Photo caption: The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association will honor four alumni and friends of the university on Sunday, Oct. 9. (Photo by Shane Opatz)
Four alumni and friends of the university will be honored by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association on Sunday, Oct. 9, as part of Homecoming activities.
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.
William “Chops” Hancock
Hancock is a seventh-generation Floridian and citrus grower who left the Florida sun for Minnesota and now Wisconsin. With his banking, development and real estate expertise, he has been an invaluable member of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and Blugold Real Estate Foundation boards.
Hancock has provided leadership in the Foundation’s various real estate projects, including Pablo Center at the Confluence and County Materials Complex projects. Hancock relocated to Eau Claire permanently to provide on-the-ground support for the construction of the Sonnentag Event Center and John and Carolyn Sonnentag Fieldhouse. He also was involved in the Haymarket Landing and Aspenson Mogensen Hall projects.
A graduate of Valdosta State University and Winona State University, Hancock and his wife, Diana, support nursing and photography scholarships through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. They are members of the 1916 Society in the Foundation’s Circle of Excellence.
Hancock, who is known as the “mayor” of Haymarket Landing where he and Diana live, is retired and says his work with the Foundation and its projects are a good way to lead by example.
“I have lived life with one simple belief: Do something every day for someone else, however great or small, other than yourself and expect nothing in return,” Hancock says. “It keeps me focused.”
The President’s Award recognizes outstanding professional or personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.
Dr. Jason Slaikeu ’98, bachelor’s degree in biology
Slaikeu, a vascular surgeon who also leads the orthopedic service line at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, graduated with honors from UW-Eau Claire before earning his medical degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He later earned an MBA from Grand Valley State University.
Slaikeu is vice president and department chief of orthopedic health, rheumatology and acute care surgery, with a dual role of vice president of medical affairs for more than 2,000 providers within Spectrum Health Medical Group. Under Slaikeu’s leadership, Spectrum Health will break ground in fall 2022 on a 117,000-square-foot orthopedic health and performance center.
Slaikeu was an outstanding athlete at UW-Eau Claire and is a member of the Blugold Hall of Fame. At UW-Eau Claire, Slaikeu was a two-time national champion and four-time conference champion in the high jump. His school record in the outdoor high jump of 7 feet, 1½ inches, set in 1996, still stands. He is the only three-time Academic All-American in school history.
“It is important to seek out mentorship, particularly from those you greatly respect,” Slaikeu says. “Embrace opportunities that push you outside your comfort zone and create more value than what is expected of you.”
Libby Christensen ’04, bachelor’s degree in computer science
Christensen, principal program manager at Sumo Logic, enjoys bringing together technical professionals to create great products. She started her career as a developer before moving across the country for an opportunity at a Seattle startup company. As the startup grew, so did Christensen’s skills and confidence as a woman in tech, and she is passionate about helping other women find themselves in the tech world.
Dr. Jack Tan, a professor of computer science at UW-Eau Claire, calls Christensen “the definitive authority in her field of expertise,” who is widely sought after for conferences, forums and task-force activities.
“Her greatest strength is her indomitable spirit in all aspects of her life,” Tan says. “Never one to admit defeat in the face of any impossible task, her determined doggedness has propelled her to the apex of her field. Her compassion and empathy for the underdog, unfortunate or the helpless is what makes her a citizen of humanity.”
Christensen offers the following advice to today’s students:
“You are in charge of your career and future,” she says. “After a year in a new job, set up time with seven people in different roles and take them out for coffee. Get to understand what they do, what their challenges are and what they like in their role. Not only are you building your network, but you might also just find your next career opportunity.”
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.
Eugene Jenneman ’71, bachelor’s degree in physical sciences
Jenneman, who grew up on a dairy farm near Bloomer, worked part time while a UW-Eau Claire student in the university planetarium for Dr. Robert Elliott, professor of astronomy. He credits Elliott, who retired in 1996 and passed away earlier this year, for helping him secure his first museum job out of college at the Jesse Besser Museum in Alpena, Michigan. Elliott purchased a plane ticket for Jenneman and arranged the interview before telling the new graduate about the job opening running the planetarium in Alpena.
“This put me in the museum world instead of the teaching world and sent me on my way to world travel as part of my work,” Jenneman says.
Jenneman worked in only three jobs in his career, including in Traverse City, Michigan, helping to design and build the Dennos Museum Center. He was the museum’s founding executive director who oversaw the design, construction and opening of the fine arts museum in 1991. He retired after nearly 30 years at the center.
In recognition of his mentor, Jenneman established the Eugene Jenneman Award in honor of Robert C. Elliott to provide financial support for a student pursuing an international educational experience. Jenneman, who has visited 38 countries with a goal of 50, says his international travels had a profound impact on his understanding of the world and its people.
Jenneman advises today’s UW-Eau Claire students to “work hard, maintain your integrity and respect the achievements of others. Give credit where credit is due and be modest in accepting it.”
“Realize the reason you go to university is not just about the major,” Jenneman says. “You go to ‘learn how to learn’ at the level you need to be successful both in your career and in your personal life. Now more than ever, the knowledge of today can be outdated tomorrow. Never stop learning.”