University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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Five UW-Eau Claire Alumni
Receive Awards from Alumni Association

 MAILED:  Dec. 15, 2003

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association will present awards to five alumni and friends of the university Dec. 20 at a special luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with winter commencement.

John Bachmeier, UW-Eau Claire director of alumni relations, commended the December alumni award recipients as “incredible individuals of whom UW-Eau Claire is extremely proud. While they have been very successful in their chosen careers, they also recognize the importance of giving back and have done so in many, many ways.”

Peter Fernholz, a 1973 graduate, and Elizabeth Difanis Phillips, a 1958 graduate, each will receive the President’s Award, which recognizes outstanding professional or personal achievements or service to UW-Eau Claire.

Fernholz, who earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental and public health from UW-Eau Claire, is research and development vice president for the food and beverage division of Ecolab Inc., St. Paul, Minn., a world leader in commercial cleaning and sanitizing with $3.4 billion in global sales.

Fernholz, who lives in Burnsville, Minn., joined Ecolab 30 years ago and has held many positions with the firm, moving quickly from development chemist to chemical buyer before becoming manager and then director of Ecolab’s European Technical Center in London, where he was responsible for building the facility, recruiting staff and establishing procedures for six of Ecolab’s divisions and quality control for six European manufacturing plants. As director he was also part of the management committee responsible for planning technology transfer strategy in conjunction with Ecolab’s U.S.-based international research and development group.

In 1985, Fernholz returned to the United States as manager of institutional international research and development in St. Paul, and went on to hold several other key positions before becoming R&D vice president of shared technological services and later of the food and beverage division, his current position. During his time at Ecolab, he has been responsible for securing 10 patents for the firm.

According to Dr. Robert Nelson, professor emeritus of allied health professions, Fernholz has remained loyal to his environmental and public health roots, coming often to speak to UW-Eau Claire classes, helping to establish summer internships for UW-Eau Claire students at Ecolab, and assisting in arranging numerous field trips to Ecolab’s R&D Center, including a day-long experience for area students attending a Summer Science Institute course.

“Without a doubt Peter Fernholz has been — and is — one of our most successful UW-Eau Claire alums,” wrote Nelson in a letter to the awards committee.

Difanis Phillips is senior academic specialist in the department of mathematics at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich. She received a bachelor of science degree with a double major in mathematics and chemistry education from UW-Eau Claire, and a National Science Foundation fellowship led to her master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame. She also was a visiting scholar at Cambridge University, England. She has taught at both the high school and college levels.

Difanis Phillips claims that her “lifelong interest in teaching and learning in mathematics” was nurtured by many people, including her professors at UW-Eau Claire. Early in her career, curiosity about why so many students enter college with weak math skills encouraged her and her colleagues to focus research efforts at the middle school grades, where so many students’ attitudes and aptitudes are shaped. With funding from NSF, she and four colleagues developed the Connected Mathematics Project. The curriculum that resulted from that project, now used in all 50 states, was awarded “exemplary” status in 1999 by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Math and Science Education Expert Panel. CMP also received the highest ranking for a middle school math curriculum from The American Association for Advancement of Science in 1999.

The CMP authors and MSU have used the curriculum royalties to support research and related activities on the teaching and learning of math, including the endowment of the Lappan-Phillips-Fitzgerald Chair in Mathematics Education, one of the few such endowed mathematics education chairs in the nation.

Difanis Phillips stresses how much she has learned from her students and colleagues over the years, crediting them for pushing her thinking as much as she did theirs.

“On the first days of classes that I teach or workshops that I conduct, I always make a promise to my students that I will retire when I stop learning from my students,” she wrote to the awards committee. “As you can see, I am still active.”

Congressman Mark Green will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit upon the recipient and the university. Green, who represents Wisconsin’s 8th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, earned a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in English and political science from UW-Eau Claire in 1983.

In his last year at UW-Eau Claire, Green, a Blugold swimmer, was named Outstanding Scholar-Athlete of 1983 and the Wisconsin State University Conference Swimmer of the year. He also was on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics swimming team and was named an N.A.I.A. Academic All-American. He was inducted into the Blugold Hall of Fame in 1997.

Following his 1987 graduation from the UW Law School in Madison, Green and his wife, Sue, also a UW-Eau Claire alum, spent a year in rural Kenya serving as volunteer teachers for the World Teach project. They also established a library at the school and still stay in touch with some former students and colleagues.

Currently in his third term in the House, Green is a member of the House Judiciary, Financial Services and International Relations committees. He is actively involved in making policy for the war on terrorism and played a role in the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security. Among his many legislative proposals aimed at domestic issues, Green was the author of the “Two Strikes You’re Out Child Protection Act,” which increased federal penalties for child molesters and which President Bush signed into law earlier this year. His many efforts to help Wisconsin have included creation of a new federal judgeship for northeastern Wisconsin and placement of a new veterans’ outpatient clinic in Green Bay.

Prior to his 1988 election to Congress, Green served for six years in the Wisconsin State Assembly, where he chaired both the Assembly Republican Caucus and the Assembly Judiciary Committee and developed a reputation for fighting taxes and crime.

Green has received many awards recognizing his contributions as a public servant. Michael Benrud, who nominated Green for this award, wrote, “He is truly an exceptional individual and as a congressman has proven to be a man of special ability. I would like Eau Claire students and residents to know that our university produces achievers like Mark Green, and in turn thank him.”

Richard D. Larson, chairman of Larson Companies, will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award, presented to a non-alumnus who has demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire. Larson, an Eau Claire native, opened his first business, Northwest Fabrics, in his hometown in 1963 at the age of 26. His success with that venture led to a string of business accomplishments that have made him one of Eau Claire’s most successful entrepreneurs and a widely recognized business leader.

Larson has served on the boards of directors for a wide variety of business and civic groups over the years. As one of the founders of the Eau Claire Area Foundation, he made a lead gift that helped get that organization started, and he has held leadership positions on its board of trustees. In 1993 he received Luther Hospital’s Good Samaritan of the Year Award.

Larson also serves on the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board of directors and is a member of the foundation’s investment committee. In 1985-86, he became a member of the Million Dollar Cabinet, a group that contributed funds to enable the foundation to purchase zero coupon bonds that will yield $1 million for the foundation at maturity. He also has been a longtime supporter of the Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship program.

Attorney David Anderson, a 1966 UW-Eau Claire alumnus and chair of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board, wrote that Larson, through his leadership and his refusal to accept anything but the best of himself and his organizations, has exemplified UW-Eau Claire’s motto of “Excellence.”

“He exemplifies in his daily life the values that UW-Eau Claire instills in its students,” Anderson said. “We need to welcome him with open arms as a member of the Blugold family.”

Randolph L. Marten, Mondovi, who graduated in 1974 with a bachelor of business administration degree in management, will receive the Lifetime Excellence Award, presented to UW-Eau Claire alumni who have demonstrated longtime and successful commitment to their career and community, who have made a positive impact through dedication to service, and whose lives are a testimony to UW-Eau Claire’s motto, “Excellence.”

Marten is president and chairman of the board of Marten Transport Ltd. of Mondovi, a long-haul truckload carrier that specializes in protective service transportation of foods and other products requiring temperature-controlled or insulated carriage. The company was started by Marten’s father, Roger, in 1946, and has grown to be one of the largest refrigerated trucking businesses in the country, with more than 2,500 units on the road.

Jim Heike of Heike Realty, who nominated Marten for the award, said that Marten not only successfully operates Marten Transport but also gives back to his employees and his community in many ways. The company offers 100 percent tuition reimbursement for all employees and encourages them to earn a degree or technical certificate at the company’s expense. Marten also established the Randolph L. Marten Scholarship Program, which offers up to 10 scholarships each year to assist the children of company employees who plan to pursue post-secondary education in college or technical schools. In addition, Marten contributed generously to the planning and building of the Roger Marten Community Center in Mondovi.

Heike, who has known the Marten family most of his life, said, “Randy has developed a philosophy that has served his business very well: Treat your employees and customers with the respect they deserve, and success will come naturally.”


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: December 15, 2003