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Seven UW-Eau Claire Alumni Receive Awards from Alumni Association

RELEASED: July 25, 2006

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association will present awards to seven UW-Eau Claire alumni at an Aug. 5 luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with summer commencement.

"These individuals are a talented, richly deserving group of individuals who recognize the gifts they have received and in turn give back to the community and to UW-Eau Claire," said John Bachmeier, UW-Eau Claire director of alumni relations. "The university is proud to recognize them for their personal success and for their service to others."

Bridget (O'Connor) Nelson, Jeff Nelson and Craig Ungerecht will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Jeff and Bridget Nelson
Jeff and Bridget Nelson

Bridget and Jeff Nelson met at the UW-Eau Claire Leadership Institute as undergraduates and completed their bachelor of arts degrees at UW-Eau Claire. Jeff graduated with a degree in political science in 1995 and Bridget completed a degree in social work in 1996. They married in the summer of 1996.

Both Jeff and Bridget have been active in peace and social justice issues since graduating. They became very active with the peace community in Detroit, Mich., working with coalitions to raise awareness on various justice issues, which included a trip in 1999 by Jeff to Iraq as part of a humanitarian delegation.

Bridget earned a master's degree in social work at Wayne State University in community practice and advocacy in 2000. Following graduate school, Bridget spent several years as an advocacy and education coordinator for the Hunger Action Coalition of Michigan. Jeff worked as a community organizer for Groundwork for a Just World and then obtained his master's of divinity degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., in 2004. He is currently an associate pastor for the First United Methodist Church of Birmingham in Michigan.

Jeff is particularly proud of his leadership with a youth project that is collecting one penny for every person on the continent of Africa who is infected with HIV/AIDS — for a total of 23 million pennies.

Bridget is a self-employed social worker doing a variety of work for various agencies including Bread for the World, Young Neighbors in Action and Alternatives for Girls.

Lt. Commander Craig Ungerecht
Lt. Cmdr. Craig Ungerecht

Craig Ungerecht, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, received a bachelor of arts degree from California State University, Fullerton in 1992 and received his master's degree in environmental and public health from UW-Eau Claire in 2000.

He was one of 34 environmental health officers from the U.S. Public Health Service deployed four days after Hurricane Katrina hit to assist the Mississippi Health Department.

Ungerecht conducted disease surveillance, evaluated food safety and water systems, assisted in the establishment of a mobile lab for testing drinking water, evaluated food distribution centers, assessed damage to day care facilities and evaluated food establishments for reopening. He was often the first government responder hurricane survivors encountered.

Ungerecht was also a responder to the 2001 anthrax bioterrorism incident in Washington, D.C. He was the site safety officer for night operations. He conducted training sessions for personnel entering the affected area, evaluated protective gear and assessed the building decontamination plan. These activities helped ensure the safety of more than 300 contractors, the Capitol Hill staff and local residents.

"Lt. Cmdr. Ungerecht's commitment to protect public health serves as a model for UW-Eau Claire environmental public health students," wrote Crispin Pierce, assistant professor of environmental public health in a letter to the awards nominating committee. "With his leadership and dedication to protecting public health, Ungerecht embodies this goal."

Mary Hilfiker and Richard Schroder will receive the President's Award, which recognizes outstanding professional or personal achievements or service to UW-Eau Claire.

Mary Hilfiker
Mary Hilfiker

Hilfiker, an associate education and school improvement specialist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison, received her bachelor of science degree in education from UW-Eau Claire in 1967. Her first job was as a teacher at East Middle and High School in Madison. She then earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. After completing her master's degree, she took a position with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a home living specialist at Keams Canyon School in Arizona. Six years later, she moved to Alaska and took a position as a senior guidance counselor for the BIA at Mt. Edgecumbe Boarding School. When all BIA schools closed in Alaska, she worked as a counselor/probation at a men's prison. She later was director of the Army Education Centers at an American military base along the demilitarized zone in the Republic of Korea. Following that she served as an education specialist for the U.S. Army in Los Angeles and for the BIA in Ft. Snelling, Minn., working with 12 schools in six states and with 34 tribes.

She serves on the boards of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, City of Shoreview (Minn.) Foundation, Shoreview Historical Society and Shoreview Parks and Recreation Commission.

Through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation she also established a scholarship to UW-Eau Claire for a young African from Uganda and the Mary Roelli Hilfiker Experiential Education Scholarship, which provides funding for students who design exceptional community service projects.

Rick Schroder
Rick Schroder

Schroder's career has focused on consulting experience in technology implementation. Schroder, a 1977 UW-Eau Claire College of Business graduate, is an accomplished information management executive.

Schroder has also held several seminars for program/project management as well as technology transitioning. Also an entrepreneur, Schroder and his partner have developed a company, Trident Group LLC, for building energy-efficient/intelligent homes. The homes use geothermal heating and air conditioning and intelligent (smart) devices to run their various systems.

Schroder has returned to UW-Eau Claire numerous times to speak to Beta Upsilon Sigma, a professional student group. In November, Schroder spent a week on campus visiting several classes and participating in university events. Schroder and his wife, Evelyn Zabo, have also established a fund through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to support several student scholarships.

"Education is of utmost importance to Rick," J. Roger Selin, UW-Eau Claire professor of accounting, wrote in a letter to the awards nominating committee.

John Wallace Ruth Wallace
John and Ruth Wallace

John and Ruth Wallace will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit to the recipients and UW-Eau Claire.

John and Ruth met at UW-Eau Claire, where they received their bachelor of science degrees in elementary education and master's degrees in special education. John also holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of San Francisco, administration licensure from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a doctoral degree in education policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.

John is the principal at South Middle School in Eau Claire. Ruth is a community volunteer and child advocate. She is the founder of the Eau Claire Interfaith Hospitality Network Inc., an organization providing temporary housing and support service for families with children. Ruth is also a founding member of the Eau Claire Children's Museum, YMCA Skate Park, Northstar Middle School Nature Trail and Children's Mental Health Alliance-Chippewa Valley.

The Wallaces are dedicated to the welfare of children. They have been foster parents for more than 25 years and together have worked on numerous community projects benefiting children, including Operation Classmate, a Hurricane Katrina relief effort that over the course of a week raised $65,000 in cash donations and filled a semitrailer with new supply kits for evacuee students in the Rapides Parish (Louisiana) School District.

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KH

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