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Longtime UW-Eau Claire leader to retire in July after 20 years of service

| Jacob Wrasse, Judy Berthiaume

Mike Rindo, Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations

Mike Rindo

Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations at UW-Eau Claire, will retire in July after serving the university for nearly 20 years.

“No one loves UW-Eau Claire more than Mike Rindo, and I’ve seen that every single day as he’s worked to make our campus and our community a better place,” says Chancellor James Schmidt. “I am extremely grateful for Mike’s efforts on behalf of UW-Eau Claire. His contributions and guidance will be greatly missed, though his impact on the campus will endure for generations.”

Rindo came to UW-Eau Claire in 2001 as executive director of communications, overseeing what were then the News Bureau and Publications offices. As his duties grew to include government and community relations, he was named special assistant to the chancellor for facilities planning.

Since 2013, Rindo has served as the assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations. In this position, all divisions of Facilities report to him, he co-leads the Integrated Marketing and Communications office and oversees government and community relations.

In March, he also began supervising Athletics, Recreation and Sport Operations and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

Throughout his tenure at UW-Eau Claire, Rindo was the university’s legislative liaison and public information officer, serving as a senior counselor for three chancellors and two interim chancellors.

His last day at UW-Eau Claire will be July 6.

Leader in updating UW-Eau Claire campus facilities, planning

Among Rindo’s many accomplishments was overseeing the creation of UW-Eau Claire’s first modern facilities master plan, which provides a 20-year framework for the physical development of the university.

Implementing the 2010-2030 Campus Master Plan required new collaborations and partnerships among campus and community leaders, as well as significant financial investments from the public and private sectors, Schmidt says.

Rindo’s dedication to and passion for UW-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley were clear as he worked tirelessly to help the university bring the facilities plan to life, Schmidt says.

Already the master plan has helped guide the university as it built a new student center, education building, new residence halls on and off campus, a redesigned central campus mall and pedestrian-friendly riverfront green space.

“In his nearly two decades of service to this institution, Mike has helped to ensure that our campus is not only beautiful but also that it has the modern facilities and shared spaces that encourage student learning and engagement,” Schmidt says. “Every student who has taken a class in Centennial Hall, enjoyed an event in the new Davies Center or gathered with friends on the campus mall has benefited from Mike’s creative thinking and leadership.”

Under Rindo’s leadership, planning and securing funding for a new science building also is underway.

Longtime advocate for UW-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley

Throughout his career at UW-Eau Claire, Rindo has played a critical role in the university’s efforts to build stronger connections with community and business leaders throughout western Wisconsin, as well as with regional, state and federal legislators and other government officials.

Rindo was a driving force behind the many public-private partnerships that were needed to create Pablo Center at the Confluence, the state-of-the-art performing arts center that sits at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers in downtown Eau Claire.

“It was Mike who saw that the confluence of two rivers downtown would be the perfect spot for a performing arts center and his hard work made that vision a reality,” Schmidt says. “He was instrumental in encouraging university, local and state governments, art and tourism organizations, private partners and advocates to come together in ways that they never had before.”

Opened in 2018, Pablo Center has helped to transform Eau Claire’s once struggling downtown into a vibrant area where many people from the campus and Eau Claire communities live, work and play.

Brian Levin-Stankevich, who served as UW-Eau Claire’s chancellor from 2006-12, credits Rindo with building relationships in the Eau Claire community that made it possible to have discussions around shared campus-community facilities, needs and opportunities.

“The confluence project would not have happened were it not for Mike’s diplomacy, drive, persistence and collaboration from the very beginning of the idea,” Levin-Stankevich says. “Mike worked with developers, the city and university constituents to keep the project on the front burner.”

Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and executive director of University Advancement, agrees, noting that Rindo helped to find innovative ways to move capital projects forward when state funds were limited.

As a result, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation became more involved in community projects and the foundation’s subsidiary, Blugold Real Estate, was created.

“Our university is lucky that he returned here to finish his career and that he was willing, time and again, to do the very best to move UW-Eau Claire forward,” Way says. “His service to UW-Eau Claire, the city of Eau Claire and the state of Wisconsin has been transformational. I feel lucky not only to call him a great work colleague but a wonderful friend.”

Rindo also has helped to lead on other projects that help meet community and campus needs, such as the renovation of Hobbs Ice Center and planning for the Sonnentag Centre, a campus-community events center project that will provide new collaboration opportunities with Mayo Clinic Health System.

UW-Eau Claire, Chippewa Valley roots run deep

Rindo graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in speech, now known as communication studies. After college, he had a nearly 25-year career in broadcast journalism and newsroom management, including stints at both television news stations in Eau Claire as well as news stations in Rochester, New York, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Throughout the years, Rindo has served on numerous community organization boards in Eau Claire, including the boards of directors for Visit Eau Claire, the Confluence Council and Downtown Eau Claire Inc.

He led UW-Eau Claire’s involvement in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Invest Health” initiative, which provided grant monies to mid-sized cities, including Eau Claire, to collect and analyze health and poverty data in order to develop strategies to improve population health through the built environment, including increasing the supply of safe, affordable housing. 

This spring, when the campus and community were trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, Rindo was asked to work with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department as a visiting public information officer, assisting with communication and media relations. His collaboration with the health department created other opportunities for UW-Eau Claire to support the cities of Eau Claire and Altoona as they educated residents about how to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic.

“Mike’s dependability and tenacity has helped to make him a pillar in this community,” Schmidt says.

A fitting ending to a long career

When he was graduating from UW-Eau Claire, Rindo never imagined that more than four decades later he would be retiring from his alma mater, having helped to shape the university’s future.

“If you would have told me when I entered UW-Eau Claire as a student in the fall of 1974 that I would end my 43-year career serving as one of the leaders of this remarkable university, I could never have imagined that as a possibility,” Rindo says. “With deepest sincerity and humility, I thank my colleagues for their support, patience, mentoring and kindness through these many years. I will miss working with them, and with a common purpose toward the goals we dared to dream UW-Eau Claire could achieve.”

Top photo caption: Mike Rindo is retiring after nearly 20 years of helping build connections between the campus and community.