Riley Garbe stepped on campus as a fifth-grade Phuture Phoenix — He leaves as UW-Green Bay’s ‘Most Outstanding’

“The Odds Were Stacked Against Me from the Beginning.

Green Bay, Wis. – Riley Garbe came to UW-Green Bay as a fifth-grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip, where a visit to the campus turned into a dream of one day graduating from college.

Despite surviving a difficult childhood that included witnessing abuse and violence and moving from home-to-home, Garbe entered the University on a Phuture Phoenix scholarship. He will not only receive his English degree (Education minor) on Saturday, December 16, 2017, but he will be recognized by the Alumni Association as the University’s Most Outstanding Student. He was also nominated and selected from all graduates as the student commencement speaker.

Garbe is one of 437 UW-Green Bay students who have applied to graduate this semester during the mid-year ceremony at 11:30 a.m. (Dec. 16) at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

As a student teacher and mentor, Garbe has impacted classrooms and students throughout the Green Bay area, including Franklin Middle School, Washington Middle School, Green Bay West High School and Jefferson Elementary School. Garbe was inspired by the Phuture Phoenix program to give back to his community and to the program that helped him realize his dream of becoming a teacher, and feels compelled to help the students who share circumstances with him, and to give them hope that they too can succeed.

His academic accomplishments include completing his course of studies in four years and earning a place on the honor roll all eight semesters. He has twice received the university leadership award, is a four-time recipient of the Green Bay Phoenix Student Athletic Academic Achievement Award and has been named a Horizon League Honor Role Athlete as a cross country student athlete.

As a teacher and mentor, Garbe has impacted classrooms and students throughout the area. He has also given his time and talents as a volunteer to many organizations.

“Riley is the same man in the classroom as he is to the Green Bay community and beyond: a man of integrity, honesty, respect, compassion, generosity, diligence, joy and humility that belies the tremendous personal obstacles he has needed to overcome. I am honored to have taught him and excited for the students he will soon be inspiring with his compassionate determination,” Assistant Professor Emily Ransom shared.

An avid runner, Garbe not only ran for the UW-Green Bay cross country team, but also served as a running club coach at Howe Elementary School where he trained students preparing to run the Cellcom 5K and taught them leadership skills through running.

At a time when the value of higher education is often questioned, for Riley Garbe the answer is clear: “At UW-Green Bay, I discovered myself, I found my place within society, I grew comfortable in my own skin after many years of hiding from myself and the world, and I learned to love myself for who I am.”

The Class of 2017 has other stories of persistence and accomplishment:

Joey Bina Works for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Completes his Degree Online
Joey Bina left the Green Bay area for Los Angeles, Calif. and a chance to work as a personal production assistant on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! He completed his bachelor’s degree in UW-Green Bay’s Integrative Leadership Studies program — a fully online program designed to meet the needs of adult students who have work, family or other obligations. Bina returned to campus Tuesday, Nov. 14 for his induction into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

Humanities Graduate Relives WWII with Art/History/Letters Project
Humanities major Megan Arent will graduate Saturday, but not before a trip way back in time. She worked with Art Professor Sarah Detweiler on a project to catalog more than 500 letters written by Detweiler’s grandparents dating back to the start, and continuing through, World War II. Stanley Detweiler survived the war — including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle at Bastogne. Arent served this semester as a research assistant, unearthing the treasure left to Detweiler when her father passed away unexpectedly. Their trunk of treasure includes era medals, coins, uniforms, etc., never seen before by Sarah’s family, and never spoken about by her grandparents, Stanley and Marietta Detweiler. The end project — a book and a digital experience — will include drawings by Detweiler that will make visible the voices in the letters. It will include original maps and illustrations that accompanied the letters.

Philippines Native to Become UW-Green Bay BSN-LINC Graduate
Guillermo Adao, a Philippines native, will graduate with a 3.8 gpa from UW-Green Bay’s BSN-LINC Online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program on Dec. 16. He became a registered nurse in the Philippines, and relocated to Wisconsin Rapids serving in the Wisconsin National Guard as a Medical Specialist from 1989 to 1997. As a member of the Guard, he worked with a clinic offering physicals for members of the community and other members of the Guard. He currently resides in Mt. Prospect, IL. Since 1993, Guillermo has been active in the Filipino organization, Paetenian Chicago Midwest, helping indigent people of Paete Laguna, a small town in the Philippines. The organization, in 20-plus years, has completed a number of projects ranging from clothes donations, natural disaster relief efforts, donations to assist with the purchase of a fire-fighting equipment and musical instruments, sponsoring Christmas gifts, and sending contributions enabling food items to be distributed to the people of this impoverished area. Guillermo currently works as a dialysis nurse. He plans to join the United States Army and enroll in graduate school within a year to pursue a degree in nursing leadership, education or as a Nephrology nurse practitioner.

From a Distance
Kathryn Donovan will be traveling from Connecticut to Green Bay to receive her BSN-LINC diploma as well as her Kappa Pi Nursing Society Honor Cords. She received her Associates Degree in Nursing from UW-Green Bay partner school, Three Rivers Community College in Connecticut.

Prof. Regan A. R. Gurung to Address the Graduates
Regan A. R. Gurung, an award-winning professor (Human Development, Psychology) at UW-Green Bay, is the December 2017 Commencement Speaker. His research focuses on questions surrounding teaching and learning, clothing and perception, and culture and health. Gurung joined the University in 1999, and has held the prestigious Ben J. & Joyce Rosenberg Professorship since 2010. In May 2017, he was awarded the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teacher of Psychology Award from the American Psychological Foundation. His wish for new graduates: “May Your Life be EPIC.” His presentation will provide key guiding principles for living a successful, healthy life. Building on UW-Green Bay’s interdisciplinary mission, Prof. Gurung will share a simple mantra for daily well-being borrowed from psychological science: To live longer and stronger we should chill, drill and build.

About the Graduating Class of 2017
This year’s graduating class includes 437 UW-Green Bay students who have applied to graduate at the end of the fall 2017 semester or winter 2018 short-term. The class is almost identical to last year, when the University graduated 434 students.

  • Three percent (12) will complete an associate’s degree, 94% (411) will complete a bachelor’s degree and 3% (14) will complete a master’s degree.
  • More than two-thirds of the degree candidates are women, including 68% of the undergraduate degree applicants and 71% of the master’s candidates.
  • Thirty-seven percent of the bachelor’s degree candidates began their college career as new freshmen at UW-Green Bay. One third of them are graduating in under four years (e.g. they completed high school 2.5 or 3.5 years ago), 44% have taken one extra semester beyond the four-year mark to graduate, and 23% first enrolled more than five years ago.
  • Area high schools are well represented among potential graduates. The top high schools are Green Bay Preble (16 students), Bay Port (14), Green Bay East (12), Green Bay West (11) and De Pere (10). A quarter of the applicants completed high school in Brown County, WI and another third completed high school in one of the other NEW North counties (across northeast Wisconsin).
  • Thirteen percent of students are completing double or triple majors.
  • Integrative Leadership Studies leads the way with 70 graduates, followed by Business Administration (59), Human Biology (44), Nursing (42) and Psychology (35).

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,158 students. The University transforms lives and communities through exceptional and award-winning teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities and a problem-solving approach to education. For more information, visit





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