For nearly 130 years, University of Wisconsin-Stout has educated tens of thousands of students to help advance their lives and the state and world around them.
When the university recently focused on its own efforts to move forward, many of those former students and others who have benefited from higher education responded enthusiastically.
Grateful alumni, along with business and industry partners, employees and stakeholders stepped up to make the Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign a resounding success.
The Stout University Foundation campaign, the largest in school history, raised $48.5 million. That far surpassed the initial goal of $35 million. The campaign ended June 30.
The Foundation works directly with the university to provide essential funding beyond what is received from the state and through tuition and other revenue. The campaign focused on three “pathways” — Student Experience, Learning Environments and Program Innovation.
“I am proud of how our campus and our partners came together to make this campaign so successful,” said Chancellor Katherine Frank. “Thank you to everyone who contributed their time, knowledge and financial resources. Because of you, we are making UW-Stout stronger for future generations.”
Frank said that the financial commitments and donations “will have both an immediate and long-term impact on our students, faculty and staff.”
Hear more from Frank in a video that recaps the campaign.
Pathways Forward included at least six donations or commitments of $1 million or more, including a record $4 million estate gift from alumnus Dallas Pankowski and his wife, Edye, of Plover.
Along with the major donations, hundreds of other individuals helped push the campaign well beyond its goal.
The goal of each pathway was exceeded:
- Student Experience, $22,049,539 of $15 million goal
- Learning Environments, $12,100,621 of $12 million goal
- Program Innovation, $14,401,632 of $8 million goal
The Learning Environments pathway, for example, raised $6.2 million to improve classrooms and labs. Another $5.8 million will support buildings and facilities.
Pathways Forward was publicly announced in 2018 under Chancellor Emeritus Bob Meyer.
“I wanted to thank all those involved in the planning and execution that made the Pathways Forward campaign a success,” said Willie Johnson, vice chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations. “It was truly a campus effort, along with the support of both the Stout University Foundation and Alumni Board of Directors and the dedicated hard work of the advancement staff. The success of this campaign lays the foundation for future campaigns and fundraising initiatives.”
The campaign was led by steering committee co-chairs Debbie Cervenka and Joe Rossmeier and included Foundation Board President Kim Polzin.
"It has been a true honor to be involved in the Pathways Forward Campaign at UW-Stout,” Cervenka said. “The overwhelming success of the campaign will help to ensure that Stout students continue to receive the very best educational experience. Stout alumni and supporters have also made possible increased scholarships, professional enrichment for professors and program enhancement at the university."
Rossmeier, a 1965 graduate, said the campaign “was an exceedingly well-planned effort that produced results well beyond the initial target. Much credit needs to be given to the Foundation staff for their endurance in accomplishing all the essential tasks of this campaign. The results will be conveyed to the university for very specific targeted goals related to improving the student lifecycle experience.”
Polzin, a 1978 graduate, thanked everyone who contributed financially and otherwise.
“Each contribution — from a couple of dollars a month to much larger estate bequests — makes a difference in the lives of students and our beloved UW-Stout,” Polzin said. “Coming in the midst of increasing costs and reduced public funding for education, the success of Pathways Forward lays the groundwork for UW-Stout to continue its work as the region’s pre-eminent polytechnic university.
“How great – Stout graduates can continue to enter the regional and national workforce ready to contribute, thanks to relevant majors, up-to-date laboratories and innovative instruction,” Polzin added.
Stepping up for UW-Stout
Many of the major donations were from alumni, but they included $2.36 million from the Menard family, owners of a chain of Midwest home improvement stores, for the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation.
Other business- and industry-related gifts included Dell EMC, Gordon Flesch Co., Great Northern Corp. and Phillips Medisize.
The Pankowskis have strong connections to UW-Stout. Dallas Pankowski, a Milwaukee native, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1960 and 1961. Edye Pankowski grew up in Menomonie. They own and operate Pankowski Associates, a real estate construction management company in the Stevens Point area.
“What did Stout do for me? A lot. It’s the right thing to do,” Dallas said of their $4 million estate commitment.
Another major commitment was from Cervenka and her late husband, Robert, for $2.5 million to establish the Robert F. Cervenka School of Engineering. They founded Phillips Plastics, now Phillips-Medisize.
Joe and Tina Pregont, Becky Cranston and Mary Ross Denison each donated $1 million.
“It brings me a lot of pleasure to be able to come back here and be part of helping pay forward what the university needs to do to improve themselves and be better,” said Joe Pregont, a 1981 graduate who is president and CEO of Prent Corp. in Janesville.
Half of the Pregonts’ gift established the Prent Packaging Laboratories.
Cranston, a 1964 graduate, said her gift to support dietetics faculty honored “the program and the teachers and the success I’ve had. Without faculty you don’t have much of a program.” She also has supported UW-Stout’s new master’s program in nutrition and dietetics.
Ross Denison’s $1 million gift will help build a proposed new Child and Family Study Center. She also has made an estate gift commitment. “This is a fine university, and we should have a premier early childhood center,” said Ross Denison, a 1970 graduate.
Pathways Forward helped establish 130 new scholarships valued at $3.8 million, increasing the total to 335 offered by the Foundation. This fall, 394 students received more than $870,000 in scholarships.
One of those scholarships was created by alumni Don and Donna Landsverk, of White Bear Lake, Minn., who graduated in 1952.
“We can’t say enough for the school. If we had to do it all over again, we would,” Don Landsverk said.