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Five to receive UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association awards

| Gary Johnson

Five alumni and friends of the university will be honored with University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association awards on Friday, Dec. 16.

Honorary Alumnus Award

The Honorary Alumnus Award is presented to non-alumni or non-degreed alumni who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire or the greater community.

Dean Kallenbach

Dean Kallenbach

Dean Kallenbach

Kallenbach had a 46-year career in broadcasting, including 35 years at Wisconsin Public Radio as a reporter, host and regional manager before retiring in 2021. During his time at WPR, Kallenbach oversaw more than 150 UW-Eau Claire undergraduates in journalism, public relations and marketing. He also spent 15 years as an advisor for UW-Eau Claire’s radio station.

Kallenbach championed Blugold student journalists and communication majors as interns at WPR and for full-time positions across the state, says Jan Larson, professor emerita and former chair of the communication and journalism department. He frequently met with students, was a guest speaker and helped introduce students, faculty and staff to his WPR colleagues, leading to opportunities for students and the department.

“I remain in awe of Dean’s abilities to lead by example, to teach with enthusiasm and to mentor with directness rooted in kindness,” Larson says. “Already, he is a Blugold in heart and spirit.”

Kallenbach is “a man of integrity and strong character” who cares about community, says Dr. Judy Rene Sims, UW-Eau Claire professor emerita of communication and journalism.

“Diligent, kind, competent and reliable, Dean Kallenbach is a good man, the man with the smooth delivery, the man skilled in the art and science of broadcasting, the man active in public life and committed to the public good,” Sims says.

Kallenbach enjoyed his working relationship with UW-Eau Claire and offers advice to today’s students.

“Take advantage of your liberal arts education and become good at as many things as possible, making yourself a more valuable and desirable employee, but also becoming a better citizen and community member,” Kallenbach says. 

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

The Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award is given to two recipients this December and acknowledges the special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Dr. Katie (Van De Hey) Landgraf ’07, bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance

Katie Landgraf

Dr. Katie Landgraf

As the oldest of five children, Landgraf grew up on a dairy farm in Wrightstown, near Green Bay, where she had a leadership role on the farm and learned from her father about hard work, dependability and trustworthiness.

“To me, going away to college meant getting away from milking cows,” Landgraf says. “Little did I know, the friendships and knowledge gained at UWEC would positively affect my life forever. UWEC had (and still has) an amazing team of business faculty that made the biggest impact on my life.”

At UW-Eau Claire, Landgraf became active in clubs and held officer positions to overcome her shyness. She worked long hours on and off campus, knowing her family couldn’t financially support her, and graduated debt-free. She met lifelong friends at UW-Eau Claire, including her future husband, Andy Landgraf, when they both were students.

Landgraf worked as an adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University, and as a certified public accountant for a time.

Today, Landgraf is an assistant professor in accounting at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, where she focuses on teaching and helping first-generation college students, like herself, overcome the fear of obtaining a university degree and developing long-term goals.

“Goal setting has enabled me to accomplish my dream job,” Landgraf says. “Therefore, it is important to me to help my students find their dream job as well.”

Landgraf stresses to graduating Blugolds the importance of staying balanced in life to obtain “a very productive and powerful outcome.”

“If one of these aspects of your life is unbalanced, you may not be as productive in another part of your daily life,” Landgraf says. “Treat yourself like a human, a human that needs rest as much as work, needs faith just as much as fear and needs solid mental health just as much as physical health.”

Camila Mennitte Pereyra ’18, bachelor’s degree in music

Camila Mennitte Pereyra

Camila Mennitte Pereyra

Mennitte Pereyra is a freelance drummer and composer based in Chicago, far from where she was born and raised in Argentina. She attended UW-Eau Claire on a full scholarship to study music.

Mennitte Pereyra faced tremendous culture shock when she arrived on campus, trying to overcome a language barrier and adjust to the U.S. collegiate academic system, which was much different than in Argentina. She had studied music for several years before her arrival at UW-Eau Claire and was well rounded in popular and folkloric art forms such as jazz and blues, but was not necessarily taught in academic settings.

To succeed at UW-Eau Claire, Mennitte Pereyra had to quickly learn how to play in a concert band and orchestra while taking classes in a secondary language she still was learning.

“Cami prospered by pulling out her endless work ethic and unstoppable attitude,” says Robert Baca, UW-Eau Claire’s director of jazz studies.

Mennitte Pereyra was the drummer in UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz Ensemble I, the top jazz band, when the ensemble won back-to-back DownBeat magazine awards in 2017 and 2018. Baca says that “no question, she had a lot to do with it.”

At UW-Eau Claire, she was awarded two research grants, including one under the direction of Lee Anna Rasar, professor of music education, to study South American music from the African diaspora and its potential therapeutic benefits for juvenile detainees. Her second grant was with Dr. Ryan Jones, professor of music history, who mentored her in studying primary sources in the pre-feminist music era.

“Teaching under professor Rasar’s tutelage and to juvenile detainees was, and will be, one of the greatest highlights of my career,” Mennitte Pereyra says.

After her UW-Eau Claire graduation, Mennitte Pereyra received a master’s degree in jazz studies at Indiana University. Now living in Chicago, she performs extensively in local jazz clubs. Her most recent performance highlight was playing at the Chicago Jazz Fest in August.

Mennitte Pereyra’s recent accomplishments include being the recipient of the Jazz Links Fellowship granted by the Jazz Institute of Chicago in 2021 and being a finalist for the Luminarts Jazz Fellowship Competition in 2022.

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 award recipient and UW-Eau Claire.

Paul Smith ’85, bachelor’s degree in accounting

Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Smith admits that when he enrolled at UW-Eau Claire, his primary focus was being a member of the Blugold swim team.

“I came to UW-Eau Claire to swim,” Smith says, “but I left with so much more. I met my wife of now 34 years, and the knowledge to pursue a career I’ve loved with all the skills to be successful in the world.”

Smith found success in the pool and the classroom. He was an All-American swimmer and a team captain. He graduated summa cum laude with an accounting major, passed his CPA exam on the first attempt and says he built “the technical skills that were foundational to my career.”

“Both academically and through athletics, UWEC positioned me with the skills and leaderships traits that enables my success in life,” Smith says.

After a brief career at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) Smith has worked at State Farm Insurance since 1988 in a variety of finance and operational positions. Today, he is executive vice president and chief operating officer for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Cos., the 42nd largest company in the Fortune 500 with $80 billion in revenue. Smith has responsibility for all product lines along with digital technology.

Smith hopes this year’s UW-Eau Claire graduates build on the learning and connections they’ve made in college to make a difference in the world.

“I wish for all the graduates that they use the skills developed at UWEC to build their communities and move the world forward,” Smith adds. “If you nurture the friendships, they will last your lifetime and bring you great joy when you sometimes need it the most.”

Lifetime Excellence Award

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 their enthusiastic dedication to service and living their lives as a testimony to UW-Eau Claire’s motto, “Excellence.”

Dale Peters ’83, bachelor’s degree in speech

Dale Peters

Dale Peters

Peters retired in 2020 after more than 30 years working for the city of Eau Claire in a variety of capacities — risk manager, human resources director and finally as city manager. Peters postponed his planned retirement by several months to continue leading the city of Eau Claire during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Dale Peters exemplifies all the qualities of a servant leader,” says David Solberg, engineering director and Eau Claire city engineer. “Through his kind and dedicated leadership, a culture was created in the city of Eau Claire organization that endures and fosters future leaders. I’m proud to have been able to work for Dale; he is the type of manager I strive to become. He’s simply a very good human.”

Peters appreciates his diverse UW-Eau Claire educational experiences in the classroom and in outside activities.

“An outstanding, well-rounded liberal arts degree was, without question, the most valuable experience I received at UWEC,” Peters says. “The knowledge and exposure to literature, history, communications, science and comparative religions has served me well. UW-Eau Claire gave me a thirst for learning and taught me the value of research and reasoning.”

Peters recalls that as a UW-Eau Claire student, he was a lighting designer for many theater productions on campus. He is proud that after his years with the city, Eau Claire now has three bridges, a retaining wall, city hall and a plaza all with decorative outdoor lights. Most of the lighting is controlled by one server with future UW-Eau Claire theater students able to program the lighting.

“The link back to UWEC students is personal and special for me,” Peters says.