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UW-Eau Claire Graphic Artist Joins Elite Group of Distinguished Professionals

RELEASED: Nov. 17, 2008

Gene Leisz
Gene Leisz

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire academic staff member Gene Leisz joined a small group of state professionals this summer when he became the first person at UW-Eau Claire to be granted that state title of distinguished artist.

Rick Mickelson, the photo and graphics coordinator in Learning and Technology Services and Leisz's supervisor since 1988, believed that Leisz's qualifications and accomplishments as a senior graphic artist perfectly matched the criteria specified for this honor. The title, which for some years was granted only to academic staff members at UW-Madison, acknowledges a professional who performs at a level of proficiency requiring extensive experience and advanced knowledge and skills.

Leisz's talents are used in numerous ways, but he primarily assists faculty and academic staff members with instructional or professional development projects, such as designing poster displays, maps, brochures, Web sites and PowerPoint presentations for classroom instruction or professional conferences, Mickelson said. He also conducts trainings on image editing and presentation software for those interested in learning or further developing their skills.

Leisz received a bachelor of fine arts degree in drawing and printmaking from UW-Eau Claire. When Leisz first came to work at the university, he did lots of cut and paste-up on his drafting table, but these days he uses computers for most of his work.

Persons at the distinguished artist level also must be recognized by their peers and through a reputation that extends beyond their home institution as they develop new approaches, methods or techniques and cope independently with new, unexpected or complex situations.

Letters of support from a dozen faculty, staff and community members, as well as a portfolio of Leisz's work, confirmed Mickelson's belief that Leisz deserved this recognition.

"He is so good at taking words and making visuals or backgrounds to match them," said Dr. Susan Moch, UW-Eau Claire professor of nursing who called Leisz a miracle worker. "Gene is always able to reflect the feeling I want to convey, and I always get positive feedback about the materials he creates for me. At one conference the keynote speaker even cited the work he'd done for me — in this case a cartoon for a poster — because it was so effective."

Dr. Julie Furst-Bowe, provost and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at UW-Stout, called Leisz "highly creative, talented and professional," noting he has been a presenter at the Governor's Wisconsin Educational Technology Conference.

Leisz has shared his talents with the community and region in a variety of ways. He has taught digital photography workshops at the L.E. Phillips Senior Center and Senior Americans' Day, the local Cooperative Educational Service Agency, Cray Academy and other summer institutes for educators, and he has created scenery and taught scenery painting for the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild. He also has taught drawing, painting, sculpture, and doll and puppet making to a range of audiences through Continuing Education courses and workshops.

Dr. Katherine Rhoades, dean emerita of the College of Education and Human Sciences at UW-Eau Claire, said Leisz helped her on several occasions and provided her with "incredible professional insights that included a wellspring of advanced knowledge and skills." She particularly noted a time when she and two student researchers needed help with a presentation.

"On an extremely tight timeline and without a great deal of structured input, he created an artistic and informative presentation that was truly distinctive," Rhoades wrote.

"I really try to focus on the theory of visual communication," Leisz said, adding that he loves the variety of duties he has assumed over time and enjoys the one-on-one aspect of work with members of the campus community. "I never really know what I'll be doing when I come in each day. There really is no such thing as a typical day."

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NW/JB

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