A UWGB champion: Southard honored for nearly 50 years of service

With Robert “Bob” Southard in its corner, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has done nothing but grow and prosper.

On Tuesday night (May 1, 2012) Southard was recognized by his peers — members of the UW-Green Bay Founders Association Board and friends of the University — with a Lifetime Achievement Award for more than four decades of advocacy on behalf of the University.

Not that his job is done. Southard, a retired local TV executive, continues to broadcast the good news of UW-Green Bay far and wide.

“We are so grateful to have Bob continue the work he does with the Founders Association,” says Bev Carmichael, Assistant Chancellor for University Advancement. “His long tenure with the University provides a unique perspective, and his passion for higher education in this community drives his support. We are pleased that Bob continues to extol the virtues of this University.”

Southard’s association with the University reaches back to the days when the campus was only an idea, in the years before ground was broken on the bayshore site.

In 1966, newly arrived Founding Chancellor Ed Weidner reached out to Southard to discuss how the University could best partner with its community. Southard and Weidner became fast friends and golfing partners in those early years, discussing the role of the University in shaping a community culture.

Southard provided specific expertise through service on Chancellor Weidner’s five-member Telecommunications Community Advisory Committee.

That relationship with the University deepened in the early 1970s when Stu Stiles introduced Southard to the Founders Association. The organization was created in 1973 as both a friend- and fund-raising organization to “raise money to support student, staff and programs, and to help the University administration with developing the campus and connecting with the community.”

Probably because higher education shaped Southard’s own remarkable tale, he became a lifelong champion of UW-Green Bay, as a donor and Founders Association board member.

Southard’s success story started in a small town just outside of Madison, where he formed an affection — maybe a healthy addiction — for Madison’s only, and Wisconsin’s oldest, commercial radio station, WIBA.

“I was probably 13 or 14 years old and I’d hang around the station, peering into the broadcast booth,” Southard recalls. “Then I’d go home, head to my room with the old Victrola in hand, write some scripts, and pretend I had my own newscast.”

Southard attended UW-Madison, majoring in speech — a broadcast major yet to be declared an official academic program — and worked at the public radio station, WHA.

He took a break for active Navy duty during the WW II era before returning home to finish college, taking classes during the day, and working the night shift at WIBU out of Poynette, Wis. His broadcast career took him to Marinette and WMAM Radio, switching to television in 1954 when Channel 11 opened its studio in Marinette.

When Channel 11 opened its Green Bay studio in 1955, Southard moved with the company. One year later he left 11 to join the sales staff at Channel 5.

“That was a career opportunity,” he said. “Back then, if you wanted to move into management, you typically had to come from the sales side.” He moved up in the ranks, retiring in 1985 from WFRV-TV as Vice President, General Manager, after 29 years in the industry.

His success probably had much to do with his engaging personality.

“Bob’s a gentleman’s gentleman,” said Shane Kohl, former director of development for the University. “He is one of the most compassionate, caring people I’ve ever met. Always has a smile… always takes time to ask how you’re doing… always deflecting praise.”

Southard’s successful retirement was short lived, however, when the station manager at a competitor asked him for a one-year commitment to “help them get sales on track.” He ended up staying for seven before deciding it was time, in 1993, to dedicate his time and attention to his wife, Martha, and their new adventures.

“It was the only job I ever wanted and it was a great industry to work in,” he says. “Back then, station owners were people, not a name in another city. It was a wonderful career.”

He chose to stay and make his career in Green Bay, intentionally. And he committed time, talent and treasure to improving the community with Rotary, Salvation Army and N.E.W. Curative Rehabilitation also receiving his care. Having a part in growing UW-Green Bay into a thriving institution is a dream fulfilled.

“When I first came to Green Bay it was a small town with a football team,” he said. “I noticed it was difficult to get young talent to move here and stay here. They wanted to be in Madison and Milwaukee. I could see that a University could help supply the culture and the social opportunities desperately missing in Green Bay. An active student body, Division I athletics, the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, had a big hand in filling that huge gap.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Southard continues as an active Founders member, saying he wants to make certain that the people of this community don’t take the University for granted.

Founders Association president Scott Wochos, who presented Southard with the framed lifetime achievement award at the May 1 gathering, calls it an “inspiration” to serve with Southard.

“His commitment to the university has had a huge impact on UWGB and the entire Green Bay community,” Wochos said.

“People go throughout their day and they are not conscious of the time that faculty and staff put into their community or the ways in which the University integrates with the community on a daily basis,” Southard says. “The Weidner Center and athletics have shed such a positive light on this community, but there are so many other opportunities — events, lectures, gallery displays, plays, musical performances… Martha does a little painting, so we’re always interested in the Lawton Gallery shows.”

Southard says that it is easy to sing the praises of the University.

“It’s such a beautiful campus, with top-notch facilities. I think students may take it for granted. Martha and I have visited many campuses and they have nothing on this campus, the natural areas and facilities.”


Lifetime Achievement Award of Appreciation

Honoring on this day, May 1, 2012… Bob Southard…

The UW-Green Bay Founders Association extends its gratitude to Bob Southard for broadcasting the good news of the University to Northeast Wisconsin and beyond…

for lending his voice through gracious persuasion, philanthropy and advocacy on behalf of UW-Green Bay faculty, staff and students…

and for expressing, over the course of four decades, the importance of a local, public University to a healthy and vibrant region for generations to come.