Photo caption: The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association presents awards to alumni and friends in connection with the spring and fall commencement ceremonies.
Nine alumni and friends of the university will receive University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association awards on Friday, May 20.
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.
Dr. Brady Foust and Jeanne Foust will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award; Brady also will be the commencement speaker at the May 21 ceremonies.
Dr. Brady Foust spent 38 years at UW-Eau Claire and was the longtime chair of the geography department. Hundreds of his former students have jobs in geographic information systems (GIS).
Calling himself a “serial entrepreneur,” Brady founded four companies including one company that allowed he and his wife to make philanthropic contributions to UW-Eau Claire and the Eau Claire community.
Foust has simple advice for UW-Eau Claire’s newest graduates: Show up on time, work more than the rules require and learn something new every day.
Jeanne Foust had a 35-year career in the GIS field, where, she says, “the world of technology and geography come together to address some of society’s thorniest issues.” She worked at Esri, the world’s leading GIS software producer, and worked with national mapping agencies around the world.
The President’s Award, given to three Blugolds this year, recognizes outstanding professional or personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.
Dr. Russel Mikkelson ’83, bachelor’s degree in music education
Mikkelson is a professor of music and has been director of bands at The Ohio State University for the past 24 years.
After graduating from UW-Eau Claire, Mikkelson spent seven years as a high school band director before embarking on his career in higher education. He was an assistant professor of music and director of bands at the State University of New York at Fredonia before becoming the sixth director of bands at The Ohio State University.
As a trumpeter, Mikkelson has played shows with many artists and entertainers, including The Four Tops, Bobby Vinton, Marie Osmond, Jay Leno and Bob Newhart.
Mikkelson credits UW-Eau Claire with providing “an invaluable preparation for my future.”
“I have been a performing trumpeter; a conductor of concert band, orchestra, opera and musical theater; a scholar/educator advising doctoral dissertations and publishing my own articles, in addition to serving as the leader of one of the largest and most distinguished band programs in the nation,” Mikkelson says. “I am extraordinarily proud to say that the development of my professional skills were fostered and nurtured at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.”
Dr. Jennifer Rogalsky ’94, bachelor’s degree in geography and resource management
Rogalsky is an associate professor and former chair of the department of geography and sustainability studies and an affiliated faculty member in the Black and Africana studies program at the State University of New York in Geneseo.
Rogalsky teaches several urban geography and regional geography courses. She has been teaching, researching and developing academic programming in Ghana, West Africa, since 2008. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana.
She has conducted research on U.S. welfare reform policy and public transportation, urban education in American cities and gentrification without displacement.
Rogalsky advises new graduates to have confidence in themselves and their abilities, and to not be afraid to strive for the next level.
“Take a chance and apply for that internship or job even if it seems like a reach. Present that paper at a conference even if you are afraid of public speaking. Make that move across the country for graduate school even if you’ve never lived outside of Wisconsin,” Rogalsky says. “Know that your professors and your education at UWEC have prepared you very well for these challenges, and you should be confident in your ability to succeed.”
Laura Talley ’86, bachelor’s degree in business administration
Talley recently retired as the market president of BMO Harris Bank and is now doing consulting and board work with companies in western Wisconsin.
Talley says UW-Eau Claire’s College of Business prepared her well for a career in finance and in obtaining her MBA.
“As a banker, I could clearly see that UWEC was a driver of economic progress in the region and never more so than the past 10 years,” Talley says. “UWEC’s economic contributions to the region impacts both companies and individuals in so many ways and helps drive the growth and quality of life for all.”
Talley’s favorite saying is, “We don’t know what we don’t know,” and she says people should keep that in mind throughout life.
“My advice to new graduates would be to take every opportunity that you can to continue to learn from others because many times we will be surprised at what we didn’t know or a perspective we didn’t consider,” Talley says. “Diverse perspectives will not only lead to better decisions but also a more interesting work life.”
Lifetime Excellence Award
The Lifetime Excellence Award, given to four Blugolds this year, 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.”
Mark Cosby ’81, bachelor’s degree in business administration
Cosby had a 40-year retail and consumer product career where he most recently was the CEO of Michaels Stores. Prior to Michaels, Cosby was a leader for many large retailers, including serving as president of Office Depot, CVS Pharmacy, Macy’s and Sears, and CEO of KFC.
Cosby credits his time at UW-Eau Claire with providing him a chance to grow up in a caring environment and with the broad business background that he leveraged throughout his career.
His guidance to new graduates is summed it up in the line he used to close many of his corporate communications: "Set high expectations, consistently follow up, recognize the wins along the way and have fun every day."
Cosby suggests it is important to have aspirations, but says not to be afraid to take on broadening experiences as long as they are consistent with your long-term goals.
Timothy H. Murphy ’76, bachelor’s degree in business
Murphy spent the majority of his business career with American Express, where he was instrumental in growing the company’s business-to-business capabilities from a startup division to a global expense management powerhouse. As a testament to his contributions as a sales leader, Murphy received American Express’ highest level of recognition: induction into their Worldwide Hall of Fame.
Though he distinguished himself throughout his days at American Express, perhaps it is his “Act II” that is most noteworthy. Murphy has demonstrated remarkable resilience by flourishing in the face of adversity. After retirement, Murphy was struck by a rare neurological disorder that has affected his balance and mobility. So, he traded in his golf clubs and bike for a camera and cane, and immersed himself in his old hobby of photography. As of today, Murphy has published seven photography books, had his artwork exhibited in multiple shows, taught photography classes, donated artwork and raised funds for over a dozen charities.
“We live in a world where we always strive for more, fueled by social media and other influences,” Murphy says. “My advice: Take stock of what you have and who you have around you and never take them for granted. One more thing — choose your battles wisely. The common thread is putting things in perspective. And that took me years.”
Michael O’Meara ’72, bachelor’s degree
O’Meara was a UW-Eau Claire student when he and his business partner Pat Stoffers started the travel company Holiday Vacations Inc., specializing in group motor coach tours. He purchased Peoples Bank Midwest in 1990, opened a bank in Eau Claire in 1996 and another in the Twin Cities in 2007.
O’Meara was involved in many regional organizations, as well as being a member of the board of directors of National Presto Industries and a board member of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.
“I had a very rewarding and enjoyable business career over the past 50 years,” O’Meara says. “My time growing up at UWEC was a critically important part of my life. Leaving the farm to attend college in Eau Claire, where I had no idea of what the future would hold, was a big step for me. The gentle, caring guidance from faculty and staff perfectly set the stage for my business and personal future.”
O’Meara recommends that new graduates try to embrace positive behaviors of the people they admire and stay close to family and friends.
Michael Rindo ’78, bachelor’s degree in speech (communication studies)
Rindo worked at UW-Eau Claire for nearly 20 years, retiring in 2020 as assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations.
Before coming to UW-Eau Claire, Rindo had a nearly 25-year career in broadcast journalism and newsroom management, including at television stations in Eau Claire, as well as Rochester, New York, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Rindo arrived at UW-Eau Claire in 2001 as executive director of communications. As his duties grew to include government and community relations, he was named special assistant to the chancellor with added responsibilities for facilities planning. He was assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations from 2013 until his retirement.
During his tenure as assistant chancellor, Rindo led efforts to modernize the UW-Eau Claire campus through planning and construction of multiple major projects: the new W.R. Davies Student Center, Centennial Hall, Garfield Avenue pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare, Haymarket Landing, Aspenson Mogensen Hall, The Suites, Karlgaard Towers renovation, Children’s Nature Academy at The Priory, Flesch Family Welcome Center, Pablo Center at the Confluence, the soon-to-be constructed County Materials Complex and the new Science and Health Sciences Building.
“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.
Rindo offered three pieces of advice to Blugold graduates: Be open to opportunities, be true to yourself and be adventurous.
In addition to the alumni awards, Dr. CP Liu will be recognized as the second UW-Eau Claire graduate to receive an honorary doctorate from the university. Liu will receive an honorary doctorate of science for his work founding and supporting companies focused on curing disease and improving lives.