell his two young children that he is now a college graduate is very inspiring,” Hoel said. “The same holds true of the opportunity to meet adult learners where they are to assist in achieving their educational goals.”
UW-Stout’s undergraduate online management program is geared toward nontraditional students. The business administration program is offered on campus.
Thinking beyond himself
Keegan has grown far beyond the person he was during his years at UW-Stout, realizing that he is a cog in a much bigger machine.
“It’s not about the money, not about me. My job is about the people. My No. 1 priority is taking care of guys on shop floor so they can be successful at their job, outside of the job and support their families,” he said.
Frank sees the maturity in him as well, in fact his desire to do for others what UW-Stout did for him — provide a pathway to a better life.
“He seems to really enjoy his career and wants to find ways to help others. I was impressed by his honesty, authenticity, passion and vision. Ultimately, his focus on building a program to help others is what helped him to achieve his own educational goal,” she said.
Keegan’s long-range plan, with his parents and two brothers, is to implement the business plan he wrote about five years ago for a nonprofit called Shiloh Bound. Through Hastreiter Industries, Shiloh Bound would provide career training, mentorship and a path to a brighter future for at-risk young men.
Hastreiter Industries was started by Keegan’s parents in 1988 in a hog shed; it operated out of the family home until 2019. In the past five years, since Keegan and his brothers came on board, it has grown to 25 employees and a 42,000-square foot shop. Some of the specialty aerospace parts, including super alloys, machined in the shop have gone into space.
“The things we get to work on are really cool,” he said, noting that the company has new machines that can mill a part to the accuracy one one-hundredth of the thickness of a human hair.
Keegan has hands-on industrial experience to go with his business degree: He spent eight months in the welding industry, primarily in Colorado, after leaving UW-Stout in 2013 and said he loved the work.
Those personal, academic and career experiences have slowly melded and machined an alloy version of Keegan that didn’t previously exist, a Keegan who finally — and deservingly so — is a college graduate.