Page 1


Fall 2017

Welcome to the

Falcon Center

for Health, Education and Wellness



in this issue

Sharing the Journey UWRF provides a second chance. ........... 10

Falcon Center a Reality Offering health, education and wellness . ...12

Freshman class enrollment largest in nine years WIAC Coach of the Year Men’s basketball coach Berkhof................ 18

This fall the University of Wisconsin-River Falls welcomed 1,325 freshmen, making the freshman class the largest since 2009. New student enrollment, including transfer students, is at 1,748. “I am extremely pleased with the efforts extended by our admissions team, staff and faculty in the recruitment process,” said Dean Van Galen, UW-River Falls chancellor. “Each freshman brings a unique background and world viewpoint to share with our campus that will help reaffirm our legacy of academic excellence.”

Student Start-ups Developing new beginnings...................... 22

Sections Up Front...............................................4 Along the South Fork....................... 5 Falcon Sports.....................................18 Alma Matters.....................................24



This announcement comes just a few weeks after UW-River Falls was named to the 2018 U.S. News and World Report Best Regional Universities Midwest Rankings. “The success in new student enrollment speaks volumes about the reputation of our institution,” said Sarah Egerstrom, executive director of admissions. “Our exceptional academic programs, value and affordability, and the quality of our faculty and staff make UW-River Falls the clear choice for many of our new students. We are pleased to welcome each of them to our vibrant campus community.”



up front With Chancellor Dean Van Galen

FALCON FEATURES Volume 65, Number 1. Fall 2017 University of Wisconsin-River Falls 410 S. 3rd St. River Falls, WI 54022 715-425-3505 or 1-877-258-6647 Falcon Features is published annually by the UW-River Falls Foundation and the UW-River Falls Alumni Association.

Proud to be a Falcon As the fall semester continues here at UW-River Falls, it’s a truly exciting time for our university. I’m proud to share just a few of our accomplishments with you in this edition of Falcon Features.

Postmaster: Send form 3579 to Falcon Features, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, River Falls, WI 54022.

The lead story highlights the largest and one of the most transformational building projects in our history. In September, we opened the Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness. Before a huge crowd of well-wishers, we dedicated this $63.5 million center to our present and future students, who we know will use it well.


Elsewhere in this issue, you can read about Phichet Srimeung, a recent graduate and native of Thailand, and how his journey through UWRF changed both himself and the community around him.

Managing Editor Adam Folk Art Director Tony Bredahl, ’86

You’ll see how two UWRF students, both military veterans, have used our Small Business Development Center to make their dreams marketable -- as they reinvent themselves. Also, please take a moment to read about Imtiaz Moosa, one of our outstanding faculty members who has persevered and succeeded in his field despite the onset of blindness as an adult. Falcon Features updates alumni about our university’s progress and serves as a way for us to say thank you for all you have done, and for all you will continue to do, to help us succeed. Your support is vital and it is very much appreciated.

Dean Van Galen, Chancellor


Parents: If this issue is addressed to your child who no longer lives at home, please contact the Advancement Office to provide a correct mailing address. We appreciate your assistance.


Assistant Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Mueller Executive Editor Jeff Papas

Contributors Amber Dohlman, ’08 Deb Toftness Jacob Wissing Kelsea Wissing Photography Kathy M Helgeson Tori Lynn Schneider Design and Illustration Karen Zander

along the south fork A summary of noteworthy events, milestones, programs and happenings.

David Zlesak, ’93, shares the results of one his passions, rose breeding.

Zlesak named 2017 Distinguished Teacher Associate professor of horticulture David Zlesak has been named the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award. The Distinguished Teacher Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed at UW-River Falls. Nominations are submitted by senior level students and recent graduates.

and tissue culture work has been some of the most important experiences from my undergraduate career and has prepared me to do research in preparation for graduate school. David is also one of the most caring and energetic people on campus and just in general a great person to learn from.”

“Above and beyond” was a phrase mentioned in more than one of Zlesak’s nomination letters, describing his efforts both inside and outside of the classroom and as a mentor. Nominators went on to share specifics of how Zlesak impacted them.

Despite the accolades, Zlesak remained humble when asked about the award.

“His courses have always provided a healthy challenge that pushed me forward towards success,” said one student. Another added that Zlesak “inspires his students rather than teaches.” “David is one of the most prolific researchers and is always eager to invite new students into the scientific process through undergraduate research,” added a third nominator. “The opportunity to work with David in his breeding

“It means I’m on the right track. I have to stay on the right track which means caring about the students. Staying up-to-date with the discipline and the curriculum combined with caring about people, that’s what makes an effective teacher,” he explained. For those who are familiar with Zlesak and his other passion – plant breeding, specifically rose breeding – the phrase “above and beyond” is fitting. Zlesak is just as successful a breeder as he is a teacher, with many awards to his credit. Zlesak’s rose, Above and Beyond™, released through Bailey Nurseries First Editions® program, received one of the top pick awards at its debut in spring 2015.

Zlesak is also the breeder behind the Proven Winners’ Oso Happy® series of roses, Candy Oh!, Smoothie and Petit Pink. Petit Pink was the recipient of the 2012 Award of Excellence for miniature roses by the American Rose Society. For all his efforts, the American Rose Society awarded Zlesak the Silver Honor Medal (2014), named him an Outstanding Consulting Rosarian (2017) and honored him with their Rising Star Award in September 2017. While his plant breeding work is extensive, Zlesak is quick to point out how students benefit from his breeding projects. “It enriches it [my teaching] so much because it’s more than just what I tell the students, it’s what I model to the students. It showcases that I’m still learning, my approach towards learning, in terms of the experiments, the collaborations that I have with other people,” he said. “It’s a great model for the students to see somebody that’s engaged and hopefully that would inspire them to have a deep passion for whatever field they go into, instead of just the ‘I’m here from 8-4:30 and then I’m done approach.’”



along the south fork

UW System Board of Regents approves new online bachelor of science in applied computing program Responding to a crucial gap in the state’s workforce, UW-River Falls launched a bachelor of science in applied computing program this fall. Computer and information technology represents one of the fastest growing fields in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this area are projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024. Job titles such as computer support specialist, computer and information systems manager, systems analyst, security analyst, web developer, database administrator, and software developer are among these in-demand positions. “This is a unique and innovative program in that it focuses on the practical application of computer principles to address real-world problems,” said UW-River Falls Interim Provost Faye Perkins. “Students will learn hands-on skills to analyze technical problems and develop forward-thinking technology-based solutions that will help individuals, groups and companies.” The new degree is available online through UW-River Falls and four additional UW campuses. The 61-credit online degree program was developed in partnership with, and is administered by, UW-Extension. To learn more about the bachelor of science in applied computing program, visit

Ribbon cutting at the Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness, the largest building project in the 143-year history of UWRF.

Falcon Center officially opens to public The University of Wisconsin-River Falls opened the $63.5 million Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness to the public on September 21. At an afternoon ribbon cutting, local officials and university dignitaries celebrated an accomplishment many years in the making, and one that will have a profound future impact on the campus educational experience. Calling the Falcon Center “transformational,” UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen praised the team effort that led to completion of the largest building project in university history. “So many individuals and groups have worked tirelessly to envision, plan, advocate for, secure, build and operate the Falcon Center,” Chancellor Van Galen said. “It has been a true team effort, spanning many years. To all of you I say thank you -- the tremendous impact that the Falcon Center will have is part of your legacy.” “The Falcon Center is not merely another building on campus,” said Wisconsin Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-District 10). “It’s a facility that will have a significant impact on this community and the region as it attracts students, shapes their educational experience and influences their career choices.” “It’s so beautiful now, but in a hundred years, what will this building look like?” UW System President Ray Cross asked. “What will its legacy be? It won’t be the building -- it’s what goes on in the building, and the lives that will be changed by what this building permitted [them to accomplish]. That’s a wonderful heritage here.” “The new Falcon Center will address classroom capacity, allow the campus to better integrate technology into the curriculum, and expand research opportunities for students,” said UW Regent President and UWRF graduate John Robert Behling. “This campus has come so far. It’s a gem and I’m so proud of it.” “It [the Falcon Center] represents the priorities UW-River Falls has for its students’ health and wellness,” said UW-River Falls Student Government Association President Abby Wendt. “Without the students, this building would not be here today. We’re excited for the opening of Page Arena, the new workout facilities, and we’re really excited for the new job opportunities [a UWRF education will help create].” The Falcon Center replaces the R.A. Karges Center and the Emogene Nelson Center, both built in the early 1960s. It houses the university’s health and human performance, campus recreation and athletic departments.



Titans of UWRF athletics immortalized A portion of the new Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness now bears the names of a pair of UW-River Falls athletics titans, permanently honoring their legacies. The careers of coaches Rick Bowen and Don Page were celebrated before a crowd of family, staff, alumni and students during Falcon Center Donor Recognition Day ceremonies Nov. 4. Before the inaugural men’s basketball game in the new facility, Bowen Court was dedicated to the coach whose career at UWRF spanned 24 years. Bowen, who was named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009, amassed 265 career wins with the Falcons, making him the all-time leader in UWRF history. He coached basketball from 1986 to 2005, and he served as athletic director from 2002 to 2010. In 2004, he led the Falcons to their first WIAC basketball championship in 54 years. The arena itself was dedicated and officially named Page Arena at halftime, in honor of the man who made it his lifelong commitment to make UWRF a vital part of the River Falls community. Page, who died in 2010, was head coach for basketball, baseball and tennis. He also served as assistant football coach, athletic director and athletic director emeritus. He was a high school official in five different sports, served as director of officiating for football and basketball in the WIAC for 17 years, and was a mentor to thousands of individuals throughout his life.

Justin Luther, associate professor in animal and food science, works with students in the new Animal Industries class at Mann Valley Farm.

Animal and Food Science awarded for excellence in teaching Camaraderie among the department’s staff and a stringent faculty evaluation process are just two of the reasons the Animal and Food Science Department was honored with the 2017 Regents Award for Teaching Excellence.

Rick Bowen Photo by Tori Lynn Schneider, media intern.

Interim Provost Faye Perkins, left, stands with Don Page’s family members Susan (Page) Brown, John Page, David Page, and Interim Athletic Director Crystal Lanning following the dedication ceremony.

At the April Board of Regents meeting, Gary Onan, chair of the Animal and Food Science Department, accepted the award. Onan praised the dedication of the faculty and support staff who struggle to balance their work and home lives so they can give every opportunity possible to their students. “This extends to the herd managers on the farms who allow students to make mistakes which leaves them with an indelible learning experience,” Onan said. Home to the animal science major, the largest enrolled major at UWRF, and the dairy science major, annually ranked as one of the top three largest undergraduate dairy science programs in the nation in terms of enrollment, the department has a long history of teaching excellence. Over the years, 10 faculty members have been awarded the UWRF Distinguished Teacher Award, the highest award bestowed on campus. Onan noted three components of the department’s teaching philosophy that contribute to its success: hands-on laboratory experience, outof-classroom opportunities like internships and undergraduate research and effective academic counseling. About two years ago, the department embarked on a curriculum review and revision process in response to the changing demographics of students (particularly the increasing percentage coming from non-farm backgrounds) and the everchanging dynamics of the animal industries. The core of the new and reworked courses will be offered this fall.



along the south fork

PROFile Imtiaz Moosa Professor of Philosophy by Kelsea Wissing



“I think, as weird as it may sound, blindness has made me a better teacher.” Imtiaz Moosa’s story reads something like an epic novel. Born in Africa, he moved to Canada at the age of 16. He earned his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Toronto before moving to the United States to teach at the college level. As an adult, he woke up blind one morning, but that hurdle hasn’t slowed him down. Now in his third decade of teaching, Imtiaz spends his summers adventuring around the globe, philosophizing all along the way. Imtiaz has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls since 1989. His experience at UW-River Falls has been a transformative one, with his most impactful moment coming 11 years ago. “Eleven years ago I went blind. My blindness was sudden. I was seeing flashes, I was getting worried. It was weird, I couldn’t focus. I went to sleep and I managed to sleep but I woke up very agitated in the morning, as though I suspected this,” he recalls. “I opened my eyes and I couldn’t see my hand. I shut my eyes and I said, ‘No, no, I can’t be blind. This is not possible. This is a bad dream.’” “The thought was not, ‘How will I teach?’ or ‘How will I get to the university?’ or ‘How will I read books?’ Those are real problems,” he says. “No, the thought was, ‘I’m a handicapped guy now. I’m a failure. I’ll have to beg people to help me cross the road. I have no dignity left. How will I walk around with a cane? How can I display myself as a cripple?’” But Imtiaz was eventually able to pull himself together and face his challenge head on. “I thought, pain is good because it means I’m alive. Death is inevitable, but what’s the hurry? I’m in pain, but I’m awake and I’m alive. That calmed me down,” he recalls. “I kind of wrapped my mind around the brutal fact that I was blind.” “I wanted to go to campus and let the students see me. It was this mental block that I had. It was tough, students had

never seen me with a cane,” he says. “Now that I think about it, I think ‘what nonsense!’ It’s weird to me what I felt about them. The real problem is not how people look at you or how you cross the road. The real problem is how to read books and how do I be in a classroom and give individual attention to each of my students?” In a sense, many of Imtiaz’s worries were alleviated after entering the classroom as a blind professor. “I think, as weird as it may sound, blindness has made me a better teacher,” he says. “I had bad eyesight. I used to come too close to students to see them and ask questions, which terrified them. They would think, ‘holy cow! This guy will come barging into our area and plunge his head right next to us and ask questions. People kind of eyed me with distrust. I was kind of unpredictable.” “Once I became blind, I couldn’t do that,” he says. “I don’t know where people are sitting. People kind of relaxed and I listened to them more. That was the key, I was listening more. I listen, I hear their sounds, I can hear if they’re interested.” “Here [at UW-River Falls] students want to know how philosophy is relevant to their lives. They don’t care about pomposity,” he continues. “They just want to understand things and relish philosophy. I really enjoy the students because they are real, they have real problems.” “The highlight of my classes is when we are opening our souls, when we are talking about life in its rawness. We are now philosophizing in a passionate way. It’s almost a Zenlike experience,” he says. “When students really start talking and revealing and asking and probing and questioning and they take possession of the material and I become only an accessory to the discussion. I’m not a professor anymore, I’m just part of the group. Those are the high points in the classroom.”



sharing the journey

Second Chances! by Kelsea Wissing When Phichet Srimueng arrived at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2013, he wasn’t sure what his future held, but he knew he was thankful for second chances. Srimueng, a native of Thailand, had spent five years working and going to school in Hawaii. He earned his associate’s degree while he was on the island, but eventually returned to Thailand, disappointed in himself for not earning his bachelor’s degree. He found work in a hotel but knew he wanted to further his education. “My parents expected a lot and I didn’t make them happy. Dad said ‘This won’t do. You have to go back to school!’” Srimueng recalled. “I applied to places and then I got a letter that River Falls accepted me. It was such a great feeling to get another chance at attending school.” After arriving on campus, Srimueng dove headfirst into activities. He became an orientation and transition leader for international student orientation, a tour guide for prospective students, and became heavily involved in Dance Theatre. “Since I have been in American education,” explained Srimueng, “we have to share opinions and criticize. I don’t feel offended



university, then it was the acceptance that he was greeted with by the campus community. The impact the university had on him is evident. “When I started to be myself, everything got better,” he explained. “You are comfortable, you can forgive yourself. If I have support from my family, nothing else matters. I was able to find that support here at River Falls first and it gave me the courage and confidence to seek that support at home.” “The most important life-changing things that have happened in my life happened in River Falls. This place, this small town. All because people are so kind and open-minded,” he said. now. My education here changed that. When people gave us constructive feedback in Dance Theatre, I wanted more.” “It’s the acceptance of new perspectives and ideas. I learned that here [at UW-River Falls],” he said. “I learned the most from my peers. I don’t consider myself creative, but hearing new ideas and hearing different perspectives is amazing. That’s what education should be.” The acceptance, support and open-mindedness Srimueng found on the dance floor were concepts he encountered all over campus. “I went to new student registration. Those are the first people I came out to as a gay student. They had that much impact on my life,” he said, emphasizing the role his fellow students played during a turning point in his life. “I had never come out to anyone. I was so comfortable that I started working with Admissions and New Student and Family Programs. I was so comfortable being myself here at UW-River Falls.”

Though his path was full of challenges and changes, Srimueng graduated from UWRF in December 2016 with a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) degree. In August, he was hired by Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota to teach ESL and computer classes, fulfilling his dream to teach. UW-River Falls left such an indelible mark on Srimueng that he stuck around after graduation, even applying for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization for F-1 students. He managed to get approval for his post-completion OPT and the timing allowed him to participate in Dance Theatre’s spring 2017 show, this time as an alumnus. When asked why coming back to participate in the show was so vital to him, Srimueng connected his passion for dance with his passion for UW-River Falls.

“It’s very sad to think about spending your whole life being someone else and trying to make yourself be someone else,” he said. “It’s freeing to get to be yourself and I found that freedom at UWRF.”

“I think art is important. Dance theatre is a form of art and I want to show people that art is important. When you love something, you want to share it. The same goes for this school,” he said. “I want people to see that our school has so much to offer. The diversity of campus is amazing. Students are from different backgrounds, racial, ethnic, class, sexual diversity. We have a lot to offer.”

Srimueng’s journey at UW-River Falls started with second chances and eventually became about acceptance. First it was his acceptance to the

“Being here is just a way for me to show the love I have for this place, the opportunities here and the people,” he said. “This place is beautiful in so many ways.”



falcon center


mind, body and

spirit by Adam Folk

Photos by Kathy M Helgeson



The Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness

On a recent Monday morning, Shirilla was beginning

is more than a place for the university’s sports teams to

a lecture for a group of students who knew Karges

practice and perform. When students began flooding into

particularly well: seniors. Huddled around the seven shiny

the building for the first time this fall, they were greeted

worktables in the new Active Learning Classroom, the

with new ways to learn, as well as to play.

students in his Applied Research Methods in Exercise and

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Health and Human Performance (HHP) Department. Gone are the days when students and faculty joked about a hamster in the radiator to explain the incessant banging coming from Karges Center’s heaters. The cramped wooden desks are a thing of the past too, as is the lack of Wi-Fi, something that plagued Karges right up until HHP moved. Paul Shirilla, chair of the department, said the new learning space has improved the quality of education his department provides. Sport Science class each sat with a laptop open under a “We joked about all of these things [in Karges] but it

wall-mounted flat-screen TV. In groups of three or four,

impacted the learning environment,” he said. “We’re

they worked together to answer a question posed by

so excited about this building, in part because of the

Shirilla: Why does research matter?

deterioration of Karges.”



falcon center



After a few minutes of discussion, their answers appeared on the TVs around the room. Discussion followed. Old ways of teaching mixed with new. The PowerPoint presentation for the day, Shirilla noted, will be online for them to download and review after class. Rance Ashley, a senior sports science major, sat at one of the tables. After spending the majority of his time at UWRF in the older buildings, Ashley said the Falcon Center is a huge improvement. “It’s so new that I almost feel spoiled,” he said, adding that the classrooms facilitate group work in a way that was more difficult before, while the addition of new laptops and networking capabilities made learning simpler. “I think it really helps people with different learning styles,” he said. That’s a point his fellow classmate, Eric Johnson, confirmed. “I’m very visual so having something up close to look at, instead of simply hearing it, it helps me personally,” said Johnson, a senior strength training and conditioning major. This is good news for the HHP faculty. In many ways, the addition of the Falcon Center gave them a unique opportunity to revisit the way they teach and structure classes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Physical Education 108 - Health and Fitness for Life. Because of the Falcon Center, the class is a basic requirement, one all students must take.



falcon center

“Since we have had the facility in Karges, we’ve been incredibly limited in what we can do to improve the health and wellness of our entire student body,” said Associate Professor Stacy Furness. “Having the Falcon Center has just been an amazing opportunity for us to completely redesign a class that has needed it for a long, long time.” Developed by Furness and her colleague, Jodee Schaben, the online course uses wearable fitness trackers to monitor heart rate, steps and other activity of each student. Students are required to sample different aspects of the Falcon Center throughout the semester. Furness hopes that by taking the class in their first or second semester, students establish healthful habits that last throughout their lives. She also envisions the class as a gateway to the new Falcon Center – one that inspires students to try new physical activities like rock climbing (using the center’s new climbing wall) or hiking (through guided trips and rental equipment). “In this class, every student will be impacted by the new Falcon Center,” she said.





falcon sports



Coach of the Year University of WisconsinRiver Falls men’s head basketball coach Jeff Berkhof has been named the 2017 NCAA Division III Men’s Coach of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. This past season, Berkhof led UW-River Falls to a 25-4 record and the program’s first Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championship since 2004. The Falcons won 12 of their 14 WIAC contests to secure the league title. UW-River Falls also claimed the WIAC tournament championship. En route to the second most wins in a single season in program history, Berkhof led the Falcons to a 17game winning streak that was the longest in program history. UW-River Falls concluded the 2016-17 season ranked 14th in the country by and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship. Berkhof was named WIAC Coach of the Year as well as central region Coach of the Year by the NABC.

Women’s lacrosse is 17th varsity sport The University of Wisconsin-River Falls recently added women’s lacrosse as its 17th varsity sport, with the first team set to compete in the 2018-19 academic year. UWRF is the first public institution in the area to sponsor women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport in any of the NCAA’s Alison Jennings three divisions. Currently, there are 282 Division III institutions that sponsor women’s lacrosse, including about 30 in the upper Midwest. “We have been exploring the possibility of adding women’s lacrosse for a number of years,” said Crystal Lanning, interim athletic director. “Given the growth of girl’s and women’s lacrosse in the area and our recent facility renovations, the timing was right to make the move and we will be well positioned to produce a highly competitive team.” Alison Jennings was selected in July as UWRF’s first women’s lacrosse coach. Jennings comes to River Falls from Augsburg University where she was an assistant coach for four seasons. She helped build the foundation of the women’s lacrosse program at Augsburg, which was the first NCAA lacrosse program in the state of Minnesota. In her four years with the Auggies, the team saw improved records each year and finished this past season with a program-best 12-6 record and a Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference Tournament semifinal finish. “I’m excited for this opportunity to build a program that aligns with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls tradition of excellence,” Jennings said. “UW-River Falls is the first public university in Wisconsin and the surrounding areas to add lacrosse. This gives studentathletes the opportunity to play lacrosse at the NCAA level while also receiving a great, affordable education.”

UW-River Falls Athletic Hall of Fame Six alumni and one team were inducted into the UW-River Falls Athletic Hall of Fame in October.

The inductees were: Krystle Brune Brown, volleyball Sarah Carlson Anderson, soccer Jill Crandall, track & field Rich Melzer, men’s basketball Glenn Oehlke, football George Hansen, positive contributor 1947-50 Men’s Basketball Team The Falcon Hall of Fame is established to pay tribute, give deserved recognition, and enhance school tradition by honoring former athletic award winners, coaches and others who have shown distinctive, unique or exceptional athletic ability, or who have made positive contributions to the athletic programs of the university. For more information about Falcon athletics, visit



year of south korea

Animal science Professor Peter Rayne, ‘85, instructs 12 South Korean students from Jeju National University how to test for lameness in horses. The students were on campus for a three week summer program studying English and equine, as well as taking in other cultural experiences. Our “Year of” program is celebrating the Year of South Korea this year. UWRF’s “Year of” program allows faculty, students and community participants to break down stereotypes and connect across cultures through educational and cultural activities that highlight a specific country.


YoungGyu Son, a UWRF student from South Korea, took advantage of a Falcon Outdoor Adventures climbing trip where he was able to climb at Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore in Minnesota. Submitted photo by Helen Zuelke.

Students from Jeju National University in Korea participated in the annual River Falls Days parade.

International student Fangshu Chen, left, from China, physics Professor Eileen Korenic, center, and YoungGyu Son, from South Korea, right, look at the solar eclipse through special glasses outside Centennial Science Hall on August 21.



student start-ups

Culture of Innovation


by Adam Folk

Dustin Dodge fires a stream of water into a glimmering metal bucket. The room around him shines as the water lands on the nearby fermenters — a pair of stainless steel conical drums that look to a layman like upside down missiles. Dodge is busy

A community that supports its own A native of Spooner, Dodge is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a UWRiver Falls alumnus. He spent two years in the university’s business management program before leaving to pursue his dream job working as a firefighter at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But River Falls left a mark on Dodge. He wasn’t gone long before deciding to return and establish a community-oriented brewpub on River Falls’ main thoroughfare. The result is a crowdfunded brewpub featuring local beers, food and themes. “This is a community that supports its own,” Dodge said. “I thought this town would really benefit from a place like this.” But while River Falls seemed like the perfect place, Dodge was not a perfect entrepreneur. He needed more than a location, he needed help. Dodge found it at his alma mater.

Dustin Dodge

cleaning the brewing equipment in the entryway of Swinging Bridge Brewing Company, a microbrewery he recently founded in River Falls. It is lunchtime on a Tuesday, and the taproom is closed so Dodge and his head brewer, Mike O’Hara, can get to work crafting the pub’s signature brews — 4 Winds IPA, Cleary’s Irish Stout and River Falls Common.

With the help of the Small Business Development Center at UWRF’s College of Business and Economics (CBE), Dodge developed a business plan and was assigned a business consultant. As the brewpub took shape, more university resources came into play. Students in a branding course created the original draft for the pub’s logo, a stylized depiction of River Falls’ iconic span over the Kinnickinnic River. Aged cheddar cheese from the Falcon Food Store is the main ingredient in the pub’s Beer Cheese Soup, and Dodge uses honey from a pair of beekeeping UWRF professors to make a hop-infused butter. Meanwhile, he gives the university the spent grain from his brewing process for cow and pig feed. “UWRF is huge for us,” he said. “The Small Business Development Center is amazing. They won’t do the work for you, but they will guide you in the right direction. I don’t know if we could have [succeeded] without them.”

A couple’s dream Alumnus David Till had a wife, a sales job at a telecommunications company and a home in River Falls before his first combat tour in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard. Shortly after returning home in 2005, he had none of those things. “At that time my life was falling apart,” Till said. “I was struggling



Jennifer and David Till

to adjust back into civilian life. I was getting so mad at people and dealing with some anxiety. I knew I had to make a change.”

(CIBD), and Leanne Van Allen, director of graduate programs for CBE, for their success.

Till wanted to do meaningful work again. Work that he felt was making the world a better place. He also knew that the hour-long commute to his current job was untenable. Each day was a struggle to contain the anger and frustration he experienced on the highway.

“What we learned through the leadership and guidance of these amazing women is invaluable,” Till said.

As a UWRF alumnus, he also knew the place he could turn to for help. “I kind of feel like the University of Wisconsin-River Falls saved my life,” he said. Till quit his job, enrolled at UWRF in January 2006 and joined a work-study program to assist veterans in the Financial Aid office. He noticed there was limited help for transitioning veterans. In fact, he saw many places on campus that could better aid men and women returning from war. Till restarted the UWRF Veterans Club. He also helped to organize a group to establish the university’s Military and Veteran Resources Center. He left UWRF in 2008 to become a Pierce County veterans services officer. In time, he remarried and expanded his family. In 2009, he deployed to Iraq a second time. Today, Till and his wife, Jennifer, both have two jobs, raise three kids and have one big idea. Inspired by Till’s experiences working with veterans, they want to streamline disability claims with a software program of their own creation called VetNex. But what neither of them had was experience starting and running a business. Once again, Till knew where to turn for help. This time Jennifer, herself a UWRF graduate in international studies, joined Till and in 2015, they enrolled in UWRF’s MBA program. “My wife and I have always had ideas, but we’ve never been able to execute them,” he said. “The university really helped us walk down the path to validate our ideas and start our business.” Two years later and the couple are graduates, winners of the campus Innovation Challenge and recipients of the $25,000 Ideadvance Seed Fund, leaving them with $30,000 of startup money for their project in the bank. They credit UWRF, especially management and marketing Associate Professor Marina Onken, Danielle Campeau, director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development

A wealth of resources Dodge and Till have more than one thing in common: they’re both military veterans, both alumni of UW-River Falls, and most importantly, both are returning students through the university’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SDBC and its umbrella organization, the CIBD, help about 130 entrepreneurs each year. Through these two groups, the university does its part in helping train tomorrow’s regional business leaders. “What we are trying to build is a culture of innovation on campus,” said Campeau. To get there, Campeau explained, they are building a trifecta of services that levy the expertise of faculty and staff. It begins with the Innovation Challenge – where students develop and test their ideas into a viable business in a competition to win up to $30,000. The challenge transmutes ideas into reality. It pokes and prods business plans in preparation for the market, while also teaching new entrepreneurs essential truths about running a startup. Second, the center employs a full-time business consultant. Especially useful to alumni and small-businesses in the area, the consultant can give advice on things like accounting, market research and tips on how to run a business from day to day. Lastly, the university is a key partner in the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center. This 30,000 square foot building will house classroom space dedicated to connecting UWRF students and faculty with local businesses when it is finished in early 2018. Campeau said they hope to incubate small businesses — ideally ones founded by UWRF students and alumni — at the center for about three years. “It’s meant to be a short-term growth solution for small businesses,” she said. “It will be another great resource our students have — something they can access while on campus and continue to access those resources once they’ve left.”



alma matters Class Notes. Weddings. Future Falcons. In Memoriam.


Find out the latest news from your classmates—career changes, recent honors, retirements and more.

Class Notes Note: Cities listed without a state are in Wisconsin.

1970 Leigh Livermore, 1975 was recently honored as a distinguished alum of Hudson High School. As part of the Class of 1967, he had many accomplishments prior to graduation. After graduating from UWRF, he served in the U.S. Army for two years. He and his wife have three daughters. Craig Zabel, 1977 has received the 2016 Penn State Teaching Fellow Award: The Alumni Association and Student Award for Teaching Excellence. Zabel has taught modern architectural history at Penn State since 1985, and has been head of Penn State’s Department of Art History since 1996.

1980 Tony Disalvo, 1985 was named Green Bay Packers High School Coach of the Week by the Packers organization. DiSalvo began his football coaching career at Spring Valley High School as the head varsity coach in 1986. After three years, he accepted an assistant coaching position at St. Croix Central. In 2000, he was promoted to the varsity head coaching position for the Panthers. DiSalvo and his wife, Ann, have one daughter, Arinn. Scott Hyslop, 1985 has published his first collection of original hymn tunes and sacred songs called “The New Song Never Ends.” This collection contains 55 settings. Scott resides in Birch Run, Mich. Dan Florness, 1986 is the chief executive officer of Fastenal and has joined the Gundersen Board of Trustees. He has also served on UWRF’s College of Business Advisory Board. In 2012, Florness

was named one of the nation’s 10 best CFOs by The Wall Street Journal and was honored as CFO of the Year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Cheryl Steinbach, 1986 has been named State FFA Alumni Executive Director by the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Association. She has retired as an agriculture instructor from Granton High School after 28 years of teaching. Her local FFA and FFA alumni programs were recognized with many honors and awards during her tenure. Jeff Broin, 1987 recently received an honorary doctorate of public service from South Dakota State University. The degree is the “highest honor conferred by the Board of Regents and university and is reserved for only those candidates whose extraordinary accomplishments have benefitted society.” Richard Moldenhauer, 1987 was named the 2016 recipient of the National Nyswander/Dole “Marie” Award presented by the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) for his extraordinary service in the opioid treatment community. Moldenhauer was presented the award at the National AATOD Conference in Baltimore, Md., in November 2016. Matt Kucharski, 1989 was promoted to president of PadillaCRT. He joined the agency in 1989 and leads the agency’s business-to-business and business-toconsumer practices. He has spent more than 15 years as an adjunct instructor of marketing and strategic communications at the University of Minnesota and frequently serves as a panelist, guest speaker and moderator on a range of business and communications related topics.

1990 Brian Nielsen, 1990 received the Equine Nutrition Research Award

from Ashley Wagner of Probiotech, on behalf of AFIA. Nielsen also has received several other awards in the equine industry, including the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science and the American Dairy Science Association in 2005 and the ESS and ASAS Equine Science Award in 2010. He became a diplomat in the American College of Animal Nutritionists in 2001, served on the Nutrition Discipline Committee for the American College of Animal Scientists since 2014 and served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Nutrient Requirements of Horses in 2007. LeaAnn Bohn, 1992 is working in two gymnastic coaching positions: at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and at Onalaska. She was a gymnast for two years at UWRF but was unable to continue due to injury. She had been considering retirement from coaching but instead jumped back in wholeheartedly. Mike Lavin, 1994 has been appointed interim executive director by the YMCA Board of Directors. He has 22 years of leadership experience with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Lavin most recently was a district executive responsible for three YMCA branches, as well as the youth sports departments for all 24 branches in the Greater Twin Cities association. He was formerly an Association of YMCA Professionals Chapter 42 president. Scott Firlus, 1995 is Westfield/Hillsboro operations manager for United Cooperative. Firlus is a recent graduate of the CHS Future Forty program through the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. Molly McLagan Foley, 1997 was recently named River Falls Firefighter of the Year. She has worked for the Fire Department for 21 years. She lives in River



alma matters

Falls and in addition to serving on the Fire Department, she works as a nurse in Stillwater, Minn., and works at UWRF in premajor advising and tutoring services. Jeff Hicken, 1998 has been given honorary membership to the UW-Madison chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. He began his career as an agricultural education instructor and FFA adviser at Sauk Prairie High School. During his teaching career, he was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year as well as the Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators John Deere’s Outstanding Young Member. Since 2006, he has been the agriculture education consultant at the Department of Public Instruction and serves at the State FFA Adviser. Gretchen Westergard Boulka, 1999 is the director of performing arts at Paramount Center for the Arts, St. Cloud, Minn. Gretchen and her husband, Steve, ‘00, live in Ramsey, Minn. Valerie Kriesel Pierzina, 1999 has been awarded the Harry Sebring Memorial Grant through the American Morgan Horse Educational Charitable Trust. She is a master equine massage therapist and will utilize the grant to further her equine therapy education as she apprentices at the Therasage Equine Massage Certification school to become the program’s first employed equine massage instructor. Rachel Sauvola, 1999 was recently recognized as Citizen of the Year at the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Chamber Awards Gala Dinner. Jennifer Smith, 1999 was named 2016 Post-Secondary Educator of the Year at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. A farm business management educator at Riverland Community College since October 2008, she plays an important role for local farmers and agri-businesses in keeping their businesses healthy and profitable. She also works with agricultural businesses to provide workshops and meetings in order to inform the public about crucial agricultural topics. She lives on


a working farm near Kenyon with her husband, John, and sons John, Jett and Jay. James Wildermuth, 1999 was recognized as the Indiana Rural Teacher of the Year. He is an agriculture teacher at North Miami Community Schools in Denver, Ind. He resides in Akron with his wife, Stacie, ‘00.

2000 Kristin Hanson, 2000 was named Agriscience Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators. Hanson is an agricultural teacher and FFA advisor at Barron High School. During her career, she has dedicated 17 years to advise three FFA chapters, each of which developed into a “Three-Star Chapter” at the state and national level. This was the second time she won the state Outstanding Agricultural Instructor award. Hanson earned a similar honor in 2013. Sandra Porter Kroeber, 2000 is director of human resources at Northern Technologies, LLC. Kroeber earned a MS in education from UWRF and a BS in business education from Southwest State University. She has SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resource Management) and SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certifications. Erica Staab, 2000 has been named as one of Faribault’s foremost young leaders in the Chamber of Commerce’s “40 Under 40” initiative, a year-long program honoring community leaders. Erica’s works at HOPE Center and volunteers her time at Youth in Government, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, United for Kids and Growing Up Healthy. Nicole Brickner, 2001 recently published her first book, “Behavioral Issues in Horses: Why Do They Do That?” She began training horses and giving riding instructions shortly after graduation from UWRF. She formed her own business, NB Horse Training LLC. She resides and trains in Neenah. Eric Smith, 2001 is a master agronomist for United Cooperative, Central Wisconsin Territory. His previous

experience was as northern area seed and agronomy lead for Insight FS, Jefferson. He also served as a territory agronomist for Monsanto and was a seed sales agronomist for Larsen Co-op, New London. Sam Zimmermann, 2001 and his wife, Jennifer, received the 2017 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) award. The Zimmermanns are relatively new to the dairy business, starting their herd in 2010. The Wisconsin OYF program was developed in 1954 to recognize the younger generation of successful agriculturists in the state. Lindsey O’Grady Low, 2003 has started a new position at UC Berkeley Extension as director of teaching credential programs. She resides in El Sobrante, Calif. Josh Stensland, 2005 is plant manager at Seneca Foods, Blue Earth, Minn. He’s worked at Seneca Foods for more than half his life and through his collegiate experience. Nicholas Hall, 2007 is the principal at Starr Elementary in the New Richmond School District. He was the elementary principal in the Stanley-Boyd Area Schools since 2013. Steve Boe, 2008 was promoted to director of local affairs for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. He has worked as an agri-science teacher at Independence High School, a congressional intern for Rep. Ron Kind and as a research assistant for State Rep. Mark Radcliffe in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Boe has also served as a district coordinator for WFBF since 2011. He resides in Taylor. Travis Engel, 2008 recently received the Herb Kohl Fellowship. He has made it his mission to bring the agriculture program back to his alma mater (Owen-Withee High School). With the help of a core group of ag supporters in the community, he is a key player in helping to re-establish the long dormant ag education program. He also helped to re-charter the FFA program that had been inactive for nearly two decades.

2010 Amanda Krapfl, 2010 recently joined ANIMART as global sales support of the Dairy and Livestock Division. Michael Colle, 2011 is an associate food technologist for corporate research development at Jennie-O Turkey Store. He earned a masters in animal science and Ph.D. in animal psychology from the University of Idaho. Peter Magner, 2012 is the manager of renewable fuels for the State and National Corn Grower Association, St. Louis. Magner brings a combination of experience in research, public policy and energy management to the job where he provides key support to ethanol programs within the organization. Kyle Schaffer, 2012 has joined the litigation team at Bakke Norman Law Offices. Schaffer received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Colin S. Seaborg, 2012 is an associate attorney at Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak & Pikala, P.A., assisting clients with a variety of Minnesota business litigation matters. He received his J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Previously he was a law clerk for the Hon. Heidi Schellhas of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Julie Wadzinski, 2013 was recently appointed to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Agriculturalist Committee by the Farm Bureau’s State Board of Directors. She is a farm and production management instructor at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. She and her son, Bryan, reside in Rice Lake. Brandon Scharping, 2014 received a scholarship from the National Dairy Heard Information Association for his final years of veterinary school at UW-Madison. While at UWRF, he worked on the dairy farm and gained valuable experience. Taylor Berman, 2015 has been living in his hometown of New

Richmond, but traveled to California and Costa Rica to complete art projects that sparked his idea to paint the city benches. Early in September, his idea of painting benches was brought to the City Council for consideration and after a discussion, gave the go-ahead for city staff to approve designs. Anne Borgmann, 2015 is a math teacher at Hastings (Minn.) High School. Her goal is to implement technology into her classroom to give students more opportunities to ask questions and to help them remember what they learned. She is also the volleyball coach for the ninth grade team. Joe Draxler, 2016 was selected to participate in the 2017 NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar. He was one of more than 200 interns and graduate assistants selected to take part in the event from a national pool of applicants across all NCAA’s division levels. Eli Gindele, 2016 is an extension educator for the Polk and Clearwater Extension offices. Connor Nelson, 2016 recently served as a production assistant for the film “Love Always, Santa.” The movie was filmed in Minnesota and was picked up by the Hallmark Channel and released in early November. Nathaniel Nolden, 2016 is an agriculture teacher at Prairie Farm School District. He will finish out the school year as the agriculture instructor as well as the Prairie Farm FFA adviser. Brooke Sperberg, 2016 is a relief reporductive specialist with NorthStar Cooperative, Inc., providing services to dairy and beef producers for heat detection and artificial insemination breeding services based on the herd owner’s genetic and production goals. David Voller, 2016 is head coach of the Albert Lea Girls Swim and Dive team. Not only was Voller on a swim team in high school, but he has also been coaching since the age of 16. He started teaching with the Cambridge Community

Education Aquatics program before becoming a volunteer for the Wayzata Boys Swim Team. His latest coaching job was as assistant coach for the boys team at Cambridge-Isanti.

About Alma Matters Send us your latest news. We will print your notes in the next issue. Here’s how: 1) e-mail us at falconfeatures@uwrf. edu; or 2) fax a letter to the Falcon Features editor at 715-425-4486; or 3) submit a form located on our website at alumni/ and click “Update Profile.” In the interest of accuracy, encourage classmates to send us their news directly—don’t do it for them. We will not print a death announcement unless accompanied by a copy of a published obituary (such as an announcement from a local newspaper). Questions about Alma Matters may be directed to Kjisa Bayer at 715425-3505 or



alma matters

In Memoriam 1940 Althea Erickson Wood, 1940 died Feb. 10, 2017 Floy Swanson Born, 1941 died May 18, 2017 Bernice Lovell Wolf, 1941 died Jan. 19, 2017 Dawn Wheeler Riley, 1941 died Oct. 4, 2016 Helen Hehnings Ptacek, 1942 died March 10, 2017 Edward Jacobson, 1942 died Feb. 19, 2017 Stanley Atkinson, 1942 died Nov. 13, 2016 Elva Cairns Norris, 1943 died Aug. 30, 2016 Olive Summers Nelson, 1944 died June 23, 2017 Gladys Leadholm Ruhsam, 1945 died Sept. 3, 2016 Donald Hawkins, 1947 died March 29, 2017 Douglas Clarke, 1947 died Aug. 16, 2016 Ann Laufenberg Krupkat, 1948 died April 5, 2017 Glenn Nelson, 1948 died Feb. 4, 2017 Virgil Martinson, 1948 died Aug. 23, 2016 Felice Jorstad Leadholm, 1948 died July 12, 2017 Gordon Vine, 1948 died July 3, 2017 Donald Carlstrom, 1949 died March 13, 2017 Lester Vanloon, 1949 died March 19, 2017 George Frye, 1949 died Nov. 5, 2016

William Shafer, 1951 died April 16, 2016 Margaret Anderson Scharnhorst, 1952 died March 21, 2017 Donald Trewartha, 1952 died Dec. 24, 2016 Marilyn Fiedler Goodrich, 1953 died Nov. 3, 2016 William Prentice, 1954 died Dec. 23, 2016 Gertrude Grewe Fredericks, 1955 died Dec. 19, 2016 Helen Davis Sandve, 1955 died Nov. 21, 2016 Wilbur Falkenthal, 1955 died July 8, 2017 Willard Olson, 1956 died May 26, 2017 John Wallesverd, 1956 died April 13, 2017 William Brandt, 1956 died Sept. 22, 2016 Dorothy Fredrickson Hartman, 1956 died Sept. 1, 2016 Allen Fritz, 1957 died Oct. 22, 2016 Donald Barnes, 1957 died May 17, 2017 Forrest Erickson, 1957 died May 1, 2017 Donald Pederson, 1957 died April 17, 2017 David Herum, 1957 died Dec. 16, 2016 Donald Erpenbach, 1958 died Nov. 16, 2016 Gerald Olson, 1958 died Sept. 6, 2016 John Randall, 1958 died June 25, 2017 LeRoy Anderson, 1959 died Dec. 20, 2016 Dean Loree, 1959 died Feb. 4, 2017 George Pederson, 1959 died Oct. 25, 2016

1950 Eugene Savage, 1950 died July 12, 2016 Dale Kannel, 1951 died Aug. 15, 2017 Eileen Larson Gulbranson, 1951 died Feb. 8, 2017 John Romundson, 1951 died Nov. 28, 2016 Richard Klatt, 1951 died Oct. 29, 2016 Gordon Martinson, 1951 died August 19, 2016



1960 Craig Olson, 1960 died March 4, 2017 Kenneth Becker, 1960 died Feb. 20, 2017 Daniel Teetzen, 1960 died Dec. 2, 2016 Elliott Paulsen, 1960 died Oct. 6, 2016 Philip Knuf, 1960 died Aug. 15, 2016

Jake Bursik, 1961 died Jan. 9, 2017 Richard Quast, 1962 died April 21, 2017 Robert Block, 1962 died Oct. 15, 2016 Steven Freier, 1962 died Aug. 13, 2016 Marian Carlson, 1962 died Aug. 4, 2016 Alvin Green, 1963 died Nov. 2, 2016 Harold Eggebraaten, 1963 died Sept. 17, 2016 Donald Mayer, 1963 died Sept. 1, 2016 Steven McKenzie, 1963 died July 20, 2017 Jerome Hungerford, 1964 died Aug. 16, 2017 Frank Urbanz, 1964 died May 15, 2017 Robert Thieme, 1964 died March 5, 2017 John Hansen, 1964 died March 8, 2017 Jerome Rolstad, 1965 died Jan. 16, 2017 Warren Wilson, 1965 died Jan. 11, 2017 Robert Enerson, 1965 died Sept. 2, 2016 Janet Griffey DeCraene, 1966 died June 6, 2017 Ruth Farlow, 1966 died March 3, 2017 Duane Catt, 1966 died Dec. 22, 2016 Harlan French, 1967 died April 11, 2017 Rae Volkmann Page Gamelin, 1967 died Jan. 15, 2017 Michael Obrodovich, 1967 died Jan. 9, 2017 Neala Kay Shager, 1968 died March 18, 2017 Gerald Franck, 1968 died Dec. 19, 2016 JoAnn Cole Ronningen, 1968 died Oct. 14, 2016 Luanne Waterhouse, 1969 died March 14, 2017 Lonnie Benson, 1969 died Feb. 7, 2017 Mariel Olson Bird, 1969 died Dec. 12, 2016 Charles Witzel, 1969 died Dec. 23, 2016 Ellice Mitchell Debenedetto, 1969 died Dec. 17, 2016

Gerald Ashenbrenner, 1969 died Nov. 14, 2016 Lawrence Boles, 1969 died Nov. 1, 2016

1970 Douglas Pederson, 1970 died Jan. 24, 2017 Virginia Erickson Ogren, 1970 died Aug. 9, 2016 Roger Myren, 1970 died June 14, 2017 Roger Kyle, 1971 died April 22, 2017 Marlis Voskuil Blok, 1971 died Oct. 30, 2016 Dennis Marschall, 1971 died Sept. 2, 2016 Norman Draeger, 1971 died Sept. 12, 2016 Connie Yelk, 1971 died Aug. 9, 2016 John Kozlowicz, 1971 died Aug. 5, 2016 Michael Peterson, 1972 died Feb. 25, 2017 Allen Space, 1973 died March 2, 2017 Robert Lent, 1973 died June 22, 2017 Galen Neubarth, 1974 died March 18, 2017 Rebecca Anderson Peters, 1974 died Jan. 3, 2017 Michael Ubbelohde, 1974 died Aug. 1, 2017 Mark Carlson, 1976 died June 25, 2017 Margaret Owens Doetkott, 1977 died May 4, 2017 Jeffrey Danzinger, 1977 died March 5, 2017 James Gaumitz, 1978 died Nov. 17, 2016 Ronald Grunwald, 1978 died August 5, 2017 Deborah Craig Krultz, 1979 died Nov. 19, 2016 Jerold Houser, 1979 died July 24, 2017

1980 Janis Kopp Blackford, 1981 died Dec. 19, 2016 Michael Simones, 1981 died Aug. 7, 2017 Louis Nowak, 1982 died March 3, 2017

Judith Quinn Langford, 1983 died March 2, 2017 Randy St. Ores, 1983 died Dec. 30, 2016 Kevin Hansen, 1984 died Jan. 25, 2017 Muriel Schiltgen, 1984 died Jan. 5, 2017 David Niebuhr, 1987 died April 2, 2017 Delores Paatalo, 1987 died April 7, 2017 Brian Kindschi, 1989 died March 28, 2017

1990 Phyllis Koss, 1990 died Sept. 2, 2016 Garry Twedt, 1992 died Sept. 17, 2016 Ken Helt, 1993 died August 10, 2016 Cinthia Berggren, 1994 died Feb. 25, 2017 Wallace Lundeen, 1994 died Oct. 5, 2016 Justin Bystrom, 1995 died March 4, 2017 Jeffrey Carlson, 1995 died Nov. 28, 2016 Kristen Mc Gregor Linehan, 1996 died Jan. 5, 2017 Jerene Mortenson, 1996 died Sept. 18, 2016 Erica Shaw Sheets, 1999 died Jan. 26, 2017

2000 Rebecca Grote Brand, 2000 died Dec. 6, 2016 Anthony Sinz, 2004 died July 16, 2017 Kyle Anderson, 2008 died Oct. 31, 2016 Benjamin Stanek, 2009 died April 11, 2017

2010 Janna Grassel Wood, 2012 died Feb. 5, 2017 Katelin Condon, 2015 died April 22, 2017 Josh Wagner, 2016 died July 10, 2017

Distinguished Alumnus Dr. John Clemons Obituary UWRF’s 2007 Distinguished Alumnus Dr. John Clemons died August 24 due to progressive pulmonary fibrosis of the lungs. He was 81. Clemons, ’57, specialized in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, as well as maxillofacial surgery. After joining La Crosse’s Gunderson Clinic in 1968, Clemons established the Department of OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery and Facial Plastic Surgery, as well as the Head and Neck Cancer Tumor Clinic. Later, Clemons joined two colleagues in establishing the first cleft lip and palate clinic in western Wisconsin. He also established the first regional specialty outreach clinic in Winona, Minn., followed by clinics in Viroqua, Whitehall and Hillsboro. Clemons was born in 1935 in New Auburn. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture education from UWRF, his medical doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his specialization at the University of Iowa. Clemons retired in 1996 and he began work on his autobiography, “Tending my Flock,” which was published 10 years later.

Faculty/Staff Obituaries John W. Hill John W. Hill, 83, of River Falls, died Aug. 7. Hill worked as a UW-River Falls chemistry professor for 31 years. He is the author/co-author of six chemistry textbooks used worldwide. He was born in Decherd, Tenn. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Hill later attended Middle Tennessee State University and attended graduate school at the University of Arkansas. Jack M. Bostrack Jack M. Bostrack, 85, died Nov. 30, 2016, in River Falls. He began teaching biology at UW-River Falls in 1963. His career at UWRF spanned 32 years. Bostrack was born in Stoughton. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955 and was stationed in Germany. Edward R. Rang Edward Roy Rang, 88, of Hudson, died Sept. 26, 2016. Rang taught mathematics at UW-River Falls and served as chair of the Mathematics Department. Rang earned his doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of Minnesota and later taught at the university. He also worked as an engineer at Honeywell.



UW-River Falls 2017 Alumni Awards




Distinguished Alumnus Award

Lifetime Achievement Award

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Daniel Florness is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is the 81st recipient of the award. Florness graduated from UWRF in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He is the chief executive officer of Fastenal, a global industrial supply company with annual revenues of $4 billion. For two decades, Florness has played a central role in executing the company’s strategy.

Todd Bol is the recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. Bol earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1979 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1982. He is widely recognized as the founder of Little Free Libraries. Since starting the nonprofit in 2012, the colorful, book-filled boxes have become ubiquitous. They’ve spread to 70 countries and all 50 states. As of November 2016, there were about 50,000 little free libraries, resulting in an estimated 9.3 million book exchanges a year. In 2015, the organization was an honoree for the Library of Congress Literacy Award.

Patricia Skinkis is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree in horticultureprofessional option in 2002. Originally from Oneida, Skinkis was a first-generation college student who was accepted into UWRF’s McNair Scholars program. She went on to Purdue University and earned a doctorate in horticulture in 2006. Today, Skinkis is an associate professor and viticulture extension specialist at Oregon State University where she researches sustainable vineyard management practices, which are of particular interest to the Oregon wine grape growing industry.

After leaving UWRF, Bol began his career as a middle school teacher. He then became a sales manager in corporate trade in 3M, and later started EPT Cadre, a financing, barter and counter trade and international offset organization for governments and corporations.

Skinkis is a member or chair of numerous state and national working groups focused on the wine grape industry, including the Oregon Viticulture Working Group, the Willamette Valley Viticulture Research & Technical Group and the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium Education Committee.

Bol worked for more than a decade with developing countries, the Philippines in particular, to develop sustainable and socially responsible programs and economic strategies in areas like healthcare funding and infrastructure. He has led a series of nonprofit organizations including CareForth, Inc. and the Global Scholarship Alliance.

She is also on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. Skinkis is the recipient of numerous honors and recognitions including the Search for Excellence Award from OSU Extension, the Savery Young Faculty Award from the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, the Oregon State University Outreach & Engagement Award, and Visionary Horticulturist Award from the American Society of Horticultural Science eXtension Working Group.

In his previous role as chief financial officer, Florness developed Fastenal’s growth and profit drivers, while also serving as an executive vice president. At one point, he led the company’s National Account Sales Division, representing more than 40 percent of their business. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal recognized Florness as one of the nation’s ten best CFOs. He was also named “CFO of the Year” by the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal. Before joining Fastenal, he spent ten years with the public accounting firm of KPMG, LLP. Florness is a board member for the Winona chapter of the American Red Cross and serves on the endowment committee of Faith Lutheran Church, Winona. He is a board director for PlastiComp Inc., a global provider of long-fiber reinforced materials and technologies, and Winona Golf and Dining, a restaurant and golf operation. Florness recently joined the Gundersen Health System’s Board of Trustees. He previously served the Winona Community Foundation and was a member of the National Sponsors Board for the National FFA Organization. Florness and his wife, Jennie, reside in the Winona area with their four children.


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Upcoming Alumni Events An Ordway Original, Annie (St. Paul) – Dec. 9 UWRF Undergraduate Research Fall Gala – Dec. 12 Fall Commencement – Dec. 16 American Swedish Institute Tour Event (Minneapolis) – Dec. 22 Wisconsin Dells Alumni Event at Kalahari Resort – Jan. 5-6, 2018 Women’s Basketball Reunion – Jan. 6, 2018 Counseling Program 5oth Anniversary – Feb. 3, 2018 Men’s Basketball Reunion – Feb. 10, 2018 Minnesota Music Conference Alumni Reception – Feb. 15, 2018 Arizona Alumni Event (Mesa, Ariz.) – Feb. 17, 2018 Wisconsin Day in Florida (Fort Myers Beach) – Feb. 28, 2018 Wisconsin Day in Arizona (Sun City) – March 8, 2018 AGR 50th Anniversary – April 6-9, 2018 Golden Jubilee Reunion – May 11-12, 2018 Spring Commencement – May 12, 2018 Homecoming – Oct. 13, 2018 Scotland Alumni Tour – Oct. 14-24, 2018 For additional events information, contact University Advancement at 877-258-6647 (toll free),, or visit

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