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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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phone: (715) 836-4741
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UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association
To Present Awards Dec. 21

MAILED: Dec. 12, 2002

         EAU CLAIRE  The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association will present awards to eight alumni and friends of the university on Saturday, Dec. 21, at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with winter commencement.
         Thomas Bennerotte, a 1991 business finance graduate of UW-Eau Claire, will be one of two recipients of the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation. Bennerotte, who earned a law degree in 2000 from William Mitchell College of Law, is an attorney with the Minneapolis-based law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. and practices in the area of plaintiffs’ medical malpractice. In April, Minnesota Lawyer named him one of Minnesota’s 10 “Up-and-Coming Attorneys” for 2002.
         Bennerote worked handling insurance claims for The St. Paul Companies immediately after his graduation from UW-Eau Claire. His decision to attend law school in part stemmed from his family’s experience after his younger sister’s death in a car accident. Bennerote’s eventual employment with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi placed him in the position of working with the very lawyers against whom he used to negotiate.
         Bennerote is a member of the Minnesota and Hennepin County bar associations; the Assocation of Trial Lawyers of America; the ATLA New Lawyers Division Board of Governors; and the Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association.
         “Tom has lived through a very tragic experience, the loss of a family member, and has chosen to do what it takes to help others who find themselves in the same unfortunate circumstances,” said John Bachmeier, UW-Eau Claire director of alumni relations. “His motivation to work as an attorney to help others deal with tragic loss is admirable, and his recent award by his peers indicates his early success in the practice of law.”
         Dr. Timothy Masterlark, a 1994 UW-Eau Claire geology graduate, also will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award. Masterlark went on to earn a master’s degree in geophysics and a Ph.D. in geology from UW-Madison. He is a senior scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.
         As a scientist, Masterlark studies the physical principles underlying the earth’s behavior. His work involves constructing computer models to predict how the earth responds to earthquakes and volcanic activity. His current research collaborations include both domestic and international scientists.
         While a Ph.D. candidate at UW-Madison, Masterlark was a fellow in the NASA Earth and Space Sciences project. In 2000, he received UW-Madison’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award and the Albert and Alice Weeks Best Student Research Paper Award. He also has received several grants, including a Vilas Travel Grant, an Exxon Foundation Field Research Grant and a U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program grant.
         Since 1994, Masterlark has coauthored eight articles in professional journals and participated in 19 presentations at regional and national professional association meetings. In the summer of 2000 he was an honorary lecturer during a field excursion in Montana for Hong Kong University undergraduate students.
         “Tim’s many achievements demonstrate that he has become a great scholar in his field of expertise,” Bachmeier said. “We at UW-Eau Claire are proud of what he has accomplished in the short time since he was here as an outstanding undergraduate student.”
         John Dernbach, a 1975 political science graduate of UW-Eau Claire, will be one of two recipients of the President’s Award, which recognizes outstanding professional or personal achievements or service to UW-Eau Claire. Dernbach went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. He is a professor of law at Widener University Law School in Harrisburg, Pa., where he has been on the faculty since 1993 and teaches courses in environmental law, administrative law and real property.
         Dernbach is the editor of the recently released book “Stumbling Toward Sustainability.” The book reports on the United States’ progress in ecologically sustainable development since the 1992 international Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which Dernbach attended. In July he testified before two congressional committees on the contents of his book. He also has spoken internationally and authored numerous published articles on the topic of sustainable development. In 2001 he was a visiting scholar with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.
         Dernbach’s dedication to the environment has been evident since his days at UW-Eau Claire and throughout his professional career. As an undergraduate student, he helped start Eau Claire’s first volunteer recycling center. Before he joined the Widener faculty he had a 12-year career with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. In 1988 he drafted Pennsylvania’s mandatory state recycling law.
         “John has taken his interest in preserving our environment and made it his life’s work,” Bachmeier said. “With this award, we commend him for his contributions to this important effort — contributions that began and have continued since his days here at UW-Eau Claire.”
         Tswv Fong Lor, who in 1995 received a degree in environmental and public health from UW-Eau Claire, also will receive the President’s Award. Lor is an environmental health specialist with the Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection in St. Paul, Minn.
         In his work for the city of St. Paul, Lor inspects restaurants, food production facilities, hotels, motels and swimming pools. He also is working on a partnership grant program with the Food and Drug Administration that involves translating literature on safe food handling for Asian business owners and performing a microbial validation study on Asian foods. Lor also volunteers on numerous St. Paul community boards.
         In 2000 he received St. Paul’s Karl Neid Community Involvement Award, which is given annually to a city employee demonstrating outstanding public service. Lor, who was born in Laos and spent eight years in a refugee camp in Thailand before his family arrived in Eau Claire in 1987, is fluent in four languages — English, Hmong, Lao and Thai. St. Paul officials noted how Lor’s language skills and his firsthand knowledge of the history of Southeast Asian immigrants helped bridge the cultural gap between St. Paul’s city government and Southeast Asian residents.
         “Lor has put both his formal education and his knowledge gained from life experience to use in such commendable ways,” Bachmeier said. “He is an outstanding example for us all in his service to his community.”
         Dr. Katherine Schneider, accompanied by her fifth Seeing Eye dog, Carter, will be one of two recipients of the Honorary Alumnus Award, which is presented to non-alumni who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire. Schneider is a senior psychologist and coordinator of training in UW-Eau Claire’s Counseling Services, where she has been employed since 1990.
         In Counseling Services, Schneider conducts individual and group counseling sessions; runs the office’s training program for two doctoral interns per year; and provides outreach, consultation and crisis intervention services. In addition to her work on campus, she speaks frequently on a volunteer basis to groups both on and off campus. Her talks sometimes focus on common counseling issues, but Schneider, who has been blind since birth, also frequently discusses disability awareness with groups ranging from preschool children to nursing home residents. Schneider also serves on the University Senate and a variety of university committees, where, she has written, she emphasizes making UW-Eau Claire “accessible both attitudinally and architecturally to full participation by faculty, staff and students with disabilities.”
         Schneider was the recipient of the UW System Board of Regents 2002 Academic Staff Award for Excellence, the Minneapolis-based Courage Center’s 1998 Phillips Award, and UW-Eau Claire’s 1995 Academic Staff Excellence in Performance Award. She is recognized as a diplomate in clinical psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology, is a licensed psychologist with the state of Wisconsin, and is a member of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Counseling and Development. She also has published research-based articles and chapters in professional publications.
         “Katherine is an integral member of the UW-Eau Claire and greater Eau Claire communities, and her positive impact has been felt both on and off campus,” Bachmeier said. “We are pleased to make her an honorary Blugold.”
         Dr. Sally Webb, UW-Eau Claire professor of communication and journalism, also will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award. Webb, who joined the university faculty in 1965, is retiring this month with emeritus status.
         Webb, who has taught courses in organizational communication and often has supervised student internships, received UW-Eau Claire’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1992 for her outstanding ability to inspire students to high standards of scholarship. She donated the award money to establish the Sally A. Webb Communication Fund, to which she continues to contribute and which provides scholarships to organizational communication students. In October, Webb also was among the first group of inductees to the university’s Hall of Honor, which recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of UW-Eau Claire alumni (Webb attended UW-Eau Claire in 1973).
         Webb taught during the fall 1998 and spring 2002 semesters at Harlaxton College in England. She describes those experiences as “semesters of a lifetime.” In 1998 she received the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate’s first Adviser of the Year Award, and in 2001 she received the American Ethnic Office’s Distinguished Service Award. She also has received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Eau Claire County Humane Association, outstanding teaching awards from the Central States Communication Association and the UW-Eau Claire College of Arts and Sciences, and the Outstanding Educator Award from the Eau Claire chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. She was a founding member and the second president of the International Listening Association.
         “Sally has had such a vital presence here at UW-Eau Claire and in the surrounding community, and it is only fitting that we give her this well-deserved honor upon her retirement,” Bachmeier, said.
         Andrea Gapko, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Academic Skills Center, 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. Gapko received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from UW-Eau Claire in 1971 and 1975, respectively. Gapko has been on the Academic Skills Center staff since 1977 and has been the center’s director since 1986. She also is the center’s mathematics coordinator, providing assessment and overseeing tutoring for students requiring assistance in meeting the university’s mathematics requirements.
         Gapko has been an active member of numerous university committees. She currently serves as vice chair of the University Senate and University Senate Executive Committee, chair of the University Senate Compensation Committee, and a member of the Service Designation Review Committee. She is a member and former president of Women in Higher Education, and from 1991-93 she was UW-Eau Claire’s academic staff representative to the UW System. In 1994 Gapko received UW-Eau Claire’s Academic Staff Excellence in Performance Award.
         Gapko also has had extensive involvement in many community organizations. Her current involvements include the Eau Claire chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Genetics Professional Advisory Committee, University Lutheran Church, the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee for the Eau Claire public schools and Citizens for Higher Education.
         “Andrea has earned the reputation as a leader on the UW-Eau Claire campus through her tremendous dedication to both her Academic Skills Center duties and her numerous committee memberships,” Bachmeier said. “She also has extended her dedication to the Eau Claire community, and many have benefited as a result of her service.”
         Michael O’Meara also will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. O’Meara received his bachelor of arts degree from UW-Eau Claire in 1973. He has been chairman of Peoples National Bank, which has branches in Eau Claire and Hayward, since 1991. Under O’Meara’s leadership, the total assets of Peoples National has grown from $69 million at the end of 1992 to about $200 million today.
         O’Meara opened the Peoples National Eau Claire branch, which specializes in serving business customers, in 1996. Before buying Peoples National, O’Meara and a partner owned Holiday Travel in Eau Claire, a company they started by arranging spring break trips while students at UW-Eau Claire.
         In April, O’Meara was named Small Business Person of the Year by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce. He serves as a member of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board of directors and is past treasurer of the Foundation’s Executive Committee. He also is past chairman of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and serves or has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the United Way, the YMCA and other community groups.
         “UW-Eau Claire is proud to be represented in our region by an alumnus such as Michael O’Meara,” Bachmeier said. “He has established himself as a respected businessperson and dedicated volunteer in the community.

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Judy Berthiaume
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: December 12, 2002