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Michael R. Lovell

Celebrating alumni and their educators
UWM Report, December 2013

There are few more satisfying experiences for an educator, I believe, than seeing the product of your work. In recent weeks I’ve had the opportunity to see results of the work done by UWM faculty and staff over the past several decades in the form of our alumni.

For the November Alumni Awards Evening hosted by our Alumni Association, I met or was reintroduced to several terrific individuals. (You can read about all the 2013 award winners elsewhere in this issue.)

Though he holds the high status of current U.S. ambassador to Iceland, Luis Arreaga very well may be the most humble person I’ve ever met. He could not say enough about the opportunities that have opened up to him during a long career with the U.S. State Department thanks to the education he received at the undergraduate and graduate levels here at UWM.

Jim Rygiel, winner of three Academy Awards, comes across as anything but someone influenced by Hollywood. He is as down to earth as you could imagine, and spoke of his experiences with helping revolutionize digital filmmaking with a sense of genuine wonder.

It’s hard to imagine a person more committed to helping UWM than Jill Pelisek. Her commitment goes far beyond her work with the Lubar School of Business. She is such an advocate for our university in so many different forums and so very deserving of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Nicholas Contorno – who used his music education degrees from UWM to contribute to the musical development of students at Marquette University, Glendale Public Schools, Dominican High School and Kettle Moraine High School – is a wonderful example of the breadth of influence one person can have on the generations that follow.

Among the individuals who received GOLD Awards for their accomplishments in the first 10 years following earning their degree from UWM, I was especially impressed by College of Nursing alum Joseph Braun. He is now a Brown University assistant professor whose research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is helping us better understand the influence of common chemical compounds like BPA on children’s brain development and growth.

At a second event in November, the Chancellor’s Innovation Award Luncheon, recipient and alumnus Beth Pritchard shared with our audience fascinating insights from spending most of her career thinking outside the traditional box. She showed that appropriately breaking rules can result in leadership positions with organizations like Bath & Body Works, The White Barn Candle Company and Victoria’s Secret.

Finally, at a regional alumni event held in New York City this semester, I met Lorin Radtke, a partner at Goldman Sachs. Since earning a bachelor’s degree from UWM in 1990, Lorin has made steady progress in his career, which started in Chicago, moved to London and now has him in New York.

Radtke is one of the most entrepreneurial individuals I’ve ever met, and has incredible business acumen. Much of the UWM community will get to know him better later this month, when he delivers the commencement address at our Dec. 15 Winter Commencement Ceremony.

To everyone who had a hand in the education of Luis, Jim, Jill, Nicholas, Joseph, Beth and Lorin, you have my deepest appreciation. My experiences with these individuals have been heartwarming and inspiring, and I am full of pride for the accomplishments of these Panthers and for the UWM educators who got them started or continued to support their progress.


Michael R. Lovell