MAILED: May 17, 2000
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association will honor five alumni or friends of the university with four different awards at a special luncheon in conjunction with commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 27.
Thomas Auth, a 1967 UW-Eau Claire accounting graduate, will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. First awarded in 1961, the award is the highest award presented to UW-Eau Claire alumni. The honor recognizes personal and professional achievement and distinguished service to the community, state or nation.
Auth is chairman of Interlogix Inc., a global security, life safety, systems software and communications company. Auth was chairman and chief executive officer of North St. Paul, Minn.-based Interactive Technologies Inc. from 1981 until May when ITI merged with SLC Technologies Inc. to form Interlogix. Interlogix is a company with 3,100 employees, expected 2000 revenues greater than $600 million, and sales and technical support organizations in 27 countries. Auth also has been the owner of Vomela Specialty Company since 1990, and he was recognized in 1985 as the St. Paul Small Businessman of the Year.
"I have always told people that my UW-Eau Claire experience had much to do with any success I have enjoyed," Auth said. "Making a successful transition from a small town, rural background into the business world requires a knowledge base and confidence. My UW-Eau Claire years gave me that strong foundation. The learning and social environment coupled with the curriculum and dedicated professors made UW-Eau Claire a perfect fit for me at that stage in my life."
"Tom Auth is a highly accomplished businessman," director of alumni relations Suzie Slota said. "Under his leadership ITI experienced tremendous growth and success. The company was recognized three times since 1987 by Business Week and Forbes magazines as being among the best small companies in America. We're pleased to honor him with this award."
Joy Wachs, a 1976 nursing graduate, will receive the President's Award, which is given in recognition of unusual professional or personal achievements or service to UW-Eau Claire. Wachs earned a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee and a doctorate from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is a professor in the College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn. In 1993, Wachs was contracted to work with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded Community Partnerships for Health Professions Education Program. Besides teaching interdisciplinary health science courses, she has developed innovative community experiences for students and faculty in collaboration with community residents.
Wachs also has served a wide variety of community organizations, including the American Red Cross, Appalachian Girl Scout Council, Johnson County Youth Leadership Initiative, Mountain City/Johnson County United Way, and Rotary International.
"The award is an incredible honor for me, but it is also a reflection on the quality of the UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing," Wachs said. "The School of Nursing at UW-Eau Claire is by far the finest in the state of Wisconsin. I am extremely fortunate to be a graduate of a school that prepared me for lifelong learning and a career that the faculty could not have ever predicted. The faculty taught us that we were excellent students and that we would become excellent nurses."
"Joy Wachs has an impressive history of professional development," Slota said. "Her contributions to the field of nursing and her service to others are wonderful examples for current students."
Connie O'Connell, 1986 social studies graduate, will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumna Award, an award that acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire. O'Connell earned a law degree from UW-Madison. She has been the commissioner of insurance for the state of Wisconsin since she was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson in January 1999. In addition, O'Connell has held other state legislative and executive government positions, including executive assistant for the Department of Workforce Development, policy director and executive assistant in the Governor's office, policy director for the Assembly Republican Caucus, and legislative services director for Wisconsin Counties Association.
"UW-Eau Claire's positive, supportive and challenging environment assisted me in developing the skills, leadership and confidence necessary to serve as a member of Gov. Thompson's cabinet regulating the insurance industry in Wisconsin," O'Connell said. "I am truly honored to be selected for this award, but it is this excellent university that should be recognized for providing students with the opportunity for personal and academic growth, putting graduates in a position to make a difference."
"It's exciting to have an alumna like Connie O'Connell in such an important state office," Slota said. "She clearly has proven herself in the time since she left UW-Eau Claire."
Dr. Larry Schnack and Carol Schnack will be recognized with the Honorary Alumni Award, which is presented to non-alumni who have demonstrated great love and service to UW-Eau Claire. Larry Schnack served UW-Eau Claire for 32 years, first as a member of the chemistry department faculty and then in various administrative roles. Schnack's leadership roles consisted of chancellor (1985-97), acting vice chancellor (1982-83), assistant vice chancellor (1975-81, 1983-84) and assistant to then-Vice President Richard Hibbard (1970-74). Schnack also has been lauded for his leadership in the area of technology, improving diversity on campus, and for his focus on faculty and undergraduate research.
Carol Schnack supported her husband in numerous ways during his years at UW-Eau Claire, including assisting in entertaining university groups and attending university events. She also has been active in the University Women's Association. As one UW-Eau Claire staff member put it, "Carol and Larry continued the idea of faculty as family."
"Carol and I are very pleased that the Alumni Association has chosen to make us honorary alumni," Larry Schnack said. "We are still very interested in the success of UW-Eau Claire and watch the news regularly."
"The Schnacks have been a part of the university family for a long time," Slota said. "We are happy to honor them for the many contributions they have made to UW-Eau Claire."
The luncheon honoring award recipients will begin at 11:15 a.m. in the Council Fire Room of Davies Center. Tickets are $9 and must be purchased in advance. For additional information or to purchase tickets, call the Alumni Association, (715) 836-3266.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 17, 2000