Monthly Archives: May 2019

Saying goodbye and thanks to two great campus leaders; ditto for coaches, professor

I’ve had the chance to honor two great veteran campus leaders in the last week, and I want to thank them publicly for their service to UW-Stout.

On Tuesday, at my final meeting of the Faculty Senate, I had the chance to show my appreciation for the leadership that Petre “Nelu” Ghenciu has provided the Senate as chair over the last six years. He is the only Faculty Senate chair I have worked with as chancellor, and I couldn’t have asked for a better Senate leader.Former Faculty Senate chair with Chancellor Bob Meyer

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Nelu, because he chaired the search and screen committee when I applied for the chancellor’s position. He has played a central role in the major decisions that we have made since then, including navigating the 2015-17 budget reduction that cut our state aid by $5.3 million. Nelu also has been a tireless advocate for increased compensation for our faculty and staff, which remains my No. 1 priority.

I have not always agreed with Nelu, but I have always respected his opinion and the open and transparent way he has conducted himself as Senate president. The Faculty Senate and the campus will miss his leadership, good humor and insight.

Last weekend I was pleased to help the Stout University Foundation honor the tremendous service of Tom Kornegor, who served 14 years as president. Tom is a retired director of packaging engineering at 3M and a UW-Stout alumnus.

Tom Kornegor

It was under his guidance that the foundation launched the first major comprehensive fundraising campaign in UW-Stout’s history, a campaign that already has exceeded the original $35 million goal and is well on the way to attaining a $40 million aspirational goal.

It was comforting to me to have a veteran foundation president on board as we dealt with the retirement of Advancement Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons this year and the hiring of his replacement, Willie Johnson. Tom provided valuable assistance to me and others as we searched for the right fit for the foundation, as well as the Alumni Association, and we believe Willie is that right fit.

I also appreciate the firm hand that Tom used with the foundation board that ensured it wouldn’t fall victim to some of the fiduciary quagmires that have beset some other higher education fundraising organizations in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Tom insisted we run a tight ship.

So, I want to thank both Nelu and Tom for their years of selfless service. UW-Stout is stronger because of their efforts.

Going forward, I am confident that the Faculty Senate will be led well by Associate Professor Glenda Jones of the English and philosophy department, and the Stout University Foundation by alumna Kim Polzin.

A fitting farewell to two coaching legends

We also had the opportunity to bid farewell to two retiring basketball coaches this week, the former women’s head coach, Mark Thomas, and the former men’s head coach, Eddie Andrist.  Mark coached the Blue Devils for 31 years and Eddie for 18 years, plus assistant coach for three years.

Both coaches had tremendous success on the court, but both also were highly successful in positively impacting the lives of the hundreds of players who suited up for the Blue Devils over the years. Both men also had other coaching and ancillary duties while at UW-Stout.

It was great to reminisce with both of them during a retirement celebration Tuesday at Johnson Fieldhouse and to see the many friends and supporters who attended to wish them both well.Chancellor with coaches

Remembering Hank Thomas

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to remember my friend, mentor and colleague, Henry (Hank) Thomas, who taught in the former metals department and the materials and processes department at UW-Stout.

I was lucky enough to teach with Hank as a faculty member in the department before he retired in 1995. His obituary in the Leader-Telegram said it best: “His innovative teaching was as deeply felt as his community building, camaraderie and connection to students and faculty. … He was a voracious explorer, learner and builder; seeking out new ways of approaching things with the overriding goal of having fun and building up his family, students, the community and UW-Stout. He loved to take on challenges and was uncanny in finding new opportunities and getting others involved.”

It was a joy and a privilege to work with Hank. I was honored to be asked by his wife, Barbara, and children to speak at Hank’s celebration of life this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Christ on Wilson Ave. in Menomonie.

The full obituary is available here.

Retirement reception a great event

What a night! I want to thank everyone who attended my retirement reception and offered such kind and encouraging words to me, my wife, Debbie, and our children, Erica and Melly.

Over the course of our time at UW-Stout we have met many, many people and made lifelong friends, and it was incredible to see so many of them help us celebrate in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. I obviously have made many great memories at UW-Stout, and the event Wednesday is right at the top.

I’d like to thank all of the speakers: UW System President Ray Cross; state Sen. Patty Schachtner; Regent Mark Tyler; Faculty Senate President Petre “Nelu” Ghenciu; incoming Stout University Foundation President Kim Polzin; my friend and UW-Stout alumna Scott Cabot; and Assistant Chancellor Meridith Wentz, who served as master of ceremonies.

I was pleased to see so many other dignitaries and public officials there, including Regent President John Behling; Karen Schmitt, UW System interim vice president for Academic and Student Affairs; UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen; David Brukhardt, UW System interim vice president for corporate and economic engagement; former state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf; former state Rep. Rob Kreibich; and Menomonie Mayor Randy Knaack, as well as Bill Flesch, a UW-Stout graduate who has gone on to succeed in the business world and is on the steering committee for our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign.

During my remarks, I thanked our faculty and staff that are “engaged, focused on student success, committed to continuous improvement and not just ‘inspiring innovation’ but making it a way of business.”

Because of our faculty and staff, I said, “the future is bright for UW-Stout and our students.”

I also would like to thank everyone who helped make the reception happen, including the events staff in the Memorial Student Center, University Dining and my two fantastic office staff members, Julie Zack and Dianne Sinz. A news release on the event is available here.


Wednesday started off with another retirement reception, this one for the 24 employees who have retired or will retire soon. These employees accounted for 553 years of service. While it is bittersweet to see our employees leave campus, I certainly wish them all the best in retirement and hope to see them again.

Honoring our great university staff

On Tuesday, I was pleased to participate in the university staff appreciation awards recognition celebration. This event included all the monthly university staff honorees.

They are Maryjo Pittman, School of Art and Design; Sonja Gilbertson, College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences; Breanna Baron, Provost’s Office; Jodi Kegan, Facilities Management; Steve Riley, Facilities Management; Aimee Lipke, Memorial Student Center; Bonni Falkner, Provost’s Office; Kathleen Brown; University Dining; and Betty Johnson, Facilities Management.

It is wonderful to have a program on campus that gives our university staff the recognition they so greatly deserve.

USS Award winners

Discussing budget priorities with legislators

On Monday, I visited with legislators from western Wisconsin during our annual legislative lunch, a tradition jointly sponsored by UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls.

This year, UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen was our host. In my presentation, I gave the legislators a campus update and then emphasized the need for the Legislature to approve Gov. Evers’ proposal to give UW employees two 2% pay raises in 2019-21 and to have the Legislature pay for the entire pay package, rather than sharing the cost with the campuses.

I also made the case for the Legislature to approve the $35 million renovation project proposed for South Hall.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is beginning to vote on changes to Gov. Evers’ budget proposal, so the timing of the lunch was good since one of the legislators attending was Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, who is on the finance committee.

Over the summer I would suggest that faculty and staff visit our state budget website to keep up to date on budget developments.


Running for a worthy cause

I would like to bring to everyone’s attention a great cause that one of our Cabinet members, Assistant Chancellor Meridith Wentz, is participating in. Meridith is training for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3 and is running it to raise money for the ALS Therapy Development Institute. Meridith lost her father on July 12, 2017, to this degenerative disease that has no known cure.

“He never got to meet his first grandson, or see his kids get married, or travel the world,” Meridith says in the website she has set up to raise donations. “He won’t get to continue his landscaping, gardening or bird-watching, or see the outcome of all the work he put into my own garden.”

I recommend you visit the website and consider contributing to her effort.

My commencement speech text

Finally, it has become a tradition for me to publish the text of my commencement speech.  Here are the remarks that I gave to three ceremonies on May 4.  I’d also like to wish our faculty, staff and students a wonderful summer and hope you have the opportunity to relax and recharge for the next academic year!


Greetings on this special day to our graduates, 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 these talented individuals. Today is all about you, graduates, and what you’ve accomplished.

Your success has a foundation. My wonderful mother-in-law, Donna, would often remind my wife Deb and I, as we were raising our daughters Erica and Melly, that the most important job we have as parents is to give our children “roots and wings” — in other words give them the values needed to succeed in life and the freedom to use those values.

Perhaps this is best captured by one of my favorite John Denver songs, “The Eagle and the Hawk.” The lyrics serve as a metaphor for this occasion. In part they say:

“All those who see me, all who believe in me Share in the freedom I feel when I fly.

“Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops Sail over the canyons and up to the stars and reach for the heavens and hope for the future and all that we can be and not what we are”

Parents, you can be proud  because your graduates — like the eagle and hawk in John Denver’s song — are ready to take flight.

So I’d like to recognize the parents here today. Please rise. (APPLAUSE)

Beyond parents, even more support is needed to get to and through college. So I also would like to recognize the grandparents and other family members who traveled to see these cherished diplomas being handed out. Could all of these family members please stand? (APPLAUSE)

And, I’d like to wish an early happy Mother’s Day to all the moms here today.

Thank you.

Charge to the graduates

Graduates, you are about to embark on a new, amazing journey.

I know how you feel. I too am about to begin a new phase in my life. I am retiring in August. This is my final commencement ceremony after 5 years as chancellor and 32 years total at this institution — that’s exactly one-quarter of our 128-year history.

So, as a UW-Stout graduate myself, I have an idea of what’s on your mind today.

If I may, I have a little advice:

You may be thinking — what will my first job be like and where will my career go from there?

I would recommend — to never stop opening doors and pushing yourself. I remember my first job — I taught 9th grade shop classes in the River Falls school district. You never know where life will take you. Be open to the opportunities that come your way, and because you have a college degree there will be many.

You may be thinking — how with my education can I make a difference in the world?

I would recommend — giving it all you’ve got.

Try to be a change agent, a contagion of optimism and positivity, and continue to learn. Be courageous. And be resilient. The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I’ve always tried to give 150 percent to everything I do. I remember a high school teacher who used to put a quote of the day on the blackboard. One I particularly remember is that you get out of life what you put into it. It became a daily reminder that I have to put more into life than I take out.

The great Minnesota Vikings lineman Alan Page, who went on to become a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, once said, “The key to whatever success I have had can be found in a willingness to push myself beyond perceived limitations and a willingness to be involved in the community around me.”

You make be thinking — how can I earn the respect of others in the world?

I would recommend — being 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.”

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 speak.”

I have tried in my career to earn the respect of others by disagreeing without being disagreeable.

You may be thinking — about how much you’ve accomplished in the past four years and how you couldn’t have done it without the help of others.

I too have been reflecting — on what’s transpired at Stout since I took over as chancellor in 2014. I am especially grateful for the amazing faculty and staff who have surrounded me. Together we have:

  • Successfully navigated a historic $5.3 million state budget cut to our institution
  • Expanded our polytechnic mission with five new academic majors
  • Dedicated a School of Engineering, two new laboratories and the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation
  • Increased private support to the university, with a $35 million comprehensive campaign that has almost reached its goal, thanks to the generous support of many, many people who love UW-Stout
  • Launched the Blue Devil Guarantee Scholarship to help more young people go to college
  • Made inclusivity and diversity a greater priority on campus, including adding a new Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Worked to renovate several major buildings on campus
  • And we’ve seen our employment rate for recent graduates go up every year — to an amazing 98.7 percent!

William Kirwin, the 12th president of Ohio State University from 1998 to 2002, once stated: “You become a great university because you have great programs. You have great programs because you have a great faculty and staff.”

I would like to personally thank our faculty and staff for being terrific SERVANT LEADERS!


Before closing, I’d like 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.  Let’s take the time once again to thank them for their important impacts on our lives

Please be seated.

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 today, graduates, I sincerely hope that you are thinking — “I’m glad I chose UW-Stout.”

I know we’re glad that you did.

We can’t wait to see what you do with your lives and take great pride in your accomplishments. Please stay in touch and return often. We can learn from your experiences too!

As I prepare to leave this fine university, I’m glad that I chose UW-Stout almost 45 years ago as a student and then as a place of employment. It has been my life. I will leave here in August hoping that, in some way, I have given back even a small measure of what UW-Stout has given to me.

Graduates, your future is bright.

And I believe the future is bright for UW-Stout as well.

Thank you.


A hectic and inspiring week before commencement

The week before graduation always has a frenetic feel to it, and this week was no exception. While the constant motion can be a bit tiring, I come away energized by the privilege of meeting so many exceptional students, faculty and staff.

McNair scholars go on to graduate studies 

On Monday I attended a special event for the McNair scholars who are graduating from this federally sponsored program, which aims to help first-generation and underrepresented students prepare for graduate studies.

Those attending the luncheon heard inspiring stories about students who will be attending medical school and graduate school to achieve their lofty dreams.

I want to thank Sarah Wynn, the McNair program director at UW-Stout, and her staff for running an excellent program and putting on a fantastic concluding event. mcnairphoto

Athletic Department gives out honors 

On Tuesday night I had the privilege of attending Athletics’ annual Senior Honors Night in the Memorial Student Center, where 84 seniors were honored.

Football offensive lineman Caleb Adams was honored as the male athlete of the year and basketball player Bailey Diersen as the female athlete of the year. Gymnastics Assistant Coach Seth Helland received the assistant coach of the year award.

Jessica DuVal received the WMG Humanitarian Award sponsored by the Waznik Moseler Group, which recognizes student-athletes who put sports into proper perspective, who encompass teamwork, campus and community in their everyday lives and put others ahead of themselves.

Gymnast Shadae Boone received the play of the year award, the gymnastics team was named the team of the year and the volleyball team received the game performance award.

I was very surprised and honored to receive an award of thanks from Athletic Director Duey Naatz.  UW-Stout Seniors Honor Night 2019

Leadership awards bring back memories 

On Wednesday night I joined my friend and fellow alumnus Scott Cabot at the UW-Stout Leadership Awards ceremony in the MSC. I gave a welcome and talked about my undergraduate days at UW-Stout.

Many students were recognized with awards, but the one that always holds a special place in my heart is the Samuel E. Wood Medallion Award. 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 reminds me to try to lead like Sam Wood and to honor the “code of leadership” that signifies the medallion honorees.SamWood winners

Bestow the stole 

Last week I participated in the annual Bestow the Stole event sponsored by the Honors College. Each graduate receives a stole to wear during their respective commencement exercises.

I always take time to thank everyone who has helped these exceptional students get to this point of their academic careers, including their parents and other family members and their faculty mentors. I want to thank professors Chris Ferguson and Tom Pearson for their work with the Honors College. More on the Honors College is available here.

Commencement is Saturday 

On Saturday, I give my final commencement address as chancellor during three ceremonies in Johnson Fieldhouse. We will publish the text of the speech next week in this blog, but as a preview I discuss some of the life lessons I have learned in my personal and professional journey and do a little looking back on my time at UW-Stout, which will always be a special place for me and my family.

I certainly hope that as many faculty and staff as possible can attend one of the three ceremonies. More information is available here.

Willie Johnson assumes role of vice chancellor of Advancement and Alumni Relations 

I was pleased on Wednesday to welcome our newest administrator, Willie Johnson, who took over as vice chancellor of Advancement and Alumni Relations. Willie has been in higher education as a fundraiser since 1982, and I am sure that he will fit in well with the excellent staff that former Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons brought to the Louis Smith Tainter House.

If you see Willie on campus please introduce yourself and make him feel welcome.Willie_Johnson