The Andersons: Fans, donors and patriots

top-story-AndersonsThere is no question from November to mid-March where Kathy and Lee Anderson’s loyalties lie — with the UW-Green Bay women’s basketball program. From the home of the Phoenix to the home of the Huskies, from Green Bay to Dallas, Texas, or Ames, Iowa, the Andersons can be found in the stands rooting for their home team.

“When people find out we are from Green Bay, they say, “Packers?” we say, “Phoenix,” says Lee.

The longtime men’s and women’s basketball season ticket holders never fail to be impressed by the athletic qualities and strength of character that define their favorite student-athletes.

“Of all the games we’ve watched and the highlights through the years, the thing that impresses me the most is when we were named No. 1 out of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament based on the team’s GPAs,” says Lee. “It’s such a reflection of the girls and a very big part of why we are so proud to support this team.”

“This is our vacation, our social life, “ said Kathy. “People ask us when we are going to become snowbirds, but winter in Wisconsin is where we chose to be. We love getting to know the girls and their families, many who come in as intimidated freshmen, and blossom into these confident, strong women who remain in our lives.”

Although much of their free time is committed to the Phoenix, the Andersons have extended their support beyond Athletics, most recently committing to an endowed scholarship for the new Engineering Technology program at UW-Green Bay. They also have a similar scholarship at NWTC.

The Andersons reason for supporting higher education is clear — they each grew up watching their working-class families struggle to make ends meet. Lee worked his way out of a poor boyhood Milwaukee neighborhood and into engineering, thanks to the Falk Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eventually he used that to build a thriving business — Recycled Plastics Industries, Inc.(RPI) — a manufacturer of plastic lumber used in recreational, marine, agricultural, outdoor furniture and numerous other applications.

Kathy recalls working alongside her locally-famed father Marv Bins — a sports reporter, photographer, referee and a member of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame — who worked as a local postal carrier in Luxemburg, Wis. to support a large family. “As early as 10 years old I was helping him keep stats at local games,” she said. Kathy grew to know the struggles of a single mom and is grateful for the scholarship support her son received while she was working to help him through college.

Math and education student Gabriel Michaels is the recipient of the first Lee and Kathy Anderson Scholarship for Engineering Technology at UWGB. Because the University is just beginning to enroll students in the program, the Andersons extended this year’s nomination to Math students.

“He is a future math teacher who will be teaching future math students and engineers, so it made sense,” said Lee.

Although Michaels has only “met” the Andersons through e-mail so far, his appreciation is apparent. “It amazes me how two people could care so much about someone they have not even met. I am truly grateful for the gift that they have given me in the form of a scholarship. To donate money to someone’s education is a such a selfless act and I am very humbled to have received this scholarship from them.”

The Andersons’ commitment to Northeast Wisconsin extends beyond UW-Green Bay. The cat (and giraffe) lovers are volunteers at NEW Zoo and Happily Ever After — a no-kill animal sanctuary owned by UW-Green Bay alumnus Amanda Reitz.

Passionate patriots, this year the Andersons are taking 92-year-old World War II Veteran and Normandy survivor Reuben Schaetzel to the annual Liberation Festival in Pilsen, Czech Republic, where Americans are honored each year for their role in liberating the European Continent.

“We are here because a lot of good and talented people spent time teaching and inspiring us. The best way to thank them is to do the same for someone else. Taking one’s gifts for granted is a mistake. For us sharing our gifts is a given.”