Alumni award honorees share words of advice for new grads

This fall's UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association honorees have done a few things right since earning their degrees from UW-Eau Claire. They are award winners, after all.

But they didn't achieve their goals without a few missteps here and there, and — this is key — learning from them. Below, for the benefit of UW-Eau Claire's newest graduates, these award-winning Blugolds share some of the wisdom gained from valuable experiences. (Learn more about the alumni award honorees.)

Bert Colianni ’76, bachelor’s degree in accounting, and Suzie Colianni

Bert and Suzie Colianni

Bert and Suzie Colianni

Lifetime Excellence Award

We recommend that no matter what your field of study has been, stay broad and never stop learning. A keen interest in history, other cultures and a sense of place gained through travel is essential to be a fully participating world citizen. Both of us believe strongly in having an insatiable appetite for reading — fiction and nonfiction. Learn to open your eyes, ears and mind to art, architecture, music, philosophy and religion. By staying healthy in mind, body and spirit, we become better citizens and family members.

David Larson ’90, bachelor’s degree in chemistry

David J. Larson

David Larson

President's Award

Always ask questions. There are never any dumb ones. The only dumb thing to do is not raise your hand to ask the question.

Don't worry about failing. Sometimes it is the only way to figure out how to succeed. In college I was terrified of speech class and refused to take it. Now I have given hundreds of seminars and lectures around the world.

You do not have to be the smartest, or the fastest, or the richest, or the prettiest to succeed in this world. In graduate school, my Ph.D. advisor, Tom Kelly, turned me on to a quote by Calvin Coolidge that I have kept on my office wall ever since. A portion of it goes like this: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." I have stuck to this principle for years. Another variant of the concept goes like this: “Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work" (Bette Davis).

Angela Pittman Taylor

Angela Pittman Taylor

Angela Pittman Taylor ’00, bachelor’s degree in public relations

Distinguished Achievement Award

Even if you doubt your ability to make an impact, just begin. Take that first step and keep going. Work hard, know your worth and stay the course. Be open to success taking many different forms and extend yourself some grace.

Erin Klaus ’05, bachelor’s degree in English literature

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

UW-Eau Claire alumna Erin Klaus in her downtown Eau Claire business, Tangled Up In Hue

Erin Klaus

Engage with your community, take initiative and take risks. You are the source of your own destiny, and truly, anything is possible with hard work and commitment. Life is full of challenges and the experience you had UW-Eau Claire has prepared you well for these challenges. However, sometimes life happens and can hit you like a ton of bricks all at once. Never forget what a powerful force you can be, and when you use that force to create positive change in your community, you will be unstoppable.

Be patient with yourself as you work toward your goals and be open and ready for change. Not everything goes as first planned. Navigate and use adversity, hardship and challenges to become better equipped for life and your role in it. Don't ever get stuck thinking in terms of failure. Every closing door is an opportunity to push it back open, find another one, or better yet build a bigger door. In fact, there is plenty of room to build those bigger doors, or your dreams, right here in Eau Claire.

Shawn Everhart ’04, bachelor's degree in marketing and management information systems

Shawn Everhart

Shawn Everhart

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

Ask a lot of questions, network, have a positive attitude, don't take work stress home with you and don't forget about having a work/life balance. Right away you might be intimidated working next to senior people that have years or decades of experience, but you can jump in and immediately contribute even just days out of college, so it's important to have a positive attitude and confidence.

Willie Green

Willie Green

Willie Green

Honorary Alumnus Award

Do not allow fear to stop you from doing anything. Stay focused on your dreams through all the obstacles. Your peer groups and the people you chose to spend your time with will be very important. (One thing I wish I would have known earlier was how important networking and making connections were coming out of college.) Time is your most precious possession; spend it wisely. Lastly, remember that we all go through some sort of loss/pain. The loss of my mom was hard, and I was able to turn my pain into passion.