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Another chance to say, 'Thank you'

| Gretchen Hutterli, Rick Foy

It was a time of uncertainty when Jeff Schwantes, BBA '72, arrived on the UW-Eau Claire campus from his hometown of Neillsville, It was the mid-1960s. The Vietnam War was raging, and Jeff wasn't at all sure about his own future.  After six semesters, he left school, was drafted into the Army and served for two years. He wanted to return to UW-Eau Claire, but he wasn't sure he would be readmitted.

"My previous academic record was less than stellar so readmission was far from a certainty," Jeff recalled. "But I knew I needed a quality education and UW-Eau Claire was my first and best choice."

Jeff will always remember the admissions counselor who gave him a second chance and the many College of Business faculty members who stepped up, believed in him and guided him.

"There is no doubt in my mind that UWEC - and the people here - provided me with the foundation that led to a 40-year career with the same company," he continued.

Jeff retired in 2016, having completed that long and successful career with State Farm Insurance. When he learned of the College of Business Faculty Excellence Fund, he didn't hesitate to become a significant supporter.

"I was aware of how budget cuts were affecting the university and, since retirement, I've had the chance to reflect on how I got to where I am," he said. "I realized it would never have happened without so many who cared enough to give me another chance. The College of Business Faculty Excellence Fund gives me another chance to say 'Thank You'."

Jeff's story isn't unique. UW-Eau Claire Foundation Associate Director of Major Gifts Rick Foy, '80, hears similar stories when he calls on Blugold alumni around the country.

"When I ask an alum the question: 'What do you think of when you think of your time at UW-Eau Claire?' they tell me stories about a faculty member who took the time and effort to care about them, work with them and provide them with the guidance and direction they needed to succeed," said Foy. "They often credit those same professors with changing their life."

Because students like Jeff are at the heart of everything the College of Business does, a group of alums led by Greg Schmidt, '96 and Kimberly Underwood, '84 recently established the College of Business Faculty Excellence Fund. Both Schmidt and Underwood are members of the college's Business Advisory Council (BAC).

"At a recent BAC meeting, we discussed the staffing challenges facing the College of Business," said Schmidt. "As a result of this discussion, we established the Faculty Excellence Fund and created a fundraising committee to work with the college and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation."

Other BAC members on the committee include Mark Faanes, '79, Justin Kaufenberg, '03, and Todd Schnobrich, '86.  

The Faculty Excellence Fund recognizes and supports outstanding teachers who enrich student learning by incorporating innovative activities and techniques into their business courses, and engage students through experiential learning experiences, such as collaborative research and case competitions, and applied community projects.

"These faculty-led activities make our business college distinctive, and they help it better prepare students to become business professionals," said Underwood. "A gift to the fund is also a way for business alums to let the faculty know how much we value and appreciate the work they do," she continued.

The goal for Phase One of this multi year fundraising campaign is to raise $200,000 by May 30, 2018. The silent phase of the campaign began in September 2017. A kickoff event was held in late October at SportsEngine in Minneapolis. Since then, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation has received over $125,000 in pledges.

While this is a great start, there is more to be done, according to Schmidt. In addition to soliciting donations for the fund, the committee is looking for alumni to serve as fundraising ambassadors.

"A fundraising ambassador is a committed alum who is willing to personally reach out to classmates and friends to encourage their support of the Faculty Excellence Fund," said Schmidt. "Peer-to-peer solicitation is the most effective way to fundraise as it adds a powerful personal component to our effort."

Alumni interested in becoming a fundraising ambassador should contact Schmidt by email Schmidt at

Those who wish to give to the COB Faculty Excellence Fund can do so here. The fundraising subcommittee will also be launching a crowdfunding website later this spring.

"We rely on gifts to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to support the work of our faculty," said Dr. Tim Vaughan, interim dean of the College of Business. "We appreciate gifts at all levels and are grateful to our alums and friends for their generous support."

COB Faculty Excellence Fund Committee

Chair, Greg Schmidt, '96, Coloplast
Assistant Chair, Kimberly Underwood, '84, Ecolab

  • Mark Faanes, '79, Wipfli
  • Rick Foy, '80, UW-Eau Claire Foundation
  • Gretchen Hutterli, '83, College of Business 
  • Justin Kaufenberg, '03, SportsEngine
  • Lori Maassen, UW-Eau Claire Foundation
  • Todd Schnobrich, '86, Cargill
  • Tim Vaughan, College of Business 


  • Brian Carlson, '96, Ambrion
  • Mark Faanes,  '79, Wipfli
  • Justin Kaufenberg, '03, SportsEngine
  • Kurt Mueller, '79, Hormel
  • Mark Oldenberg, '04, Peoples State Bank
  • Jill Riemenschneider, Mondelez International
  • Greg Schmidt, '96, Coloplast
  • Todd Schnobrich, '86, Cargill
  • Kimberly Underwood, '84, Ecolab
  • Pat Watkins, KPMG