Six alumni and one university staff emerita will receive awards Dec. 19 from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association, recognizing their professional and personal successes as well as their contributions to UW-Eau Claire, their communities and their professions. The awards will be presented at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with winter commencement.
Learn more about the Alumni Association honorees below. Also read their words of advice for UW-Eau Claire's December graduates.
Honorary Alumnus Award
The Honorary Alumnus Award is presented to non-alumni who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire.
Karen Stuber, university conferences coordinator emerita, served the students of UW-Eau Claire for 46 years through her work in Davies Center. Beginning in 1969 when she began her UW-Eau Claire career in the position of Typist 2 until her retirement in July 2015, Stuber was responsible for the scheduling and setup of University Centers events. As University Centers assistant director for Event Services, Stuber oversaw an organization that produces more than 13,500 events each year, employs dozens of students and has an impact on every student who attends the university.
“Karen’s influence was felt everywhere,” said Charles Farrell, director of University Centers. “From the training of hundreds of student building managers over the years to how we do just about everything, Karen left very little of the Centers untouched.”
Stuber’s name cannot be mentioned without also talking about the Viennese Ball, given her leading role in every ball starting with the inaugural event in 1974 and her work as the events executive director from 2009 to 2015.
“Karen was completely devoted to UW-Eau Claire and serving our students as well as the rest of the university community,” Farrell said. “She is the very embodiment of the Blugold spirit.”
The President’s Award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.
Jeffrey Koenig ’95, bachelor’s degree in education
Jeffrey Koenig wears multiple hats as athletic director, business education teacher and award-winning head football coach for the Stanley-Boyd School District in west-central Wisconsin. Under Koenig’s leadership, Stanley-Boyd High School’s football team won the 2013 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 5 state championship.
As the Stanley-Boyd head football coach since 2004, Koenig has an 85-36 win-loss record and also has led the team to four Cloverbelt Conference championships. Koenig has been honored multiple times each as the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association North Central Region Coach of the Year, the WIAA Cloverbelt Conference Coach of the Year and the WFCA District Coach of the Year.
Despite his many successes at the helm of Stanley-Boyd’s football program, Koenig and those who work with him will quickly note that winning is not the head coach’s biggest source of pride. Koenig cites “the difference my entire coaching staff makes in the lives of our players” and that “we coach and teach our players about what it means to be a man of character and to love others around them” when asked what makes him most proud.
Stanley-Boyd Area Schools Superintendent Jim Jones said that Koenig is highly respected for his positive effect on students: “He genuinely is more concerned about a student’s home life, struggles and successes off the field than he is in whether or not we win or lose.”
James Ward ’92, bachelor’s degree in geography
James Ward is the president and co-founder of Applied Data Consultants, a 20-year-old west-central Wisconsin company that provides Web technologies, software development services and geographic information systems across the U.S. and internationally. The winner of recent awards such as the 2015 Eau Clare Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year and the 2011 Chippewa County Economic Development Corp. Business of the Year, ADC’s current client list includes organizations in 47 states, along with parts of Canada, Mexico and Western Europe.
Ward also earned a master’s degree in geography from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Prior to co-founding ADC in 1996, Ward was a GIS project manager for Science Applications International Corp., developing software for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The seeds for ADC were planted in Omaha when the then-new company was awarded a contract with USACE. ADC has maintained that same contract since.
Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award
The Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit upon the recipient and the university.
Jane Berenz ’82, bachelor’s degree in special education
Jane Berenz is the superintendent of Minnesota’s Independent School District 196, known as the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools. The district is the fourth largest in the state, serving more than 27,000 students. Prior to becoming superintendent in 2009, Berenz served the district for 22 years as a classroom teacher, special education teacher, principal, director of elementary education, and director of teaching and learning.
Berenz, who has served in multiple advisory roles on legislative committees at the state and city levels, as well as on the advisory council for the Reading Recovery Council of North America, is nationally recognized for her skill and leadership in enhancing teacher professional development and improving student academic performance. In June she was awarded the 2015 national Teacher Leader Award from the Reading Recovery Council of North America for her leadership of her school district’s literacy efforts.
Lifetime Excellence Awards
The Lifetime Excellence Award is presented to alumni who have demonstrated longtime and successful commitment to their careers and communities. These individuals have made a positive and dramatic impact through enthusiastic dedication to service and living their lives as a testimony to UW-Eau Claire's motto, "Excellence."
Brian Goldbeck ’73, bachelor’s degree in political science; ’79, bachelor’s degree in education
In 1972, UW-Eau Claire’s political science department selected Brian Goldbeck to attend a summer seminar at the United Nations in New York. The opportunity shifted his interests from U.S. state and local politics to international relations, and it would set the course for his life’s work.
His career has been one of international public service, most recently as the deputy chief of mission, or deputy ambassador, at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Goldbeck is a minister counselor — the equivalent of a two-star general — in the U.S. State Department’s Senior Foreign Service. From the mid-1980s until his 2012 Manila appointment, Goldbeck served in numerous state department overseas assignments, including posts in South Korea, Yemen, Ethiopia and Mongolia, and multiple assignments in China. His service has required of him a wide range of expertise in the areas of diplomacy, trade and economic development.
In addition to his degrees from UW-Eau Claire, Goldbeck earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining the U.S. State Department, Goldbeck was a teacher and the social studies department chairman at an international school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He also served for four years on active duty in the U.S. Army and 24 years in the Army Reserve.
John Sonnentag ’66, bachelor’s degrees in business administration and history, and Carolyn Sonnentag ’67, bachelor’s degree in medical technology
John and Carolyn Sonnentag have worked in tandem since the early 1970s, building and managing the success of their third-generation family-owned business. Founded in 1946, Sonnentag Concrete and Gravel employed four seasonal workers at one location in 1971. Under the John and Carolyn’s leadership, the business was transformed into County Materials Corp., a manufacturer and distributor of concrete and related construction products that today has more than 50 locations and, at times, more than 2,000 employees throughout the United States.
John and Carolyn also have founded the Sonnentag Foundation, which supports programs and projects that serve the broader community in locations where County Materials has major facilities, as well as programs that pair children with mentors, help women who experience domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as social and recreational programs for children and adults with disabilities and respite for their caregivers.
In 2014, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation received a commitment of approximately $10 million in money and land from the Sonnentags and County Materials Corp. for the development of an event and recreation complex on Menomonie Street in Eau Claire. The gift was intended to help make possible the development of an events facility where UW-Eau Claire and community organizations can hold larger-scale events than can be accommodated by the university's existing facilities. Recently, the project partners presented the preliminary site plan for what will be called the John H. and Carolyn O. Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex.