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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
NEWS RELEASE
News Bureau • Schofield Hall 201Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900
UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association
To Present Awards Aug. 4
MAILED: July 26, 2001

         EAU CLAIRE — The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association will present awards to eight alumni and friends of the university Aug. 4 at a special luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with summer commencement.
         Larry Vorpahl, a 1985 UW-Eau Claire business administration graduate, will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are recent graduates of the university. Vorpahl is vice president of marketing in the grocery products division of Hormel Foods Corp. in Austin, Minn., a position he has held since 1999.
         In 1999, Vorpahl helped bring 108 new Hormel products to market. Those efforts resulted in Hormel being named the 1999 New Products Company of the Year by industry publication Prepared Foods. Vorpahl, who began his career with Hormel in 1986 as a sales merchandiser, recently has led a group of employees in implementing marketing projects that are international in scope.
         “Larry truly exemplifies the type of person we look for in this award,” said John Bachmeier, UW-Eau Claire director of alumni relations. “His dedication and can-do attitude are almost contagious.”
         Sonia Solomonson will receive the President’s Award, which recognizes unusual professional or personal achievements or service to UW-Eau Claire. Solomonson, who received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from UW-Eau Claire in 1984, is managing editor of The Lutheran, the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Solomonson has been a part of the magazine’s staff since 1987, when she took the position of news editor. She also held posts as senior news editor and senior editor before taking over the managing editor position in 1999.
         Solomonson’s reporting for The Lutheran has taken her throughout the world, including Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Germany. She also reported on congregational, synod and churchwide ministries throughout the ELCA’s 65 synods.
         Solomonson has been active in her local church as a confirmation student mentor, learning committee member, adult forum planner and presenter, and divorce recovery task force member. She is also a speaker at national and synodical Women of the ELCA conventions.
         “Sonia has performed well and moved up quickly at The Lutheran, and her community service work is also very impressive,” Bachmeier said.
         Joseph Giordano, a member of the communication and journalism faculty at UW-Eau Claire from 1989 until his death in April 2001, will be one of three Honorary Alumnus Award recipients. The award is presented to non-alumni who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire. Giordano taught courses in public relations and speech and was an active researcher in his field. In May, the first Joseph Giordano Memorial Scholarship, awarded from a fund established by Giordano’s students, colleagues and friends, was awarded to a public relations student.
         Giordano’s publications included the instructor’s manual and test bank for two editions of J.A. DeVito’s “Essentials of Human Communication.” He worked with communication and journalism colleague Judy Sims and student researchers on a content analysis of local television news, which was presented at the 2000 National Conference on Undergraduate Research and published this year in the Journal of the Wisconsin Communication Association. He and Sims also directed a faculty-student collaborative research project on the 1992 presidential campaign, which placed second in UW-Eau Claire’s 1993 Student Research Day. In 1993 Giordano’s paper on employee relations and the management of organizational change was selected as a “top three competitive paper” by the Speech Communication Association.
         “Dr. Giordano was a very effective teacher whose service to UW-Eau Claire was outstanding,” Bachmeier said. “We will miss him.”
         Roma Hoff, UW-Eau Claire professor emerita of foreign languages who retired in 1996 after 31 years at the university, also will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award. During her tenure at UW-Eau Claire, Hoff guided 22 travel seminars to Spain, Mexico, Peru and Central America, and she directed the university’s summer graduate Spanish Institutes. She was known for her innovative methods of teaching Spanish to beginning students, and in 1985 the Wisconsin Association of Foreign Language Teachers named her the state’s Distinguished Foreign Language Educator. The WAFLT dedicated its annual conference to Hoff in 1995 and established a scholarship for Wisconsin educators in her name.
         Hoff and her husband, Don, have been financial supporters of UW-Eau Claire since 1966. Their contributions have gone toward such areas as international scholarships and international education opportunities. They provided the initial gift to the Larry Schnack Fund for Excellence in 1997, and they also created an annual award given to outstanding advisers of student organizations.
         “Roma Hoff was more than an outstanding professor, she was a true ambassador for UW-Eau Claire,” Bachmeier said.
         Timothy Hirsch, professor emeritus of English at UW-Eau Claire who retired in May after 34 years at the university, also will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award. Hirsch taught composition, film, American literature survey and individual author courses; English core courses; and courses on Wisconsin writers.
         In 1991 Hirsch received the Chisholm Award, the top award of the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English. He also was instrumental in acquiring the manuscripts of Alden Carter, a regional young-adult fiction and nonfiction writer, for the UW-Eau Claire special collections department of the McIntyre Library. The manuscripts, which consist of drafts and rewrites of many of Carter’s books, have been a resource to faculty and students interested in the creative writing process.
         In addition to his service to the university, Hirsch, the father of two grown children, has taken an active interest in making the sport of soccer safer. In 1998, he and Ken De Meuse, professor of management and marketing, co-founded a company called OnGoal to make and market safe headgear and foam pads to wrap around metal goal posts.
         “Tim Hirsch was a dedicated professor for 34 years,” Bachmeier said. “He’s also a true friend of the community. He’s been very active with the soccer program in Eau Claire.”
         Stephen Kurth will be one of two recipients of 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. Kurth, who will retire in August with emeritus status, has been associate dean of UW-Eau Claire’s School of Education since 1992.
         Kurth had a 33-year career at the university. Before becoming associate dean, he served as a professor of physical education, director of men’s athletics from 1975-92 and chair of the department of physical education and athletics from 1985-92. In his early years at UW-Eau Claire he coached both football and basketball. Kurth received his undergraduate degree from UW-Eau Claire.
         Kurth was elected chair of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 14 for three consecutive terms. He was inducted into the NAIA District 14 Hall of Fame in 1992.
         “Steve Kurth as been a critical member of UW-Eau Claire for a long time,” Bachmeier said. “His dedication to the university and the community has been truly remarkable.”
         Connie Chumas, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch in Eau Claire and a 1960 economics graduate of UW-Eau Claire, also will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award.
         In addition to his more than 40 years as an investment counselor in Eau Claire, Chumas has been an active supporter of and/or participant in numerous community organizations and causes, including Triniteam, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts, Sacred Heart Hospital, Luther Hospital, Chippewa Valley Museum, YMCA, Little League and Babe Ruth baseball, and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
         “Connie Chumas has excelled as a businessman and has also excelled as a member of the Eau Claire community,” Bachmeier said. “From Little League Baseball to the (Luther) hospital development council, he has done some really terrific things for Eau Claire.”
         Jan and Kathryn Ver Hagen will be the first recipients of the new Lifetime Excellence Award. The award is 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.”
         Kathryn Ver Hagen, a former teacher, graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1960 with a degree in elementary education. Jan attended UW-Eau Claire for two years before completing his mechanical engineering degree at UW-Madison and going on to a career with United Dominion Industries in North Carolina, the international division of Trane Co. in La Crosse and Emerson Electric Co. in St. Louis.
         The Ver Hagens, who live in St. Louis, have been longtime donors to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Last November the couple made a gift of more than $1 million in stock, one of the Foundation’s largest gifts ever. The planned gift ultimately will fund the Jan K. and Kathryn Fults Ver Hagen Chair of Education. The couple also fund UW-Eau Claire scholarships in memory of their son, David Matthew, and Kathryn’s mother, Eleanor Eddis Fults, as well as two Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarships.
         “The Ver Hagens are truly generous people,” Bachmeier said. “Their support of special needs in Wisconsin as well as other states has always been very apparent."
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Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741
newsbur@uwec.edu

Updated: July 26, 2001