MORRIS - Reclaim. Explore. Reinvent. Ann Kolden isn't the person she once was.

"The best lesson I ever learned is always be your own advocate," said Ann. "I was always very passive. Today, I'm stronger and wiser."

A lifelong Benson (Minn.) native, Ann was born in October 1962. "I lived in Benson growing up and graduated from Benson High School in 1981."

After attending the College of St. Benedict for a semester, Ann accepted a nanny job in Larchmont, New York. "That lasted four and a half months. I was so disillusioned then by how big and unpleasant the rest of the world could be that I welcomed returning to west central Minnesota." After a brief stint working through Eldercare for a "wonderful family" in Benson, she pursued a major in business economics at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

"I worked in the Humanities office in the summers as a student, filling in for longtime Humanities secretary Bea Nelson," she said.

She was a cocktail waitress and a bartender in the Corral Lounge at the Sunwood Inn for four years. Then came her work as a bank teller in 1986 at First Federal Savings Bank, which eventually led to her advancement as an assistant vice president of personal financial banking.

"In February 1995, I finally got my 'Cinderella job' working at UMM," said Ann. "I had applied at UMM for eight years. Then one day I was asked to visit the campus for an interview."

Ann celebrated her 20th year at UMM in February with a reception at Eastcliff, along with other UMM staff, to meet University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. She currently works at UMM full-time as the executive office and administrative assistant to Science and Math Division head Peh Ng.

Both the best and the worst part of her UMM job is that it's never the same. "It's so busy and there is no time to get bored. I love the students and I get to watch them evolve and mature over their few short years here."

Ann was the fourth of six children born to Michael and Virginia Rooney of Benson. Virginia was a stay-at-home mother and part-time nurse's assistant. Michael was an airplane mechanic in the Air Force. He and his brother, Dick, owned Rooney Ford Sales prior to his becoming Benson postmaster in 1963.

Ann has three children - Rachel of Perham, Sarah of Henderson and Daniel who lives in Morris - and four grandchildren, Rebecca (9), Nolan (8), Gunner (6) and Kennadie (16 months).

When she's not spending time with her children and grandchildren, Ann enjoys a variety of other interests.

"I had my real estate license from 1999 to 2004. I thought it would be really fun. But I got it during a not so fun time in real estate. I let my license lapse in 2004. I sometimes think I'd like to do it again; maybe when I retire.

"I've always loved and collected glass," she said. "In high school I went to auctions and bought glass, once spending $45 on a collection of cobalt glass bottles." When friend Jerry Loher, who worked with stained glass for about 37 years, passed away, his children generously gave her his stained glass equipment and supplies. Ann also had a friend in Benson who worked in the medium.

"A former freshman student at UMM set up a stained glass class at the high school. I bought a kit and eventually bought the student's equipment and supplies when she decided to discontinue working in stained glass. My stained glass work has been mostly for myself and I prefer to work in larger panels. I've just started selling some of my pieces.

"When I was a student at St. Ben's, my dorm room walls were covered in huge posters of Kenworth semis. I love mechanical things and have repaired my own washer and replaced my own faucets. I love figuring out how to do things by myself."

Ann rides a Yamaha VStar motorycycle that she bought in May 2014. She had always wanted to ride, even as a young child. She took a two-day class and obtained her license in September 2014. Last year, she also bought a fishing kayak: "I love to fish."

Most mornings she gets up at 5 a.m. to walk three miles before she goes to work. "My Mom had MS so I walk because I can."

Generally, Ann looks back and realizes that, despite all that she and her children have been through, "we've bounced back. My kids are strong, caring and resilient.

"I've learned to communicate no matter what," she said. "Mostly in my personal life and to some extent in my professional life too."