UW-Green Bay’s 40th spring commencement set for May 16

GREEN BAY — There is no doubt that a sluggish economy has changed the face of the country’s job market.

But after Saturday, May 16, 725 college graduates in Northeastern Wisconsin will enter the workforce with a distinct advantage—a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The University’s Spring 2009 Commencement is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16, inside the Kress Events Center on campus.

It is UW-Green Bay’s 40th spring commencement. About 600 students are signed up to participate in the ceremony.

This year’s graduating class includes students from 12 countries and three Native American nations.

Billie Kress named Chancellor’s Award recipient
Irene “Billie” Daniell Kress is the recipient of UW-Green Bay’s highest community honor, the Chancellor’s Award, for her extraordinary contributions to community and campus.

Kress is known for her lifelong commitment to philanthropy and civic involvement, with a particular interest in projects that benefit children and families in and around her hometown of Green Bay.

Among the diverse activities and agencies benefitting from her involvement have been Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, St. Mary’s Hospital, the Brown County Historical Society and a range of fine arts and arts-education initiatives. A longtime supporter and board member of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, she was a key contributor to the restoration of Green Bay’s downtown Meyer Theatre and its historic pipe organ.

In higher education, Kress has been a generous supporter of her own alma mater, Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and has been active with local institutions including Bellin College of Nursing and UW-Green Bay.

At UW-Green Bay she became an early advocate of the Phuture Phoenix program, which lifts the aspirations of local fifth-graders by pairing them with college-age mentors, providing campus tours and encouraging them to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

In June 2008, she made the first leadership gift toward creation of a multi-million-dollar scholarship endowment to be funded by private donors. The idea is to have tuition scholarships available when the fifth-graders are old enough to enter UW-Green Bay.

“Education is very important to me and always has been in my family,” she says. “To me, the Phuture Phoenix Scholarship Fund will be a beacon that leads students onward, letting them know that their dream of attaining a college education is possible. It will open up a whole new world for these kids who may never otherwise have that opportunity.”

Elkhart Lake’s Froh receiving Outstanding Student Award
Jamie Lynn Froh of Elkhart Lake is the May 2009 recipient of the Outstanding Student Award as selected by the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association.

She graduates with summa cum laude (highest) honors and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with a minor in Spanish. The Outstanding Student Award recognizes her contributions as a volunteer educator in the community and active participant in campus life.

Froh is a first-grade student teacher with Doty Elementary School in the Green Bay Area Public School District. She has previous classroom experience as a literacy assistant in the Howard-Suamico School District, and she also volunteered as an after-school teacher in six diverse Green Bay elementary schools, where she led second- and third-grade students in hands-on science experiments.

Froh worked each of the past three summers as a youth development educator with UW-Extension’s summer 4-H program. She planned and implemented programs emphasizing leadership, citizenship and life-skills development. One of her teams, in Sheboygan County, won a national 4-H award for work on a promotional video.

Earlier this year, Froh spent winter break in Cuernavaca, Mexico in a Spanish-language immersion program, where she was able to tour public schools, observe instruction and speak with teachers.

Her participation in elected student government at UW-Green Bay included a term as chairperson of the University Governance Committee. She took a lead role in monitoring local, state and national legislation affecting students, and coordinating advocacy on key issues. She was also credited for helping to oversee a new-voter drive, candidate forums and registration efforts that in November 2008 resulted in the largest student vote in campus history. During her tenure as executive director of Good Times Programming, the student-run programming group hosted its first major concert at the new Kress Events Center, and also implemented a new training program for student staff.

Froh says she plans to pursue a career in public education or with an agency that fosters youth development, preferably in a setting that will allow her to apply her bilingual skills.

Class speaker is a ‘quadruple major’
Graduating class speaker Benjaman R. Schmidt, of Green Bay, is a returning adult student who made the most of his UW-Green Bay experience following a five-year stint in the military.

Schmidt graduates with summa cum laude honors, a near-perfect grade point average and distinction in the major. His passion for learning is reflected in the fact he is a “quadruple major,” having completed degree requirements in four separate academic majors: philosophy, political science, Public Administration, and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Schmidt’s accomplishments earned him appointment as a teaching assistant in Prof. Denise Scheberle’s class Introduction to Public Administration, where he helped students discuss current events and difficult case studies in public policy.

President of the student political science organization, he was instrumental in organizing UW-Green Bay’s participation in a regional mock United Nations summit this semester. He also served as a volunteer writing tutor for the University, and as chief justice and election official for the Student Government Association’s student court.

Schmidt joined the U.S. Marine Corps following graduation from a Minnesota high school. From 1999 through 2004 he was an aerial navigator, tactical systems operator and mission specialist serving in Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He completed more than 2,000 flight hours as a navigator on the KC-130F/R/T aerial refueling tanker and tactical airlifter.

In a non-combat capacity as a fiscal clerk, he was responsible for managing his squadron’s travel operations. After leaving the Marine Corps he managed an Albertson’s Grocery Store in San Diego before relocating to Wisconsin.

Schmidt intends to pursue a master’s in political science at UW-Milwaukee and, eventually, a doctorate and a possible career in higher education.

Commencement speaker, ’82 grad one of ‘Best Doctors in America’
Delivering the commencement address is a 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who has risen to national prominence as a researcher in the fight against cancer.

Dr. Mokenge Malafa, M.D., is chair of the Department of Gastrointestinal Oncology at one of the nation’s leading research centers, the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute at the University of South Florida, located in Tampa.

He specializes in surgical oncology, often with patients battling pancreatic cancer. In 2008 he was awarded a National Institute of Health grant to investigate his laboratory discovery that a semi-synthetic, micronutrient Vitamin E compound appears to be aiding in the prevention of tumor growth and reoccurrence.

“It’s exciting,” Malafa says of his work. “Daily we treat patients, and the impact of cancer is very immediate. I see the suffering in my patients and their families and my own family. Cancer is a huge human problem and I’m excited to work on the solution.”

In 2005, Malafa was named to the “Best Doctors in America” list of specialists most often named by other doctors as the ones they’d choose to see. His numerous awards also include recognition as a teaching scholar. In his previous position as an assistant professor of surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, he received the award for “best faculty member” as voted by the graduating class, along with an excellence in teaching award as presented by the Student National Medical Association chapter.

Malafa found his way to the UW-Green Bay campus from the African nation of Cameroon via France. A friend had recommended the UW System, and the Green Bay campus in particular. In 1978 he arrived to experience chilly winters but a warm reception — the “Midwestern American spirit,” he recalls — from fellow students, faculty and staff.

“One of the things I have taken with me from those years at UW-Green Bay is the importance of teaching,” Malafa adds. “Any teaching awards I have won are a heritage of my UW-Green Bay days.”

Malafa earned his bachelor’s in Human Adaptability and went on to attend medical school at UW-Madison with surgical residency at the Medical College of Ohio, Toledo. He received fellowship training in surgical oncology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., and the center’s Beckman Research Institute.

Malafa met his wife, Tracy, at UW-Green Bay. The couple has four children.


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