Passing of Mrs. Mac LaForce


UW-Green Bay mourns the passing of longtime community friend Eleanor “Mac” LaForce, 90, who died last weekend in Green Bay. Born in Chicago as Eleanor MacBride (hence, the nickname “Mac,” which she carried for life), she attended the UW and worked for a time as a stewardess for Pan American Airways on newly-opened routes from Miami to Cuba, Colombia, Suriname and Venezuela, later telling stories of flying in unpressurized cabins, landing on grass runways illumined by hand-held lanterns, and cargo holds filled with the U.S. Mail as well as live chickens. Post-WWII she and husband Joe LaForce settled in Green Bay and eventually founded LaForce Builders Hardware, which became one of the nation’s largest distributors of doors and related hardware. Just a few weeks before her death, she attended a lunch celebrating more than 50 students from St. Norbert and UWGB who have been awarded scholarships by the LaForce Family Foundation, which was established by Mac’s and Joe’s children to continue their spirit of giving in the Green Bay community. The elder LaForces were supporters of the UWGB Founders Association since its founding in the 1970s, and Joe served on the board in the 1980s. In 2006, he made a major gift endowing the Joe LaForce Business Faculty Development Fund. A year later, following Joe’s death, Mac created the Joseph and Mac LaForce Business Scholarship. The LaForce family will celebrate the life of Mac LaForce next Friday (Nov. 6) at 3 p.m. at Oneida Country Club in Green Bay. All are welcome.

The passing of Penny Cofrin

Staff members in the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and others across campus are mourning the passing of Penelope F. Cofrin, who died last week in Bellingham, Wash., at age 62. The youngest of six children of John and Barbara Cofrin, and a niece of Dr. David and Mary Ann Cofrin, the Green Bay native shared the 1989 Chancellor’s Award — UW-Green Bay’s highest community honor —for the commitment she and her siblings made to development of the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum. She resided in Montana for most of her adult life, making friends with her generous nature, adventuresome spirit and boisterous nature. Penny was preceded in death by both of her parents and her brothers Douglas and Peter. She is survived by her brothers John and Andrew, sister Tish, daughters Robyn Patric (Ian), Barbara Fossen (Kurt), and Sarah Cofrin, and five grandchildren.

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.

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.”

Philanthropy has Green Bay roots

gochnauerFor UW-Green Bay Trustee Beth Gochnauer, giving back truly is a family affair.

Her husband, Dick, spent every summer in Green Bay as a child, and both his father and grandfather hailed from the city. They instilled in their families the importance of giving back to the community with time and treasure, a legacy that has lived on through the Gochnauer Family Foundation.

Beth Gochnauer chairs the foundation, but her involvement goes beyond managing money. It manifests itself in a true passion for helping others, and for supporting student scholarships at UW-Green Bay. It’s the impetus behind the Beth and Richard Gochnauer Phuture Phoenix Endowed Scholarship, supporting UW-Green Bay’s signature college preparedness and attainment program, and it’s also what drives her interest in and support of the University’s new and collaborative Engineering Technology degrees.

“The educational vision, enthusiasm and commitment of Phuture Phoenix is inspiring,” Gochnauer said. “This vision is if a child works hard, does well, and stays in school, there will be scholarships for higher education through Phuture Phoenix. This involves a huge commitment by the administration and faculty of the University, the public schools, and community leaders as well as the UW-Green Bay students who mentor the children. Providing educational opportunities is transformational for the children, their families and eventually the community.”

UW-Green Bay truly understands that community, Gochnauer said, and is keyed into the increasing technology needs for businesses, service providers and agencies in Northeastern Wisconsin. It’s why she’s supportive of the collaborative Engineering Technology Degree program, which shows the power of institutions working together.

“By bringing resources from the technical schools and institutions, UW Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay together, Northeastern Wisconsin will have the technology expertise to move forward and the students will have many job opportunities,” Gochnauer said. “There will also be scholarships available for students interested in this degree.”

Gochnauer’s involvement with UW-Green Bay started early, as she served on the Board of Visitors during part of the 1970s and early 1980s. Having returned as a member of the Chancellor’s Council of Trustees/UW-Green Bay Foundation Board, she sees perhaps more than ever the difference the University can make.

“UW-Green Bay is really unique in its value to the community,” Gochnauer said. “A high percentage of graduating students take jobs, create businesses and live with their families in Northeastern Wisconsin. Our family has been blessed by being part of the community and by our involvement at UW-Green Bay.”

Grateful students honor Mueller in scholarship reception

Craig Mueller Scholarship ReceptionMarcia Mueller made her return trip from Seattle to UW-Green Bay last week to spend some time with the scholarship recipients who benefit from her brother’s incredible generosity and legacy. The Craig A. Mueller Scholarship reception was held Friday, Nov. 7 at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

Marcia’s brother Craig passed away in 2007 after pledging to endow scholarships for students in Communication and Art and Design academic programs. His $1 million gift generates more than $40,000 annually for more than 30 recipients each year.

This year, Marcia Mueller was deeply honored to receive a pencil drawing of Craig by UWGB student and scholarship recipient Logan Sprangers, a graphic design major. The afternoon reception featured student Angela Danowski performing “In My Life” with accompaniment by student Ryan Dummer. Katelyn Staaben, a first-generation college student and daughter of a single parent, spoke about the challenge of many UW-Green Bay students and depth of gratitude they have for their scholarship assistance. Craig and Marcia’s cousin, Candy Mueller-Wilson, was pleased to attend the reception this year for the first time and meet the scholarship recipients.

Congratulations were in order for student Nicholas Saldana who won a drawing for two Packers tickets, donated by Marcia. Read more on Marcia and Craig Mueller and their generosity to UW-Green Bay.

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– Photos by Eric Miller, photographer, Office of Marketing and University Communication

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Athletics spotlights 11-year-old Phoenix Fund member

Intercollegiate Athletics has launched a new monthly web feature highlighting contributors to the Phoenix Fund. The inaugural honoree as Phoenix Fund Member of the Month is Karissa Resch, the 11-year old daughter of Wayne and Anita Resch. Karissa donates a portion of her odd-job earnings to the cause. Why? “I want to support student athletes because they provide so much happiness to our family and one day, I want to be a student athlete at the college level,” she says. “Everything costs money.” See a fun photo and Q&A online.

Chancellor’s Award, citation honor Weyers

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Chancellor Thomas K. Harden honored four individuals by presenting them with UW-Green Bay’s highest community honor, the Chancellor’s Award, at May 2014 commencement before an audience of nearly 5,000 at the Kress Events Center.  Those honored were Mike Kline, Janet and Charlie Lieb, and Larry L. Weyers. In reading the citation for Weyers, Harden read:

“Larry L. Weyers has devoted his life to public service – in more ways than one.  Whether as private citizen, generous community advocate or influential corporate executive, he has distinguished himself as a remarkable supporter of UW-Green Bay and its students.  He served for many years as CEO and president of Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Integrys Energy. During his tenure, UW-Green Bay had no stronger corporate partner.  WPS sponsored faculty and student research, various ongoing programs, and the solar “extras” that made Mary Ann Cofrin Hall a national showcase for energy-efficient technology.  More recently, with his wife, Lois, he has contributed generously to both the Phuture Phoenix Program and the revitalization of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts… Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating, as recipients of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor’s Award, Larry Weyers.”

Citation for Larry Weyers

Also receiving a Chancellor’s Award at Saturday’s UW-Green Bay Commencement was longtime former Wisconsin Public Service and Integrys executive Larry L. Weyers. In presenting the award, Chancellor Tom Harden said of Weyers, “Whether as private citizen, generous community advocate or influential corporate executive, he has distinguished himself as a remarkable supporter of UW-Green Bay and its students.” For a photo and more.