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.