Category: Giving Back

Donor, scholarship and scholarship recipient stories; giving back to the community

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UW-Green Bay memories power exec’s generosity

If power industry executive Barbara Nick ’83 ever pens a memoir about her atypical career arc, the chapter on her college experience will be central to the story.

Nick is president and CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, La Crosse, which provides wholesale electricity to more than 40 member cooperatives and municipalities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

Nationwide, she’s one of only a few female chief executives in her industry. Her start in the tech-heavy field, 35 years ago, also sets her apart. It came in communications.

Nick says UW-Green Bay shares the credit, and it’s partly why she and her husband established the Jay and Barbara Nick Family Endowed Scholarship in 2013 to offer financial assistance to new freshmen.

Nick, then Barb Bielmeier, was a part-time, returning transfer student when her young family relocated to Green Bay in 1980. Raised in Scottsdale, Ariz., she had taken classes at Arizona State and UW-Madison. She was impressed that the quality of her UWGB education equaled the big schools and the campus was accommodating to non-traditionals.

She tutored in the writing lab, was a linguistics researcher for Prof. Donald Larmouth, and offered English-as-a-Second-Language assistance to international students.

In 1981, a job board posting caught her eye. Wisconsin Public Service Corp. was hiring a technical writer. Having studied with the exacting Larmouth, she knew she was qualified.

“The thing was, I had a liberal arts background. I was eight months pregnant when I had to decide whether to go ‘permanent’… and I was not from the Midwest, not male, not an engineer, and not an accountant,” she recalls, laughing. “But I stayed 33 years.”

Nick “fell in love” with the energy industry, and her work brought her to various divisions across the company. She remembers one afternoon at a lathe with a precision machinist at Kewaunee Nuclear Power and being in awe of the “absolute pride of workmanship.”

Nick finished her bachelor’s in Communication. She later completed Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

At WPS, she rose through the ranks to become senior VP of energy delivery and customer service. She was president of the Upper Peninsula Power Co. subsidiary, and by 2014, when she concluded her career at Integrys, she was president of its Minnesota Energy Resources and Michigan Gas Utilities corporations.

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Dr. Coussons gives the gift of music

The Green Bay Symphony Orchestra’s 100-year collection of music scores will remain available for the community via UW-Green Bay’s David A. Cofrin Library on a limited basis. The music collection has been donated to the Cofrin Library and can be accessed by local music groups requesting the scores at the service desk on the library’s third floor. The historical documentation about the GBSO was donated to the library’s Archives and Area Research Center, on the library’s seventh floor.

“This substantial musical score collection will remain a community resource thanks to the generous donation by Dr. Herbert Coussons,” said Paula Ganyard, Director of the Cofrin Library.

Both the youth and orchestral music libraries were purchased and donated by Dr. Coussons (a Green Bay-area physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology) after the GBSO disbanded as a professional organization in the past year. The Youth Symphony, Civic Symphony and music programs at UWGB and St. Norbert College retain access to the collection that includes photos, news clippings, season program books and historic audio recordings of concerts.

“The UWGB Archives is pleased to add the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra historical records to its collections,” said University Archivist Deb Anderson. “The original documents date from the Symphony’s inception in 1913 to its final performance in 2015. Included in the collection are photographs, recordings, programs, and scrapbooks. The collection of Green Bay Symphony Orchestra records helps us preserve the rich musical heritage of the area.”

The Symphony records will complement the Green Bay City Band records also housed in the Archives Department.

Business grads can relate to hard work, local roots

bartels-top-storyMore than most, Todd Bartels ’82 and Julie (Rose) Bartels ’82 can appreciate the return on investment from UW-Green Bay.

They know that many of UW-Green Bay’s 6,900 students are from cities, small towns and rural areas within 100 miles of campus. They know that many earn their own way through college. They know that most UW-Green Bay alumni stay local after graduation, stepping up to serve among the region’s teachers, planners, health professions and civic and business leaders.

They’re familiar with that profile because they share it. Both Todd (from Appleton) and Julie (Green Bay) juggled work, school and family to earn UW-Green Bay Business Administration degrees before finding satisfying careers close to home.

Todd is a senior vice president with Associated Bank, headquartered in Green Bay. He had previously spent many years as an executive with JPMorgan Chase before moving in 2006 to Associated, where he oversees large business accounts.

Julie’s career has focused on healthcare information and technology. She’s highly regarded in the industry, currently leading the Wisconsin State Health Innovation Plan and serving as executive VP for national health information with the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value.

In 2014 the couple donated funds to establish the Todd and Julie Bartels Annual Scholarship for continuing students in physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology – areas the couple views as emerging growth areas for the economy. They established the fund with appreciation for their own University careers and the first-hand knowledge that college is hard work.

“There wasn’t a lot of ‘down time’ in my case, because I was working,” Todd recalls. “Go to class. Go to work. Study. Repeat.”

For Julie, UW-Green Bay was a great fit for a married young mother who was working part time while balancing a full-time credit load. “Without access to a local, high quality and affordable four-year campus, I would not have been able to pursue my degree for many years,” she says.

The Bartels Scholarship fund represents just the latest effort by the couple to give back to their alma mater. Julie was a board member with the Founders Association, while Todd has been active with the Phoenix Fund on behalf of Division I Phoenix Athletics.

Superior vision: Why a Northwoods diesel specialist invests here

brian-wendt_top-storyUp in the northwoods of Wisconsin, an upturn in manufacturing is picking up speed, often to the satisfying hum of a finely crafted diesel engine.

One company in particular — with new ties to UW-Green Bay — is both driving and benefitting from that resurgence. Superior Diesel, headquartered in Rhinelander, customizes industrial-grade diesel engines for commercial users for whom there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all.

“We’re proud to be the largest value-added distributor of John Deere engines in the world,” says president Brian Wendt.

Engines are shipped directly to the plant, located in the forest along Highway 8 in the industrial park west of town. Warehouse shelves are lined with products by Deere, Kohler and other manufacturers awaiting testing and tuning at the hands of Superior’s skilled production specialists.

Each job begins long before, of course. Clients can expect field visits and exacting analysis of their intended end-use applications. Specialists in mechanical, electrical and design engineering pore over schematics and blueprints. Powering an electric generator is different than pumping water. Emissions requirements vary by locality. Drive-train components perform differently in 110° conditions than at minus-20°.

When Superior’s team devises a solution, the custom-designed components are jobbed out, usually to a local supplier or metal-fabricating shop within a 150-mile radius of Rhinelander.

Wendt is proud that Superior’s success is spinning off employment across the north. There’s also satisfaction in knowing high-torque diesel power remains in demand for logging and agriculture in Wisconsin and beyond, and in new industries, as well.

Partly in appreciation of its local roots, partly anticipating the need for future engineering, purchasing, sales, accounting, production and product-support people, Superior has established two endowed scholarship funds at UW-Green Bay.

Scholarships are open to residents of Oneida, Vilas, Lincoln, Price and Forest counties. Wendt hopes local students will pursue the education that will make them even more valuable when they return north. One of the scholarships is reserved for UW-Green Bay’s new program in engineering technology, and Wendt is hopeful of setting up internship opportunities, as well.

Skogens share lessons, success with UW-Green Bay

Dave and Mark Skogen feature storyNote: An edited version of these interviews was published in the May 2015 print edition of the Inside UW-Green Bay magazine.

Father and son Dave and Mark Skogen have piloted the growth of Festival foods from humble beginnings to 20 stores with more than 5,000 employees today. Dave took over the business from his father, Paul, and transformed what was a small chain of IGA stores in the 1970s and ‘80s into Festival Foods in 1990. Mark became President and CEO in 2006, and through his leadership, Festival Foods has grown into an industry leader. Dave, now Chairman of the Board, was named “Wisconsin Grocer of the Year” in 2005, and he and his wife, Barb, were named Outstanding Philanthropists in 2007 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Upper Mississippi Valley Chapter. Dave published a book in 2013, Boomerang! Leadership Principles that Bring the Customer Back. He was the keynote speaker at UW-Green Bay’s Business Week dinner this spring. Mark serves as a member of the UW-Green Bay Foundation Board and also serves on boards for the Green Bay Packers, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of Green Bay. He is a devoted Phoenix fan and active member of the Phoenix Fund.

What does servant leadership mean to you?

MARK: My definition of servant leadership is removing barriers and obstacles for those whom you lead. Helping others to be the best they can be in life, work, family, etc. Give those you lead the resources they need to win. It’s not just a “work thing” either. Leadership in family life is very important, as well. Giving your kids what they need — not always what they want — is an act of leadership. They want to stay up until 2 a.m., want to eat junk food, want to watch TV for three hours… but what they need is good rest, good nutrition, and good study skills.

DAVE: Plain and simple — putting others’ needs (not wants) before mine.

What have you learned from each other?

MARK: There are many things I could list here so I’ll just name a few. I have learned to do whatever it takes to make the guest happy. There is rarely a step my Dad won’t take to satisfy a guest. I have learned to be passionate about the business. My Dad gives 100 percent when it comes to thinking about what can make us better and what changes should happen to raise our game to the next level. The commitment that he has shown to our company is second to none. I have also learned a lot about giving back in our communities. My Grandpa valued community involvement when he started the business and my Dad has championed it to this day. I have never known another way to operate than to be involved and give back wherever we can.

DAVE: When businesses are passed on through generations, a lot of times you hear that the next generation doesn’t have the same qualities that the previous generation had. The business changes, and not for the better. Through passing on the business to Mark, I have learned that your own children can be as good, or better, than their parents. Mark took what we built and he continues to make it better than what it was.

Festival Foods is known for its response to community needs and opportunities to give back. What is your personal philosophy on philanthropy?

MARK: Community involvement is one of our five values at Festival. We have the support of our guests and we feel its right to give that support back out to the community. We want to be more than a grocery store; we want to make an impact in the cities where we do business. The old corner grocery store in the 1940s had an importance that was greater than just selling groceries. Even though the stores are bigger today we want to still be the place a community can count on for giving.

DAVE: Giving isn’t a choice, it’s an obligation. We are born takers — babies and children take. Only when we are taught to give do we learn to give. The only choice we have is: Will we give to our capacity; or as little as we can?

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome that has perhaps led to the greatest opportunity?

MARK: The transition from the small Skogen’s IGA grocery store format to the Festival Foods format in 1989 was not an easy transition. We went from 25,000 square feet stores to 60,000 square feet. It’s a different kind of operation that we had to learn on the fly. This bold move to a larger format store was the catalyst to our growth. We would not be where we are today had we stuck with the smaller, conventional format store we were operating prior to 1989.

DAVE: For 35 years of our existence we were a small store operator. In 1990, we decided the Big Box model was going to be our future niche. There was a huge learning curve, but it ended up being a nearly seamless transition.

What are the qualities of a great employee?

MARK: A great associate has a bounce in their step and an energy level that is ready to take on any challenge the day may bring. We always say we hire great attitudes and we will train the skills.

DAVE: In two words, Character (our moral maturity) and Humility (which comes from a Greek word that means “close to the ground”).

What about a great leader? How do you identify the future leaders in your company?

MARK: A great leader can rally the hearts and minds of associates around a goal that is identified as being good for all concerned. The leader needs to be a good listener and good at organizing priorities. In retail there are so many moving parts that prioritizing goals can be harder than you may think. A great leader cannot be afraid of holding others accountable. If fear of making an associate “mad” can’t be overcome, the leader will ultimately fail.

DAVE: Humble, honest, forgiving, fearless, kind… more of a plow horse than a show horse.

To what do you owe your success?

MARK: I believe I owe my success to my parents, who set the great foundation in which I grew up. I recognized the amazing career opportunity they provided me without being told I had to get into the business. I would say that the support they gave me for being involved in sports was also important. Basketball in particular taught me so much about drive, determination and the desire to win. On the court I learned how to work hard and find ways to be successful with a team full of different personalities.

DAVE: Focus, passion and luck. If you don’t attribute luck, you’re giving yourself too much credit.

How do you start your day?

MARK: After my cup of coffee I start the day with a run, several games of racquetball, or a workout with a personal trainer. I enjoy getting my exercise in first thing in the morning so that when my day is done I can relax and not feel tempted by excuses to not workout.

DAVE: The daily God Calling Devotional Journal and a healthy XS Energy Drink.

Some would say brand loyalty is dead? Do you agree?

MARK: There are so many more choices for shoppers today. I don’t believe there is zero possibility to earn brand loyalty… you may just have to work harder for it. If you listen to guests to understand what they need, stay on top of trends in your industry, and maintain a strong dedication to customer service, why would a guest not return? We know there are choices and that guests may check out other retailers, but we believe that if we maintain focus on what we do best our guests will come back.
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AVE: Brand loyalty dead? Disagree! I believe those who feel differently aren’t in the trenches enough with their antenna up. When you build relationships, you’re building loyalty.

How do you consistently engage the consumer?

MARK: Engagement starts with “ten tiling,” which is greeting any guest within ten floor tiles. Any guest within ten floor tiles of an associate should get a hello, goodbye, how are you, or can I help you find something today. This is basic stuff and an easy way to break the ice with a guest. From there the door is open to deeper conversations about product or anything else a guest may need from us that day.

DAVE: With patience and energy. You need to be in good shape to continually engage guests. You can’t do it behind a desk.

Name three characteristics that describe the other, and three characteristics that describe yourself.

MARK: Three adjectives I would use to describe my Dad are passionate, change-agent and innovative. As for me, I believe I am driven, generous, and compassionate.

DAVE: For Mark, I would say intelligent, risk-taker and passionate. For myself, passionate, focused, humble.

How do you handle conflict?

MARK: I believe the best way to handle conflict is to meet it head on. So often what may be viewed as a negative situation isn’t so bad once you ask some questions and share your feelings with others. There is always room for improvement when it comes to this approach, but I do believe asking questions to find the root of the conflict gets you to resolution much quicker.

DAVE: Carefully! Be open and honest with people – no sugar coating. Have faith that both parties will prevail in the end.

What has been your biggest challenge in keeping your company nimble and responding to the needs of consumers?

MARK: Empowerment. We have always used the word in the past but it’s just a word until others believe they are empowered to make decisions. This year, and the years forward, we will be focusing more and more on showing the team that it is OK to make decisions on their own. If mistakes are made along the way we will support the decision maker and use it as an opportunity to coach on how their next decision can be even better. I despise the sluggishness of bureaucracy and will do what it takes to keep things moving quickly in our business.

DAVE: Coaching our teammates on the importance of change. To go from good to great, we must continually change. We need to look at who we can be, not who we are. Old paradigm: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. New paradigm: continuous improvement.

Is there a reason you are so successful in Wisconsin? Will we see Festival expand to other parts of the Midwest?

MARK: We have been successful because of a culture that puts people first. We feel we must find the best teammates and take care of them in a way that they won’t be taken care of elsewhere. If our associates feel good about how they are treated they will, in turn, take care of our guests. Sure, we need to have good products, clean stores and competitive prices, but our base for success is our associates. I wouldn’t say we won’t ever have a store in another state but controlled growth has always been important to us. We still have opportunities in Wisconsin and until we’ve exhausted our opportunities here that is where we will maintain our focus.

DAVE: We diligently study the markets we serve, and we’re reasonably patient to not get ahead of ourselves. (We’re not just throwing darts at cities!) If my father had built his first store in Minnesota, I think we’d find the same success in Minnesota. Will we see Festival expand in the Midwest? Probably not in my time. There are still plenty of opportunities in Wisconsin.

What is one thing most people wouldn’t know about your father (son)?

MARK: I think it may be how passionate he has been about sports his entire life. He has told the story a few times about how as a younger man he thought he wanted to have a career as a coach. He realized that while his dream of coaching a baseball team wasn’t going to happen, he had an opportunity to coach in retail grocery. He and I both realize that while grocery isn’t a sport as most people would define it, you are still coaching every day. His passion for coaching has served him well in the retail grocery world.

DAVE: Growing up, Mark was introverted. Upon graduating from college, he was headed to Marshfield to run one of our grocery stores. It was as if overnight he became an extrovert. He chose to do the hard work of changing to develop himself in order to lead.

How would you end this statement? “If I had to do this all over again, I would…”

MARK: Change very little. We can all name little things that we would like to have play out differently over time, but we also learn a lot from things that don’t go well. I had a great childhood. I enjoyed and benefited from a sports background. I was thrown into the fire at a young age to lead two failing grocery stores that we had purchased. I was fortunate to come across a lot of great teammates who helped us grow to 22 stores strong in Wisconsin. I have two great children who are off to a great start in their lives. I couldn’t ask for much more.

DAVE: Learn how to fly a small plane, for personal and business use.

Warner’s philanthropy class presents $10,000 to Family Services

Strategic Philanthropy course grantStudents in the UW-Green Bay Strategic Philanthropy course announced a $10,000 grant to Family Services’ Transitional Living Program in a ceremony Thursday, May 7. Students in the course taught by Associate Prof. Lora Warner of Public and Environmental Affairs are provided $10,000 by the Learning by Giving Foundation to give to a deserving organization in the community. The class focused this year on youth struggling with issues such as homelessness, alcohol and other drug addiction, and mental illness. The Transitional Living Program, a self-sufficiency program for young adults between the ages of 17-29, currently has a waiting list of over 100 individuals. Learn more.

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Friends Rissel, Sharon: New program spotlights fine art of scholarships

top-sharon-reschEndowed scholarship programs bring students and donors together.

Sometimes the “coming together” is figurative, as when a young person’s college dreams get a boost through funding from a large foundation, an out-of-state philanthropist or a scholarship endowment established many decades earlier by someone the recipient will never meet.

Other times, the connection is face to face. At UW-Green Bay — a relatively young institution with a growing roster of generous scholarship contributors — the University Advancement Office makes a priority of scheduling on-campus receptions to introduce recipients to donors.

Students including Rissel Peguero (above, left) get the chance to personally express thanks to those who made their scholarships possible.

“Scholarships make a huge difference,” Peguero says. “With this scholarship I’m actually able to go to UWGB and focus on my career and do what I love. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. I am so glad for the opportunity I have been given.”

In her case, the benefactor is Sharon J. Resch (right), who created the Sharon J. Resch Endowed Scholarship for Fine Arts. The scholarship is reserved for students who graduate from the Fine Arts Institute at Green Bay East High School and continue their music studies at UW-Green Bay.

Resch helped found the institute at East, where talent abounds but many students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. It was there she got to know the musically gifted Peguero family. When she learned, afterward, that Rissel (piano, voice and saxophone) had not only been accepted to UW-Green Bay but had been awarded the first Resch Scholarship, Sharon was delighted.

“Rissel is so appreciative, as are her parents,” Resch says. “It’s a reward for her dedication and hard work. She has grown so much artistically, and as a person.”

Resch was a professional dancer, and acted and choreographed from New York to L.A. before moving to Green Bay with her husband, KI CEO Dick Resch. She credits a dance scholarship in her own youth for helping propel her to important roles with a professional touring group and later the Chicago Opera Ballet and on Broadway in New York City.

“I hope we can enlarge the scholarship program at UWGB,” she says. “Education is so important. For the students, it’s a way to pursue their passion and launch their lives.”

The Schobers: Couple gives for community — and for mom

top-schobersTom Schober and Suzan Schober Murray have plenty of reasons to give back to UW-Green Bay.

For one, the bayshore campus is practically in their front yard. For another, Suzan is a master’s grad and Tom spent a dozen years on the University’s Founders Association Board of Directors. They love on-campus activities and are keenly aware of UW-Green Bay’s impact in Northeastern Wisconsin and beyond.

Still, their motivations run deeper than that. For Tom, it’s knowing their gift might help a student have opportunities his own mother did not.

“My mother had to drop out of college after her first year,” he said, “because my grandfather said, ‘well, one year is enough’ — this was back in the mid ‘30s — and I think she felt intimidated by some of her friends all her life.

“And I just would hate to see somebody have to drop out of school just because they didn’t have enough money to pay the tuition for a semester, or something like that. So that’s kind of what we hope we’re able to do.”

The pair is doing so through the Schober Family Endowed Scholarship for Business, established in 2013. The scholarship benefits students enrolled in the Cofrin School of Business who are majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resource Management.

“It’s very gratifying to know we are supporting future professionals in the field of business and human resources,” Suzan said. “I also think there’s a return to the community, if these students stay local, to support their goals and vision — and maybe a business’s goals and vision. It’s a gift that will keep giving. There’s good return on that. It’s an investment.”

UW-Green Bay — and indeed the larger higher education landscape — is different than it once was, Tom added.

“The school has changed over the years,” he said. “The student body is larger, and the people that go here, a lot of them are first-generation college students. I know they need the help — the costs of education are just going right through the roof. So we thought that would be a good way to try to help somebody out.”

It’s that help, they hope, that will make a difference now — and well into the future.

UWGB Philanthropy Club makes strides with ‘Steps to Make a Difference Walk’

top-steps-differenceMore than 100 walkers raised $4,658 to be shared among four local charities in the Steps to Make a Difference Walk last Saturday, April 11. House of Hope, myTeam Triumph, Kenya Help, and Live54218 will benefit. The total includes a $2000 matching grant from the Giving 2.0 Foundation. The Phoenix Philanthropy Club members organized the event as part of their annual service project. The event raises money for local nonprofit organizations, and gives students — many of them Public Administration majors who are pursuing nonprofit management careers — leadership experience.

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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.”