Celebrating the Half Century Club at UW

One of the true pleasures of this job has been connecting with students and alumni.  It’s wonderful to hear the passion that past students have for UW–Madison.

This week I had the honor of attending and speaking at the Half Century Dinner, an annual event that honors the UW’s graduating class from 50 years ago.

The class of 1963 has some very distinguished members: There’s former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. Doris Borst, who later became Doris Meissner, was Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The class also includes former UW System Board of Regents members Jay Smith and San Orr, and former secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations Carol Skornicka. Tom Pyle and Jere Fluno, whose names are on major buildings on campus, are also members of the class of ’63.

There are two alums from that year whose service left indelible marks on this university.

Pat Richter helped lead the Badger football team to the Rose Bowl during the 1962 season, playing in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, 1963.  He later returned to direct our athletic department at a critical time almost 25 years ago; he made the winning decisions that laid the foundation for today’s high-quality athletic program, which in turn led to multiple return trips to the Rose Bowl.

Some of you may also know that David Ward, my predecessor as chancellor and a national leader in the field of higher education, received his Ph.D. that year.

But even the people whose work wasn’t quite so public have made their mark. Take Don Loker for instance.

Don was a member of the Badger cross-country team, helping lead the team to a third place finish in the Big Ten in 1963. After graduating, he remained in Madison and became a math teacher and coach at Madison West High School.

People like Don – like so many of our alumni – take pride in doing jobs that don’t always get noticed and doing them well.  The state, nation and the world have benefited from this type of commitment from Badger alums.

I am looking forward to meeting more of our alums. With nearly 400,000 living alumni – one of the largest and proudest contingencies in the nation – it will take me awhile to say hello to everybody in person.  But I hope you’ll come back to Madison on your 50th anniversary.