City Council thanked for decision not to transfer Rehab license


I would like to thank the Menomonie City Council for Friday’s action that denied a request to transfer the liquor license of the Rehab bar in downtown Menomonie to the agent for three taverns in Eau Claire.  Council members said that the transfer wouldn’t achieve the goal of helping reduce the incidence of high risk alcohol consumption and related problems downtown.   

I had sent a letter to council members opposing the proposed transfer, saying I was concerned that the transfer would “perpetuate the current high-risk drinking culture that exists at the Rehab.”   

The action means that the Rehab officially lost its liquor license on Sunday, July 1.   

I indicated in my letter that letting the liquor license expire would “allow the council to carefully consider all applicants’ business plans – especially those based on responsible beverage services — that may be a better fit for the new direction we hope to see in downtown Menomonie.”   

The Leader-Telegram story on the City Council meeting can be found here. The Dunn County News story can be found here. 

A new proposal for the Rehab

I would like to update the campus and the community on a new development in the situation involving the Rehab bar in downtown Menomonie. Today the Leader-Telegram reported that the owner of the Rehab has proposed transferring his liquor license to an Eau Claire entity that operates bars there. That story can be found here.  Here is my full statement that was sent to the newspaper in response to a request for comment:

“We were pleased when the Menomonie City Council on June 11, voted not to renew the liquor license for the Rehab tavern in downtown Menomonie. That action by the City Council sent a strong signal to the community that it wanted a new direction for its downtown – one that was not centered on encouraging high risk drinking among young people. Therefore, we are concerned with the current proposal to transfer the Rehab’s license to an Eau Claire group that is associated with establishments there that target college students with drink specials. We fear this transfer could perpetuate the current high-risk drinking culture that exists at the Rehab. We believe a better option would be denying this transfer to allow the council to carefully consider all applicants’ business plans – including responsible beverage services — that may be a better fit for the new direction we hope to see in downtown Menomonie.”

This is an incredibly important issue for the campus and for the community. We will keep the campus updated as needed.

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City Council’s nonrenewal of bar’s license was community effort, big step forward

The Menomonie City Council and Mayor Randy Knaack issued a strong statement Monday night about the need to address high-risk drinking behaviors by voting unanimously not to renew the license for the Rehab bar on Broadway Street. The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram story on the meeting is available here.

I attended the four-hour hearing the council held on the nonrenewal and witnessed the high degree of emotions that hovered over this issue. I want to personally thank the mayor and each council member who devoted so much time to this issue and for taking a strong stand in favor of responsible alcohol service downtown.

Others who worked so hard on this issue deserve thanks as well, including members of the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Drugs; Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson and the entire department; UW-Stout Police Chief Jason Spetz and his department; our Dean of Students office; and members of Menomonie Cares. This issue required a united community effort, and Menomonie responded.

I also want to also thank the other bars, restaurants and businesses in downtown Menomonie and across the city that stepped up to lend their support to this nonrenewal. Their backing was very important to this successful outcome. In addition, I want to emphasize that I’m grateful to the majority of tavern owners who operate responsibly and exemplify sound and ethical business practices.

Looking forward, I hope that this action means we’re entering a new era in this community that has at its core the desire to nurture our young people. The Rehab owner had the temerity to tell the council Monday night that he placed “people over profits.” The facts of this case spoke otherwise. We now have a real chance to move forward from this situation and work together to address the scourge of high-risk alcohol use and its many consequences.


Letter to Menomonie City Council

I recently sent the following letter to Menomonie City Council members, Mayor Randy Knaack and City Administrator Lowell Prange regarding Rehab tavern in downtown Menomonie. The council will meet in special session at 6 p.m. Monday, June 11, to consider the nonrenewal of Rehab’s licenses. I plan to be at the meeting, at the Dunn County Government Center, 800 Wilson Ave., and I urge you to attend as well:


I am writing to emphasize how important it is, with regard to our efforts to address high-risk drinking among UW-Stout students, that the Menomonie City Council denies the pending license renewal requests filed by the Rehab tavern.

I understand that this is not a decision the council can take lightly: a denial will have financial implications for the owner of the establishment. However, this owner has shown a brazen disregard for any semblance of the duty he has to serve alcohol according to state and local laws, as well as to operate his establishment as a responsible business owner and member of the community.

Most of the attention concerning the Rehab has been focused on the night of April 12, 2018, when city, university and county officers issued more than 50 citations to people who were under age and drinking in the bar. I have referred to this incident as “revolting,” and it truly was. However, also revolting are Rehab’s constant attempts to encourage high-risk drinking just to increase the bar’s bottom line.

Consider, for example, the 10th annual Intervention Fest the bar hosted Saturday, April 21, just two weeks shy of graduation. This event began at 10 a.m., according to the bar’s Facebook page, and was intended to encourage all patrons “to get wet, wild and wrecked with us all day.” The bar also posted photos of patrons who started lining up at 9 a.m. for what it called its “biggest party ever.”

Additionally, to encourage UW-Stout students to drink to excess the night before our advisement day, the bar posted on its Facebook page that it was offering a $10 “all you can drink” special. One student responded that it was his “favorite holiday from school.” Yes, because of this we are exploring alternatives to advisement day.

Finally, the Rehab is well known for its “Thirsty Thursday” specials that include “drink for free.” Unconscionable specials like these put pressure on other responsible owners and promote a race to the bottom.

As I have stated publicly, UW-Stout knows it has a problem with too many of its students engaging in high-risk drinking activities. We have an aggressive plan, sponsored by our Dean of Students office and managed by the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, to address this serious issue.

But we can’t do it ourselves. We need our community partners to join with us in this effort to effect a change that will help improve the quality of life in Menomonie, making the city safer and more attractive to new residents and new students.

Please make a strong statement that you are willing to be part of the solution by not renewing these liquor licenses.


Bob Meyer


City Council makes important decision about future of Rehab tavern

I want to share with the campus and our external stakeholders some wonderful news: On Monday night the Menomonie City Council voted to give notice to the owners of the downtown Rehab tavern that it intended to not renew the tavern’s beer and liquor licenses when they are up for renewal next month.

I want to personally thank Mayor Randy Knaack and the entire council for announcing this plan, and I pledge to do whatever is necessary to help ensure that the licenses are not renewed. I expect that the Rehab will request a hearing to contest the denial of its licenses, and I will make sure that our position is explained in detail to the council at that time.

As readers of this blog are aware, in April I raised the issue of the Rehab encouraging underage drinking in its tavern after police issued in excess of 50 citations to patrons for drinking violations. This type of behavior by a business cannot be tolerated at a time when we are implementing a plan at UW-Stout to combat high-risk drinking. There is only so much we can do without the help of the community in this effort.

While much work remains, Monday’s decision by the City Council is an important statement that the community is willing to join with UW-Stout to combat high-risk drinking. 

The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram story on the City Council meeting can be found here.

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A sea of smiles on commencement day; year-end student honors

Few days are more enjoyable on campus than commencement. It never gets old seeing the sea of graduates smiling in Johnson Fieldhouse as they await their walk across the stage to pick up their diploma and start a new phase in their lives.

I also enjoy meeting many of the graduates and their families and friends at the reception after the ceremonies, and it is a privilege for me to have pictures taken as well. These are moments the graduates will cherish forever, and it is a thrill to be part of it.

I will post my entire commencement speech at the end of this blog entry, but I want to mention two people around whom I centered my remarks last Saturday: the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen and the late first-year UW-Stout student Nicholas Nelson.

I told the audience that Chancellor Emeritus Sorensen, who died in February of complications from a stroke, is a big reason why UW-Stout enjoys such a strong reputation today, why we maintain such a high job placement rate for our graduates and why we are Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. For 26 years, Chancellor Emeritus Sorensen pushed this university to innovate and to excel, and I believe our graduates could learn some valuable lessons from his life and accomplishments.

I never got the chance to know Nick Nelson, but I met his family from Mondovi. Nick was majoring in computer science-game design when he died in March of complications from muscular dystrophy. Because of the courage Nick displayed through his illness, and because of his enormous affection for UW-Stout, I presented Nick’s family with the first-ever Stouthearted Award during the morning commencement ceremony.

I asked the graduates to consider, when they are confronted with life’s obstacles, how both Chancellor Emeritus Sorensen and Nick Nelson handled adversity: with courage to try to change the world.

I also wanted to say how pleased I am that six of our graduating Army ROTC cadets were able to take the Oath of Office during the morning ceremony. The lengthy standing ovation that these new second lieutenants received from their fellow graduates and the audience was very emotional. More on commencement is available here.

ROTC_03Honoring two special groups of students

In the days leading up to commencement, I had the opportunity to honor two groups of graduates who have excelled: those who participated in the federal McNair Scholars program and those who received the Samuel E. Wood Medallion, a nonacademic leadership award.

The McNair program is intended to help first-generation, limited income and underrepresented students get their degree and prepare for graduate school. I was proud to list the universities that our McNair graduates will be attending next year and their accomplishments.

This was an incredibly impressive group of scholars, and I’m sure each of them will accomplish whatever their goals might be.

Thanks to Sarah Wynn and her McNair staff for all they do, and we were happy to have Kelly Westlund from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s staff help us celebrate the McNair graduates as well.

The Wood award ceremony holds a special place for me because I received the medallion 40-some years ago during my undergraduate days at UW-Stout. The award honors the life and accomplishments of Sam Wood, who I knew as UW-Stout’s dean of students and adviser to the Stout Student Association. (With Sam’s help, I was able to work with the former state Elections Board to make it easier for students to register to vote.)

The medallion means so much to me that I keep it where I can see it before going to work each morning. Seeing the medallion reminds me to try to lead like Sam Wood and to honor the “code of leadership” that signifies the medallion honorees.

Finally, I want to wish our students, faculty, staff, alumni and newest alumni — our 1,379 graduates— a great summer. I hope you have time to engage in the activities that you enjoy and to relax a little as well.

SamuelWoodCommencement speech transcript

Greetings on this great day to graduates, their families and friends, my colleagues on stage and in the audience — and everyone else who is celebrating with us.

It is truly an honor and a pleasure to recognize the accomplishments of so many talented individuals. This day is all about the graduates, those in front of me in their gowns and mortar boards.

But we all know it takes a lot of support for them to get to this point in their lives. So I would like to recognize the parents, grandparents and other family members who traveled here to see these cherished diplomas being handed out. Could all of these family members please stand up to be recognized? Thank you.

I also want to take a moment, in advance, to wish all the mothers in the audience a very special and happy Mother’s Day. Everyone knows how important mothers are in the lives of their children and the hard work, tears and patience it takes to be a good mother these days. I hope all mothers have a special day May 13th.

Before we get to the main event — handing out diplomas — I’d like to tell you about two very special people who passed away recently.

First, there’s Charles W. Sorensen. He was chancellor here for 26 years until 2014, the longest-serving chancellor in our 127-year history. He died Feb. 23 at age 77 at his home in Florida.

Now, I know going back even to my days as an undergraduate here, that students may not know or even care who the chancellor is. But you should know a little about Chuck Sorensen.

He’s a big reason why UW-Stout is a widely respected university today, why we have an incredible 98.2 percent employment rate for graduates and why we’re known as Wisconsin’s only Polytechnic University.

In fact, Chuck Sorensen’s leadership is why UW-Stout:

  • Has half of our 49 undergraduate majors. Many of you are graduating from programs that didn’t exist before Chuck became chancellor. Without him, maybe you wouldn’t have come here, and wouldn’t that have been shame?
  • He’s why we have a laptop computer program. The laptop computers all students receive as freshmen and our digital learning environment began under Chuck in 2001.
  • He’s a big reason why we won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award also in 2001, the only four-year university in the country to do so.
  • He’s why our physical campus is a special place to learn and live. New buildings and renovations under Chuck included Jarvis Hall, the student center, Red Cedar Hall, the football stadium, Harvey Hall, Millennium Hall and many more. Also, the two north-south pedestrian malls were built under him. How many times have you used those?

Each one of you has benefited from his leadership, from his life, even though you are the first graduating class in 26 years who likely did not have him as your chancellor during any of your time here.

Chuck wasn’t just a great and innovative chancellor — and I know because I worked under him for many years — but a great example of how education can change a life. He grew up poor and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He almost didn’t go to college but went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees.

In his final commencement speech as UW-Stout chancellor nearly five years ago, he spoke from experience when he said: “Dare to dream. Dare to trust in yourself. Dare to believe in your ability to reach beyond the here and now.”

Those words continue to resonate today, and all of us would do well to take them to heart.

Chuck Sorensen would have been proud of a young man named Nicholas “Nick” Nelson — who truly did as Chuck said — “believe in his ability to reach beyond the here and now.”

At age 5, Nick was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. At age 9, he went into a wheelchair.

But that didn’t stop Nick from dreaming and inspiring others. Despite physical limitations and many medical challenges, he graduated with honors in 2017 from nearby Mondovi High School.

Nick loved to play video games. His dream was to design them, so he set his sights on the computer science-game design program at UW-Stout. When he received his acceptance letter, his father John said “It put the biggest smile on his face we’d ever seen.”

But before classes even began last fall, Nick’s appendix ruptured. He spent several months in the hospital and had to withdraw from classes. Undaunted, he signed up for 13 credits this semester and began attending classes, with the help of his dad at his side.

In March, however, Nick’s chronically weak heart began to fail. Surrounded by his family at their home, he died March 28 — a little less than six weeks ago. He was 19 years old.

In those final days of his life, when he wished he could have been in his cyber ethics or government classes, he still was working on his assignments in bed — even though he knew he wouldn’t live much longer.

When asked about his greatest accomplishment in life. He said, “Going to Stout.”

Nick was buried in a Blue Devils sweatshirt.

His motto was “Born with a physical disability. Playing life in hard mode.” He believed that he hadn’t truly beaten a video game until he’d beaten it at the highest level.

The true heart of Nick Nelson was strong as nails. He faced life’s toughest challenges and didn’t complain. He embraced the challenge. Even with his physical limitations, he thought of others. He did community service and once even offered his beloved GameBoy to the victims of a fire.

He truly enriched the lives of everyone around him, in part fulfilling a prophecy of sorts. When Nick was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, his dad visited a chaplain. The chaplain said, “Maybe Nick’s reason for being here is to inspire other people.”

How true those words turned out to be. Nick’s impact was great. I can attest to that when I saw the long line of people who attended his wake.

Nick’s parents, John and Sheila, sister and his grandparents are with us today. I’d like to them to stand …

One of the many pleasures a Chancellor has is to recognize students for their academic performance.  It is my pleasure to present a first-ever recognition to Nick Nelson for the heart he demonstrated in his academic pursuits at UW-Stout.  We are presenting Nick with a newly minted “Stouthearted Award” posthumously.  Let me read the certificate to you as Nick’s parents come to the stage.

John and Sheila plan to establish a scholarship in Nick’s name. If you are interested in contributing to this fund, please let Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons know during the reception that follows today’s ceremony. Mark is the Director of the Stout University Foundation.

Nick received support at UW-Stout from our amazing staff and students at ASPIRE-Student Support Services and Disability Services. He was a special friend to the men’s and women’s club volleyball teams and women’s varsity volleyball team.

Today, as you leave this hall, I hope that you will think about Chuck Sorensen and Nick Nelson. Consider how valuable their lives were, albeit in very different ways. But there is no template for life, is there?

Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

How will you react to the opportunities and obstacles in your life in the years to come? Will you be courageous enough to try to change the world, like Chuck and Nick?

How will you use your college diploma? You’ve been exposed to many people and ideas here at UW-Stout. Leverage this experience. Listen to your colleagues and peers carefully, accepting their differences and respecting their points of view.

Share your ideas and thoughts civilly and professionally. Epictetus also said, “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

Be a Servant Leader. James Hunter, author of the book “The Servant,” said, “Patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, respectfulness, forgiveness, honesty and commitment. These character-building blocks, or habits, must be developed and matured if we are to become successful leaders who will stand the test of time.”

Finally, be grateful for others in your life. Be grateful for people like Chuck Sorensen and Nick Nelson — who dared to dream big and dared to take on life in hard mode, at the highest levels.

My final thought involves a little exercise intended to recognize all the people who were involved in helping you get to this point in your lives. I have found this exercise useful in showing our graduates an important lesson that has been reinforced for me — that every student who earns a diploma gets to commencement with the assistance of a great many people.

  • Would all of the graduates here today who received some form of financial aid, a grant, or loan, or scholarship please rise and stay standing?
  • Would all of the graduates present who received crucial help or encouragements from a member of the faculty, staff, coach, advisor or other member of the UW-Stout community please stand and remain standing?
  • Would all of the graduates who benefited by studying with a friend or fellow student or had a tutor, please rise and stay standing?
  • Would all of the graduates who received help and encouragement from their parents or another family member or close friend please rise?

As the Roman philosopher Cicero once stated: “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”

You, like me, were blessed to have the assistance, generosity, encouragement and contributions of others.  We couldn’t have achieved what we do without our faculty and staff, family, friends and colleagues.  Let’s take the time once again to thank them for their important impacts on our lives [

For all of us at UW-Stout, it truly is an honor to share this moment with you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me personally.

On behalf of the UW-System Board of Regents and UW-Stout’s faculty, staff, and fellow students, I extend our sincere congratulations to you and offer our best wishes as you take the first steps on your next exciting journey!

Finally, I would like to invite our graduates to return often. We would love to have you check in with us. We take great pride in your accomplishments, and we can learn from your experiences too!

Thank you.


Great performances by our students: Choirs, jazz groups deliver memorable events

I love this time of year because the semester crescendos in a very exciting way right up to commencement with many student projects and related events to take in and enjoy.

This past weekend I was able to be part of two great student performing arts events. The first was UW-Stout’s Chamber Choir and Symphonic Singers providing the outstanding concert “A Matter of Time.” The event was held in a perfect acoustic setting at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Menomonie. Conducted by Jerry Hui, director of UW-Stout choral activities, with pianist Michaela Gifford, music director for University Theatre, the singing was spectacular and captivating.

Kudos to these student performers for their terrific singing. More on this performance is available here.


Jazz performers give audience a treat

The second event was Jazz from Harvey featuring our Jazz Embers combo and the Blue Devil Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Aaron M. Durst. Aaron is an associate professor at UW-Stout and part of the Jazz Embers combo — and he thrilled the audience with his contributions on the soprano saxophone.

Student membership in the Jazz Orchestra has grown significantly over the past few years, and they sounded fantastic in our wonderful and recently remodeled Harvey Hall Theatre.

Congratulations to these student musicians for providing the audience with a professional level experience. More on this performance is available here.

My wife, Debbie, and I were thrilled to enjoy both special performing arts events.

Eleva-Strum students learn manufacturing skills

On Monday I participated in the Eleva-Strum school district’s open house. The event featured career and technology education instructor Craig Cegielski’s enterprise lab, which is titled Cardinal Manufacturing. Students manufacture real products purchased and used by area industries.

Craig, a 1998 UW-Stout graduate, has motivated his students to learn and engage in a wide range of skill development activities that prepare them well for the world of work. It is a best practice in K-12 education, and it was gratifying to see community members turn out in large numbers to support Craig and his students at the open house, which raised funds to support Cardinal Manufacturing.

State Rep. Warren Petryk and retired Green Bay Packer Gilbert Brown were also on hand to support Craig and his exemplary work at Eleva-Strum school district.


Helping spread the word about fab labs

Finally, I joined UW System President Ray Cross and officials from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.  Tuesday morning at the Altoona school district to help celebrate the district receiving a $25,000 grant from the state to help support is fabrication laboratory, or fab lab.

The grant was part of $500,000 awarded statewide by WEDC to encourage greater participation in fab lab technology in local school districts.

I am proud that UW-Stout has been a leader in promoting the use of fab labs through our Discovery Center. I took the opportunity to speak on the importance of fab labs across Wisconsin and our efforts at UW-Stout to help school districts incorporate this technology into their curriculum. More on the grants is available here.