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Endowments established by former standouts to transform cross country team

RELEASED: June 28, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — Two separate gifts to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire cross country team are about to transform both the men's and women's programs. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation recently received pledges from alumni to create endowments, kicking off a fundraiser with a goal of raising $400,000 over the next five years. The effort is part of a series of events leading up to the university's centennial celebration in 2016.

"The current economic climate is the major force behind this fundraising effort," said Dan Schwamberger, UW-Eau Claire's head cross country coach, noting that the teams have a combined roster of close to 60 student athletes. "Basic team expenses, such as transportation, continue to increase while our budget has remained the same. The new endowments will benefit the cross country program in a variety of ways, which include basic budget necessities and other items that may not be considered a necessity but are essential for the program to be successful on a national level."

UW-Eau Claire ranks among the top NCAA Division III cross county teams in the nation. In 2009 the women's team won the Division III national championship and in 2010 placed fourth in the nation. The men have had a number of individual standout runners over the years and the team has been active at the national level. Schwamberger, who leads both teams, has been named the WIAC Women's Coach of the Year for the past four years.

Former cross country runners and UW-Eau Claire alumni Laureen McGurk Seeger, Dick Johnson and Mary Fischbach Johnson made the first gifts.

The Johnsons, of New York City, both graduated in 1982. Dick majored in accounting and serves as the executive vice president of retail stores for Foot Locker Inc. Mary holds a degree in business education. The Johnsons have issued a challenge pledge to establish the Men's Cross Country Opportunity Endowment. They will match all gifts to the men's team up to a total of $25,000 and encourage their fellow teammates to help set the pace.

"Cross country was an important part of our years at UW-EC," Dick Johnson said. "We hope this matching grant encourages other cross country alumni to help fund the program for future success."

Seeger's gift of $25,000 established the Women's Cross Country Opportunity Endowment. She graduated in 1983 with a degree in business administration and now serves as executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for McKesson Corp., a health care information technology company and pharmaceutical distributor in San Francisco, Calif. Seeger was captain of the Blugold track and field team and served as co-captain of the cross country team. She was named All American for track in 1983 and recently was presented with the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association's President's Award.

"I made a gift because I recall, back in 1979, that obtaining uniforms and affording to travel outside of Wisconsin to compete only happened through fundraising and sacrifice," Seeger said. "Participating in athletics was a tremendous growth experience for me."

Additionally, an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $75,000 in new gifts received from alumni and friends of the Blugold women's cross country program.

It is hoped that former members of both teams will step forward with matching gifts to the endowments.

"It's hard to express the enormous impact this fundraiser will have on the cross country program," Schwamberger said. "We are most grateful.

"The hard work and dedication that made these alums successful as student athletes and after college can be seen on a daily basis through our current cross country student athletes, which is why I am excited for the future of our cross country program," Schwamberger said.

For more information about the endowment or to give to either fund, visit the Foundation website or contact Kimera Way, Foundation executive director, at 715-836-5630 or waykk@uwec.edu.

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RD/DW

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