Ron Winkler; Featured Alumni
Ron Winkler, 61, is a native Bay Viewite who graduated from Bay View High School in 1968. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1973. He received a Master’s Degree in Geology from UWM in 1984. He was on the UWM track and cross country teams from 1969 to 1973 and was captain of the cross country team. He continued to run after college and began race walking in 1993. He has competed in national and international competition and holds the Wisconsin Senior Olympics 1500 meter race walk records in the 50-54 and 55-59 age groups.
He worked at an environmental consulting firm in Racine and then at Aldrich Chemical for 22 years in the production department before retiring in 2011.
He took a tour guide training course from Historic Milwaukee, Incorporated and has led that organization’s tours of Bay View, Walker’s Point and the North Point neighborhoods. He had a leading role in Historic Milwaukee’s 2007 Spaces and Traces tour of Bay View.
He has written articles for Historic Milwaukee’s newsletter ECHO, the Bay View community’s newspaper Bay View Compass. He is a columnist for the Bay View Historical Society’s newsletter Bay View Historian and the Badgerland Striders’ newsletter The Strider..
His book Bay View was published on December 5, 2011 by Arcadia Press in its Images of America series.
He is historian for the Bay View Historical Society, Unity Lutheran Church in Bay View, and the Badgerland Striders running club.
He has researched a series of nine walking tours of Bay View and leads an annual walking tour of Bay View for the Bay View Historical Society. He was the society’s volunteer of the year in 2004. He has given lectures and slide shows about Bay View to various organizations.
He is a member of the Bay View Historical Society, Bay View High School Alumni Association, St. Francis Historical Society, Milwaukee County Historical Society, and Historic Milwaukee, Incorporated.
He enjoys reading, hiking, biking, traveling, history and music.
- What is your hometown?
- Where do you reside now?
- What degree(s)did you obtain from UWM and when?
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1973, Master’s Degree in Geology (Geochemistry) in 1984.
- What was your field of interest in Geology at UWM?
My thesis was titled Radionuclide Geochronology in Beaver Lake, Wisconsin. It was a successful attempt to age-date aquatic ediments using radioactive elements. My advisor was Dr. Bruce Brown.
- What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your degree?
I lived in Milwaukee and was interested in traveling and hiking.
- What did you enjoy most about the department, UWM, and Milwaukee?
My most satisfying experience was as a teaching assistant. It was fun giving presentations to students and it helped me to better learn some things that I didn’t initially understand. It was good experience in public speaking, which I do a lot of today.
- What is your current job (or field of study) and how would you describe it to one of our current students (e.g. what do you do, how rewarding is it)?
My first job after graduation was at an environmental consulting firm in Racine. I was the laboratory coordinator and supervised a staff of five chemists and lab technicians. The job involved sampling waste, wastewater and groundwater for laboratory analysis. My next job was at Aldrich Chemical where I worked for 22 years as a chemist in the production department before retiring in 2011. I produced organic chemicals in vessels ranging in size from one liter to 1000 gallons. Running quality control tests on those chemicals was part of the job.
- Why did you choose this career?
I was planning on a career in petroleum geology, but that market fell apart shortly before I graduated. A friend of mine was vice-president of an environmental consulting firm in Racine and hired me.
- What's been your best experience in geology (or your career) so far?
A complaint from many students is that what they learn in the classroom is not relevant to everyday life. I disagree, because the most beneficial aspect of my geology education has been how I have used the general knowledge from my education.
My wife and I travel and also hike. It’s great being able to understand the different forces that created the landforms and beautiful scenery that we experience. In addition, it’s satisfying knowing how and why things occur in today’s world such as earthquakes and volcanoes.
Another example is being able to understand the recent bluff collapse in Oak Creek on the We Energies property. That collapse was a “living example” of what was described in the classroom by “aquadoc” (Dr. Cherkauer) twenty years ago and again in 2011 during his interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- In your career, have you gotten the opportunity to travel or to work with people as part of your job?
My job as a chemist was in a three-shift operation. We had a half-hour overlap between shifts for shift change. Communication between shifts was essential so that the status of each project could be clearly communicated to the incoming shift. The communication was both written and verbal. At times there was a failure in this communication, sometimes with drastic consequences. Sometimes it was the fault of the incoming shift and at other times it was the fault of the outgoing shift. People were disciplined.
- What trait or thing(s) that you learned while in Geosciences at UWM has allowed you to succeed in your career?
In today’s changing-world it’s difficult to know what jobs will be available upon graduation or how long you’ll be able to keep your current job. While you’re young, be willing to follow the sun, wherever it leads.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to our current students about their education or in selecting a career once they graduate?
Be creative in all aspects of your life. You never know when your education will help you outside of your professional life. One of the toughest classes that I took was a graduate course titled Pleistocene Geology that was taught by Dr. Cherkauer and department chair Norm Lasca.
The geology was not the problem. It was the English class that Dr. Lasca sneaked into the course. We had to write a term paper, which was no easy task with an English language purist like Dr. Lasca. By the end, I had learned a lot about effective communication, both written and verbal, which has helped me in all aspects of my life.
It’s been most valuable in my writing for various publications and in the speaking that I have done in my many volunteer activities. I would not have been able to publish my book (Bay View by Arcadia Press) without the skills that I learned from Dr. Lasca.
My education has also been valuable in traveling the world with my wife as I can appreciate both the scenery and the geologic forces that created the scenery.
- What is/was the hardest thing that you had to do in your career?
I was disappointed that I did not get a job in geology, but I was not alone. Others in my class had to take jobs in other fields. In the end, I was pleased with how things worked out. My job as a chemist made use of my science and math background.