UW-Green Bay graduates continue to make a difference in Northeastern Wisconsin and beyond, serving as civic and business leaders, entrepreneurs, volunteers, mentors and more.
So it’s perhaps little surprise that University alumni — seven, to be exact — are among this year’s 20 “Women to Know,” the annual list from YOU Magazine.
Among the alumni honorees are an artist, a life coach, and a hero to rescued animals. Their commencement years range from 1976 to 2008, but they have at least two important things in common — they’re proud grads, and they’re making an impact.
“The contributions of UW-Green Bay alumni continue to make our community a better place to live,” said Donna Sheedy ’94, president of the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association. “Their UW-Green Bay education equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to be terrific leaders and wonderful individuals, as well. We are so proud of all the ways they continue to contribute, both on campus and in this community.”
This year’s alumni honorees are Sandra (Sandi) Van Sistine ’78; Jane Birr ’90; Amanda Reitz ’08; Barbara Kane ’83; Karen DuChateau ’76; Rebecca Lesperance ’96 (Rebecca Rockhill); and Angela Raleigh ’07 (Angela Walschinski). A short profile of each follows; to read more click here.
Sandra (Sandi) Van Sistine ’78 has played a major role in enhancing the artistic life of greater Green Bay. As a founder of the ARTgarage, a public studio, performance space and arts education venue on the city’s east side, Van Sistine continues to share her passion with the community. She’s also a freelance writer and full-time volunteer whose next big project, according to YOU Magazine, is to help improve playground safety in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Van Sistine received her UW-Green Bay degree in Communication and the Arts.
Jane Birr ’90 is a UW-Green Bay alumna and lecturer who, inspired by the words of former basketball coach Carol Hammerle, found a recipe for professional and personal success. Hammerle said that success begins by waking up with conviction, making tasks manageable and then working “like heck” to achieve them, according to Birr’s profile in YOU. Now Birr is a life coach and author, encouraging people to live “on purpose in great health and for the glory of God.” She’s also a UW-Green Bay physical education lecturer and sometimes daredevil — she lists water skiing, mountain biking and water rides as a few of her favorite ways to get a “speed rush.”
Amanda Reitz ’08 has turned a passion for helping animals into a career, founding a no-kill animal sanctuary in 2006. The nonprofit Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary operates on Reitz’s family farm near Marion, not only caring for homeless pets but also working to educate about adoption and spay/neuter programs in our communities. Reitz started the shelter while still a UW-Green Bay student, and at just 23 helped place some 400 animals for adoption in just over a year. In 2011, Reitz was named a Green Bay Press-Gazette Everyday Hero for her tireless work on behalf of animals.
Barbara Kane ’83 tells YOU Magazine that the motivation to begin volunteering started with paying a library fine. It got her thinking about the importance of libraries and how they give everyone a chance to succeed. So Kane, the director of finance at Franciscan Sponsored Ministries, joined the group Friends of the Brown County Library. She’s now the organization’s president. As Kane explains it, “The Friends are advocates who remind people that the library is an incredible bargain for their tax dollars. We also hold various events to raise funds to support library programs and purchases that are not within the county budget.”
Karen DuChateau ’76 has spent the past two decades supporting those who are critically ill, and in some cases, facing death. As a social work case manager at St. Mary’s Hospital, DuChateau aims to ease the pain of those with whom she works, she tells YOU. “Sharing the emotions that accompany these struggles with patients and families can bring joy amidst deep sadness,” she says, “but allowing myself to cry with them and even laugh with them can be very therapeutic.” The YOU feature also notes that DuChateau herself is a breast cancer survivor, and she serves on the request committee for the local Ribbon of Hope Foundation.
Rebecca Lesperance (Rebecca Rockhill) ’96 worked for an attorney after graduating from UW-Green Bay with a degree in Public Administration, she tells YOU. “He always told me I had a social worker’s — not a lawyer’s — heart.” So Lesperance took a job with The Salvation Army, where she now serves as director of development. More than a decade after switching career paths, Lesperance says it’s worth it. She balances motherhood — her sons are 9 and 4 — with work and leading an active lifestyle, according to her “Women to Know” profile. “At all times,” she tells the magazine, “do what you love for an organization that you love, or else it’s just not worth it.”
Angela Raleigh (Angela Walschinski) ’07 is a public relations professional who balances work — she’s an account executive with local PR firm Leonard & Finco — with a passion for volunteerism. An energetic young professional, Raleigh tells YOU she likes that her job facilitates both personal and professional community involvement. An influential older sister motivated Raleigh to volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. “Growing up, my older sister was always there for me and still is,” she tells YOU, “and this is why I decided to volunteer for the program. It’s rewarding to know I’m making an impact on someone else’s life.”
— Photos by Jennifer Comins, owner of Pose Photografix, originally published in Green Bay YOU Magazine, August 2012 edition.