Recollections: The University of Wisconsin yesterday and today
By Thom Gerretsen
Like a number of us, the University of Wisconsin is what first brought me to our state. I enrolled at UW-Whitewater in 1970, where I gradually lost interest in teaching business education. I instead learned the inner workings of our campus radio station, and it became the springboard for my long journalism career in Marshfield.
Whitewater only had about 11,000 residents at the time, and the university had its imprint everywhere in town. So when I moved to Marshfield in 1978, I naturally had an interest in the city’s two-year UW branch. I soon discovered that the relatively small UW-Marshfield/Wood County has big-city cultural offerings which – among other things – are necessary to attract and keep Marshfield Clinic’s top-quality medical personnel.
On July 1, the state’s 13 two-year colleges lost their central administration in Madison, and they became governed by four-year UW campuses in their respective regions. The change has been in the works for about a year and a half. New signs were unveiled in September for what’s now called UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield. UWSP also runs the Marathon County college in Wausau.
Most of what I’ve heard tells me that the change will be good. It has already produced a new partnership in which UWSP is working with the clinic to create new and expanded health care education; that includes a doctorate program in physical therapy, which is great news for this tired old body of mine! Also, the new Everett Roehl STEM – science, technology, engineering, math – center offers opportunities in fields for which the public demand grows by the day.
I know enough people who have graduated and worked at UWSP to have been very impressed with that school over the years. But the new “mother ship” has financial issues. They’ve spent months looking at cutting majors and programs, and a final plan is due out this month. I just hope this doesn’t create rough waves for Marshfield from the get-go. I feel so much a part of this school, even though I’ve never taken a class in my 40 plus years of living here.
The community outreach is nothing short of amazing, with great educators and terrific people. I’ve served as a Kiwanis officer with retired professor Jim Alexander. I sing in our church choir with campus music director Richard Brunson as our conductor — and it has given me great opportunities to sing three times with the school’s concert choir and community symphony. I’ve seen my son Bryan perform in plays under retired UW theater director, Greg Rindfleisch. And when I was in radio, I spent so much time with UW professor, Jeff Kleiman that I sometimes felt he was part of our staff!
Arts are often the first things to be examined when budget cuts are made. I cannot imagine how that would hurt this community. Many residents have shown us their talents. And when you see a play or a concert performed by people you know, it adds such a rich dimension.
Marshfield’s UW campus has done so much to add culture to my life. To me, it’s something that this very special community can ill afford to lose – not even one bit.