Stefan Pung: My name is Stefan Pung I am here with
Jim Rath: Jim Rath
SP: We are at the alumni welcome center on April 26th at 10:17 AM and we arehere for the Campus Stories Oral History Project. Good morning Jim.
JR: Morning Stefan.
SP: So tell me about where you grew up?
JR: I grew up in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Graduated High school back in 1970.
SP: Tell me about the community you grew up in?
JR: At the time Two Rivers was a city of about 12,000 people. I was in highschool with a great influx of contractors who came in as they were building the two nuclear plants in Kewaunee and two creeks. It was a small manufacturing city and at the time we had Hamilton Industry, [Mereow?], an aluminum plant in 1:00paragon electrical timer type company were probably the three major employers of the city. Along with the neighboring community of Manitowoc and Manitowoc company, they made grains, refrigerators, and etc.
SP: So then what did your parents do for work? Or the people around there do for work?
JR: In that era, my mother was a homemaker and raised my three brothers and twosisters. My father, when I was born, he was an accountant for [Collin Burrow?] Manufacturer. After that he became the clerk treasurer and eventually became, after I graduated high school, city manager of Two Rivers.
SP: So did your parents value or emphasize education at all?
JR: I would say definitely yes. Neither one had a college education but both2:00were very good students in high school, it was just a different era. Although they didn't force any of us to go to college they encouraged us. My older brother, mike who is buried out in Arlington Cemetery, he was a graduate of UW (University of Wisconsin). Three of my siblings and I all graduated from UW Oshkosh, and my remaining sibling did not. He went to North Michigan Tech and wound up getting into the welding trade.
SP: So how many siblings of there are you and where are you in that order?
JR: There was six of us, and I was the fifth of six.
SP: So a bigger family, so was that the normal size at that time?
JR: A good catholic family at that time, absolutely.
SP: So did you guys move at all? Or did you stay in the same place?
JR: (laughs) Interesting question, no. My parents, before I was born, had moved3:00from the south side of Two Rivers to the central city, so to speak. They owned that house till they passed away.
SP: Now do you think that the values imparted on you, did you impart them onyour future kids as well?
JR: I'm not sure I did as well as they did (laughs). As a kid growing up, youalways thought you'd do things differently. My wife and I both chuckle about that on occasion, things we'd swore we would never do we do. I think my folks had very high standards, ethical, and moral values. I feel fortunate to have grown up under their rules and regulations, no matter how I felt about them at 4:00the time.
SP: What kind of values were those?
JR: I think honesty, integrity, moral character, do what's right, and work hardfor what you get.
SP: Now describe what it was like growing up in your house.
JR: it was, by today's standards, a very small house. I was in kindergarten whenmy oldest brother was a senior in high school, and I have a younger sister who was born seven years after me. For the most part, it was a three bedroom house, 5:00so you were sharing bedrooms. The Saturday night bath was huge back then (chuckles). Growing up in the house it was crowded. I have four sons and I don't think they've ever had a steady lunch, supper, or breakfast. But at that house you would be at the kitchen table at noon, not at 12:01 but noon, it's kinda like Lombardi
time (chuckles). Supper was at 5:00 PM, you better not miss that, it wassomewhat regimented. It was good, I think it was pretty stereotypical. When 6:00Archie Bunker TV show came out it was kinda like a lot what we saw when growing up. So I think that was Americana at the time.
SP: What was the neighborhood that you grew up in like?
JR: Grew up in the central city of a manufacturing town. You had playmates andfriends in the back yard and across the street, we could play ball in the street. I had a fire station a block and a half away from my house, so you got to observe the world flying by in relatively decent clip. It was a fun 7:00neighborhood to grow up in. I was there when the street lights went on you were supposed to go home, it was just a fun time. Some people, you wonder where they went, others I still see on frequent trips back to my home town.
SP: And how has your home town changed over the years?
JR: I'm proud to call it my home town but it's sad for me too. The populationhas, sadly, been declining, all those industries I mentioned other than the Manitowoc Company are gone. The only one remaining is [Edgers?] Company, it's a plywood company. That to me is the saddest thing. A friend of mine and I have 8:00created a gold outing for scholarship and we've raised almost $100,000. Talking to superintendent of schools and the free and reduced lunches in that school are over 50%. I love being from there and I'm still proud of my home town but I also feel fortunate that fate, career choices, and my education from UW Oshkosh brought me to other places. As you mentioned, I live across the lake, my wife and I have purchased a place down in Naples, Florida. We have the best of all 9:00worlds, I can go back to my home town any time I want (chuckles).
SP: So what were some of your goals as a young kid?
JR: Excellent question, as a young kid I thought the definition of success, at18 years old, was walking along the shores of Lake Michigan. Have the three bedroom house with an attachment garage. Have a wife, two kids, and a dog. I got the wife, no daughters, but four sons and we've have a couple dogs over time. The career choice, as a kid we really didn't leave our home town very much, so you kinda modeled what you saw. You figured you end up in industry, then when I 10:00first came here I thought I'd like to become a teacher. Then I thought I'd really like to get involved in government, I wound up in utilities. Just last Monday I finished my "political career" as village president of Sherwood across the lake. Fate has a way of dictating things much better than goals and objectives. I look back at the goals I set for myself and I think my dreams, I didn't reach all of them, far exceed what I thought at the age of 18.
SP: Did your parents try and set some goals for you as well?
JR: (chuckles) Yeah, I think they were instrumental in me moving on with my11:00life, and striving to attain certain things. Being a catholic, I think my faith had a lot to do with some of the
achievement. You're given X amount of talents and you're supposed to developthose. That was the encouragement, to achieve.
SP: Growing up, were you interested in going to college? Or into highereducation at all?
JR: Absolutely, I probably got interested, seriously, upon entering high school.12:00At the time, being the a city of 12,000. Oshkosh was probably 40,000 at the time, but there was a big university there, and it seemed huge. Madison seem really far away, and it just seemed like the right place for me to attend. They had this college of education, two of my older siblings and one of my younger siblings were in the field of education. I joke with the dean of education here that it was a blessing that I did not disgrace the college of education by being a teacher. My wife was in that field and shared with me many times how fortunate I was that I didn't go that direction. I wish you luck if you do.
SP: Besides your siblings, did any of your friends go to college here?
JR: yes, and I like that question because, those people remained my friends but13:00I came here and I wanted to meet new people. Most of them wound up in Gruenhagen and I went to Fletcher, it seemed to be convenient. It was pretty scary first day I stepped on campus, by the way. I knew they'd continue to be my friends but it was an opportunity for me to network and make more friends.
SP: What made you choose to go to UW Oshkosh?
JR: I think the fact that it was a regional university had a lot to do with it.We have a UW Manitowoc center that I choose not to go to. Looking back at it, that may have been a financially more prudent decision to spend my freshmen sophomore year there. I choose to come here and probably influenced a lot by a 14:00couple of my siblings already being here. And, it was relatively close that you could get back and forth in a fairly short period of time.
SP: What were your first impressions of UWO?
JR: It was huge (Laughs). Looking back, my first day, it was like "wow" what didI get myself into. First day of classes and everything, they weren't eight hours of classes, you probably had three. I was in Fletcher Hall 129, I get back to my room and you got a little bed, a bolster, and a desk. It was overwhelming at the time, but in a good way. I had a roommate, he was from Madison Wisconsin, ironically he wound up living in Oshkosh. He was from Madison but he lived in 15:00Oshkosh, to this day. It was overwhelming but opportunities, at the time you took little computer cards, 3 X 5 or whatever. You'd look at those cards and you'd have a boat load of classes. You didn't register online like you do today, it was a walk through process and it was, again, overwhelming. And the freshmen, of course, registered last so you were lucky to get what you get.
SP: So tell me a little bit more about your first day.
JR: Met people, and again, I was fortunate my older brother had graduated theyear before because he had been here there were some people, [unclear] we were similar looking. People would say "hey are you Tom's little brother?" "Yes I 16:00am." It gave me instant recognition, they didn't have things like Odyssey back then or anything. [unclear] You had a roommate and the guys across the hall and they became friends. I remember, there was a bunch of guys playing poker, and through high school after I got done with school and athletics we would play cards. 6 till 10, I'm not sure when the studying got done, but we would play cards seven nights a week. I saw that game and I thought if I go join that game I'll never get out of here. I can't prove this, but I think those guys who played, I don't any of them ever graduated (laughs).
SP: So within the first few weeks were you able to get normalized? Or how was17:00that for you?
JR: (laughs) I'm still not normalized. I think I adjusted, I got involved withreeve union. I met a gentlemen that remains a friend of mine today (coughs) Dean [Maidy?], who was an advisor over at reeve union. I got involved in some special events, and public relations stuff, so that was good. Over time I wound up majoring in political science and I got to know professors like Charlie Goff and Zillur Khan, whom I was probably closest to. But at that time I felt that we had a very good political science department. Since I wound up in the utility business it probably could be debatable whether or not I ever used my degree. 18:00Though I do have to say, that after that I got involved in politics so I guess I went full circle at the end of my career and wound up really using political science to my advantage.
SP: And you said you switched majors a couple of times, so what did you go through?
JR: I can't remember how many times (chuckles). No, like I said, I came here andthought I was going become a teacher. Then I decided to go another direction. I thought about business, but I think because of what; my Dad probably influence me there a lot, his involvement in government. At one time I was gonna get a double major in urban regional studies and political science. I was probably three or six credits short from the double major but the direction I was heading I, wanted to complete the degree and move on. So that's what I did. So I started 19:00off, I spent two years in Fletcher hall. Then I was very broke so I left for a year and a half. Came back, started taking night classes after a semester off and would drive back and forth. Then I spent the last two years living in a fraternity house and got deeply involved in the fraternity, actually still am. Also involved in the OSA and Reeve Union, those were the, and the forth thing woulda been the Newman center. They were all, I guess, the four pillars to my life at that stage.
SP: What were your classes like?
JR: I think because I didn't apply myself as well as I should have at the time Istruggled with the math and sciences. I would say the social studies and 20:00political science were areas I did much better in because, I guess, I had more of a passion for that area. After I graduated, I, actually,
came back and took some more business courses. Which I think satisfied me. Youknow, if I had to live my life over again I'd do it differently, but I'm not complaining, just different.
SP: And you said you didn't apply yourself as much, so how would you describeyourself as a student then?
JR: Above C level (laughs), above average, and never deserving of a scholarship.Which would have been kinda fun for me if I tried to establish some scholarships. I think, I was never described with ADD but I sometimes wonder. I had a lot of other interests going on at all times. I explored a lot inside and 21:00outside the classroom.
SP: So, then, did your first semester go?
JR: Again, nothing to write home about. I have two sons who made the Dean'slist, I never made the Dean's list. Other than the one particular Dean and you don't want to be on his or her list (laughs). My first semester was, I think I was just under a B average. I was, at the time, ok with that. Again, knowing what I know today I should have pushed myself a tremendous amount harder than what I did.
SP: Do you remember any of the general ed. classes that you took? And what werethey like?
JR: Yes I do, I enjoyed them the more they pertained to the sociology, etc. etc.22:00Again, I'm a kid, who at that time of my life, experienced Northeastern Wisconsin and the concentric circles once you get out of Manitowoc County weren't very big. Then you have these guys who traveled the world telling about their experiences, and it was eye opening. I guess that's why you have general ed. courses, to learn about everything else going on out there. This was an era 23:00before computers so it was, ya know, the apple watch you only read about that in a Dick Tracey Cartoon. It was a different era, but again, the general courses, at that time, that was a couple years after Black Friday. I remember taking a course in African American literature and I thought it was kinda strange at the time that it was being taught by a caucasian professor and that there are no African Americans in the class. I guess, again, after Black Friday the number went from under 200 to 50. Then over time it was built back up, and with the current administration I expect that to become significant in larger number. 24:00
SP: So Black Friday actually happened two years prior to when you attended.
JR: I think it was 1968 if I'm not mistaken.
SP: So did you notice anything that could have been the direct effect of Black Friday?
JR: I think a direct correlation was, for all practical purposes, again I don'tthink there were more than 50 African Americans on the entire campus. I remember we had, maybe, I bet you
Fletcher hall might had as many as 10. It was a totally different era, I25:00appreciate that my children have had more immersion into other cultures, races, etc. I think it's healthy.
SP: So going back to your classes, which classes do you remember well?
JR: Well in particular, because of my passion for it at the time, CharlieGoff's municipal government course. He was a guy who was very pro city management form of government, and he was actually on the city council and the county board. And after he got off his wife Alberta got on. The man's passion for municipal government, again being a small kid from a small town, it all made sense to me. Zillur Khan came from Bangladesh, he was always very supportive 26:00of me as an undergraduate student, and I appreciated that. Even after college, he would reach out to me, I would always apologize to him for not for not using my political science degree. He'd say, "No it's okay, you're doing all this other stuff." He knew I was with the local utility so it was kinda neat. We had a guy by the name of George James who was the director of local affairs and development down in Madison, and he taught part time up here. Taking a class from him was a pretty powerful experience.
SP: So would you say that any of your professors were influential in your course choice?
JR: On my what choice?
SP: On your course choice? Course of studies?
JR: Oh absolutely, if I could have found ways to take [unclear] Charlie [Gauff?]27:00for more courses. I kinda aligned with him, I would have. [Ziller Khan?] was kind enough to allow me to get some independent studies with him that helped. I appreciate having those guys as resources. Another guy John [Bouillon?] who came in actually gave me a recommendation for a job in the city of Oshkosh. Kinda cool, as I ran my career through public service a lot of the guys I had in regional studies majors I ran into those guys, working for the City of Neenah, City of Oshkosh, Winnebago County, City of Appleton. I never felt bad that I didn't go into the field, I did for three years. I was [unclear] administrator for Manitowoc County, and after those three years I decided I had enough of government, 30 years later I go back into it. I was always appreciative of my 28:00relationship with those guys of what they had going.
SP: So I don't know if you knew this but EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association)has been a big part of our community for a while now, and the first convention that they had here was in 1970. So did you participate that at all? Or did it just blow past ya?
JR: Interesting question, in the 70's, again, I was chapter president of ourfraternity and we were looking for ways to rent out rooms in our fraternity house. Our fraternity house is now the Christine Ann Center, and we were looking for ways to rent out our rooms. Although we never succeeded at pulling that off, as a family I lived over on Nicola and Heron Ct. and in both those cases we were able to rent out rooms in our house. I got to know a lot of good people from across
the country because of EAA. But 1970 EAA was nothing compared to what it is29:00today. I remember it was growing, and different era of public servers too, they had very… Public service, I'm not gonna say they gave it away but, they made things work for EAA as far as getting services, whatever they need to make that successful, so it was interesting to see how that played out.
SP: So why don't you tell me a little bit more about your fraternity?
JR: My fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, we were founded in 1899. We officially goton campus in 1965. Before that, we were the Iota Alpha Sigma fraternity, and what Iota Alpha Sigma stood for was the industrial art society. So, again, this goes back into the 40s and 50s and at one point in time a national called Delta 30:00Kappa… kinda worked with those guys and became Delta Kappa for a few years till 1965, when we charted the chapter Delta Sigma Phi. The chapter at that time was getting cornered by two groups and the other one was Sigma Pi. Sigma Pi was very frustrated that our group did not go with them. So they came in, and I think the group was called the Romans; a bunch of locals, at the time the term townie was used. Well they pushed Sigma Pi, worked really hard, and got those guys. And ironically, now all fraternity and greek life disappeared about a year after the Vietnam War, which is a whole another story. Shortly thereafter they started back, and Sigma Pi, and Delta Sigma Phi, and Delta Chi would be the third that was around for most of the time since the 60s. 31:00
SP: You said you were also involved in OSA (Oshkosh Student Association), wereyou involved in OSA for your fraternity? Or was that something else?
JR: Yes, I was involved as a… because of our group I was also involved as a, Ithink the term was at large at the time, but I spent a couple years on OSA. It was a real political experience. I think it has become more political now, every once in a while I read about elections and think "how could that happen." It is a very interesting way they run today.
SP: Did you notice any apathy in OSA at the time? Or lack thereof interest?
JR: It seemed… Yeah I would say there was apathy from the students towardsOSA, as long as ya ask the question. I'd also say that it seemed like… it was 32:00almost like a cast system, you know you had your executive branch. I'd say it's almost like they towered over the, for a lack of a better term, legislative branch.
SP: And being a political climate, with the Vietnam War going on and all, didyou participate in any of the demonstrations that happened during 1970?
JR: Absolutely not, I had two brothers in Vietnam. I could not bring myself todo that, but it was certainly there. Several of my fraternity brothers were Vietnam veterans, and I never choose to get involved in a protest. I'm not gonna 33:00comment how I felt about the war one way or the other,
but I do think the way our troops were treated when they came home wasdefinitely wrong. But yeah, the protests were out there.
SP: Then did that kinda put you in the out since you didn't participate in themat all? Or was there no difference?
JR: I feel that. This campus, the activists were probably more out there thenthe mainstream of the campus, in my opinion. If we had been in Madison, I'd probably wouldn't be saying that. You had [unclear] bombings and everything, totally different. I didn't feel like there was any strong push "you're gonna protest today or you're gonna" whatever it is they'd do to ya. 34:00
SP: So let's go back to a little bit of the dorm life, so what were the dormslike for ya?
JR: I'm glad you asked that question. I visited campus in 1969 and I rememberlearning about their rules. The rules were, you could have… if you had a women over it had to be like from on weekends let's say daylight hours or something strange like that. And at all times you had to have the door open and three feet on the floor at all times. I get here and that rule was gone, you could actually shut the door now. And I thought "hm, progress" (laughs). Knowing what happens today, I just find that… ya know, my how far we've come. It's just kinda interesting how that has evolved. Now Chancellor Andy, he asked me "well when 35:00did you come to campus?" I said, "1970" he says, "you realized you payed no tuition in 1970?" I mean you guys are getting hammered in tuition today, you just realize how we've evolved. The other thing about the dorms at that time, like I say, ever since they built the new, not sage… what's the new dormitory over here…
SP: They're redoing Fletcher
JR: They're redoing Fletcher now but the new one they built, right across fromwhere the Newman center was.
JR: No, Taylor is on High, this is one… where Nelson hall was. It's like acountry club compared to a traditional dorm.
SP: Oh, Horizon
JR: Horizon, thank you, I mean that's a gorgeous facility. I look at how we ran,we had four floors, so probably 500 students in that building. You had the group 36:00shower facility, and you had two girl's dorms across the way. All the meals over at Elmwood Commons. It was… having grown with a family of six, I guess it was better than having grown up as an only child. It was an adventure to live in a dormitory after coming from a good old traditional Catholic home.
SP: And did you go home at all?
JR: Far too much, as I look back at it. I give my boys credit, the places theywent to school, they came home seldom. I think total emersion is a good thing into college life. But I probably went home at least one weekend out of the 37:00month. If I could find work that I could get paid for I would go home more frequently.
SP: So then did you spend a lot of time on campus?
JR: Absolutely, we had a… I mentioned Dean [Maidy?] before, as a member ofReeve Union board one of the things Dean started was… we had a bowling alley in the lower level of Reeve. On the first floor this bar, a college teenage bar, called the draft board. With the Vietnam War, I remember the night when all of our draft numbers came out. My number was 148, because there was 10 years combined into one, I thought it was a great number. Those people who had their numbers under 100, there was a lot of wailing and crying in their beer that night. That was a interesting time. I want to share with you if I could, mention 38:00Reeve Union, Dean [Maidy?] again. My late father did not want bumper stickers on his car. I remember for the 100th and 1971, Dean and I are across the street from Reeve Union. The parking lot was a little bigger back then, we're out there putting bumper stickers on all these cars celebrating 100 anniversary of UW Oshkosh. I was thinking "gosh if I did this to my father's car, I'd be getting killed; and how are these people gonna be reacting?" I was with… Dean was the guy (laughs). He and I just talked about that about a month and a half ago. He was down in Florida and he says, "I don't remember that" I said, "I do because it scared me because of my father" (laughs).
SP: How extensive was your involvement with Reeve union?39:00
JR: How what?
SP: How extensive was your involvement with Reeve union?
JR: I probably got up to chair level, just because of Dean. I have a… we werelaughing about this, couple friends of mine they were both ironically Greek [unclear]. One Day we were discussing the day I was George Washington and she was Martha Washington, we were in a window down in the lower level of Reeve in these costumes. Another time I was a… actually got my picture in the Milwaukee Sentinel. I was with a Delta Zeta, who I don't remember, but I was in a apes costume. It was a interesting… my caption was, I think was, something like unidentified student or something. We at that time, we'd thought it'd be cool 40:00with the fraternity, we actually hired a airplane to have our fraternity thing fly over the titan stadium. They weren't drawing good crowds at that time, so the people who were there actually got to see it. Reeve Union was just a home away from home. You'd walk in there, I in that era read a lot of newspapers, and they were all right there for ya, you'd be drinking coffee. At that time hazing was allowed, I'm glad we got rid of that by the way, but hazing was allowed and one of your fraternity brothers told you to get him a cup of coffee or a sorority girl a cup a coffee you did it.
If somebody is there needs a cigarette light, you had to light the cigarette,all that good stuff. Reeve Union had a lot of good memories for a lot of 41:00reasons. There was a guy, I'll share this with you if it makes the fine if not, a guy wound up being a professor here was part of the most successful streak in about 1974. He had a guy, who turned out to become his brother in law, were the participants. They got off in Halsey, and all they had on were tennis shoes and masks. They ran from Halsey all the way to (laughs) all they way down past Reeve Union and over to that side street there. They needed a getaway car, I had a little white Volkswagen at the time, and I refused to drive it. But I did allow, I won't mention any names in this, but I did give my keys to somebody. The car never had a rear license plate, it never bothered an officer till a day after 42:00that event. I got ticked the following day, coincidence probably, but it was a interesting story. That's a very true story by the way.
SP: So for other free time that you had on UWO, did you participate in the barculture at all
JR: Way too much. We had a John [Grawmen?], who still lives in the area, worksover at your hardware store… anyway he owned a place called My Brothers Place. That was frequent Thursday and Friday night stop for us. At that time we had kegs of beer in our fraternity house and basement. We'd through some very good, at the time, legal parties down there on Friday and Saturday night. We would approach our Alumni for 25 dollar bills to buy a keg of beer. Now we approach 43:00the same alumni for 100 dollar bills to help fund scholarships. Actually we're giving one out on Friday night. The bar culture was a… Kelly's was built while I was here. And there was a bar called [Tashes?] that was an amazing place. I saw bouncers, most of them were on the football team, they would take guys, and if they were being unruly, basically throw them out the side door. I saw a guy get his head, made a dent in the side of a car. There was on Thursday nights they had a deal, it was like 95 cents for a bottle of… it was like a quart of malt liquor. At [Tashes?] what you'd do, after you finished your quart, you'd break it on the floor. So it was not a place you wanted to wear sandals or open 44:00toed shoes. Then there was the B&Bs was right next door to Terry's bar, I forget the formal name of it now. He had 15 cent beers and free peanuts and encouraged you to [unclear] because that was good sleeping compound. For me, I missed most of that, because I worked for Robins Restaurant for Mark Haag. Usually to help pay for my school, and I was usually over there working. You got done working and you found your way. The bar culture was interesting. We had outstanding group of veterans, they had a vets club that was equal to any fraternity on campus. Those guys, I had quite a few of them that became friends of mine over time. 45:00
SP: What do you remember most about these places that you went to?
JR: Sticking to the floor (laughs). It was… well in that era too we couldsmoke in the bar so… it fun at the time, Stefan, but looking back at it, it's pretty disgusting (laughs). I' trying to think of any other bars… Oh Andy's Library was another one. There's a… ya know I have friends of mine who met there their wives there and all this other stuff. I just don't have those types of stories, hell I didn't get married till I was 32 so I met my wife well after 46:00Oshkosh. Met a lot of people, and run in people every so often. I have a good friend, Tom [Bois?], who owns several
radio stations in the area, and he tended bar at the famous Pioneer. We gettogether periodically, he's about five years older than me, but we share stories of that era. The Pioneer at that time was just a showcase place of the valley.
SP: Taking a different direction, were you here for the tornado that hit thewest side in 1974?
JR: Excellent question, I was a full time student at the time. My good fortunewas that, except to tell ya I wasn't there, I was back in my home town for the day. Came back and you see these roofs that got torn off, and everything is like 47:00"oh my gosh." At that time, this area was all supposed to be immune from tornados. I was probably 22 at the time, there's pictures yet over at two brother's restaurant. Last time I was in there I happen to see one of them, yeah that was a scary time. I think [Stangles?] had a store on Sawyer St, I think it's where that Shell station is now, I think they had some damage. It was just a one powerful storm. Fast forwarding, if I could, when the big wind storm came through here about 15 years ago. I was working for public service, I just moved over to Sherwood. Of course, I'm on my way up to Green Bay so I'm hearing about 48:00this terrible storm that hit Oshkosh. I'm about 10 miles across the lake, what storm? Ya know, probably less than 10 miles away. Then I came back and, you look, and help out at the office. Just deviation, looked like a war. I dunno, you would have been what, about 5 at that time?
SP: Yeah, pretty darn young.
JR: So do you remember that at all?
SP: No not at all.
JR: Oh ok, it was amazing. That's off topic so I won't go any further than Idid. The tornado was… again, different era, meteorology and everything. People just didn't expect that.
SP: Now talking more about the composition of UWO, would say there were morewomen here or men?
JR: Fair question, I thought it was pretty equal at that time. The standing joke49:00at that time was men went there to get degrees and women went to get the M-r-s. I think that was probably an era too when the culture was changing where, at that time you wouldn't see any female CEOs of companies. I think that was the era of women that changed that whole philosophy that they were pretty driven and have brought us into the 21st century.
SP: So did you date much while you were at UW Oshkosh?
JR: I thought I did (laughs).
SP: So what kind of things did you guys do together?
JR: In that era I'd say bowling, going to sporting events, obviously fraternity50:00parties, we had a thing called town and gown at that time. I didn't go to that a lot, but that'd be like the Alberta Kimble Theater and you'd buy a package of tickets at the beginning of the year. I want to tell you there were eight events during the course of the year, so those were some of the things.
SP: So then you finished school in 76?
SP: So how'd you feel when you finished college?
JR: Glad ya asked that question. I should share with you my first job, I waspretty… It was time for me to get out and I couldn't find a job. So the first thing I did, I was able to secure a job at Hamilton Industries pounding a press 51:00from 5 at night to 3:30 in the morning. I could've worked the day shift but I thought, if I do this I'll be able to pound a pavement a day trying to find a job more related to my college education. Eventually, I wound up Manitowoc County offered me a job as zoning administrator and code administrator, That's really what I went to school for. I discovered that part of my job had to deal with denying people's request. Like, to put an addition on a cottage because they're gonna be too close to the lake or things like this. And some of these people have to be… I thought they were friends but discovered afterwards they were acquaintances of mine. Then I'd have people come from Illinois who would offer me all kinds of money and I said, "you don't understand I can't do this." 52:00After pounding the press, I went and worked for Manitowoc County. Decided I had just about enough of that and decided I wanted to come back and be a counselor. So I started in the councilor ed program, and then out of the blue I get a call from… Well first I took a job, I was working for Big Brother agency. About the day I started with them I got a call from Wisconsin Public Service asking if I'd interview for a job. I guess no difference then today, there was a significant dollar difference between what you're gonna make in a Big Brother agency vs. what you're gonna make within the utility industry or in business per say. So I put a number, let's just say significantly higher, and they accepted the offer, 53:00and they offered that number. I went into the big brother office very apologetic and not feeling good about myself. Ya know, this had kinda been my dream to be the big brother guy. They were very understanding, and 33 years later I retired from Wisconsin Public Service. I worked from residential to municipal to industrial/commercial and all the points in-between. Again, I think my education from this institution, most the people in my position had engineering background, and I think what I learned on the customer satisfaction side of the business served me very well. I think it's how I survived when my technical 54:00skills, in my own humble opinion, were, comparatively speaking, lacking. I give this institution, probably equally what I learned in the classroom as well as outside the classroom with involvement with various things. You don't realize what a great education you're getting serving on OSA, serving in a fraternity, serving on Reeve Union board, and on occasion having to defend yourself to certain deans or whatever.
SP: So then would you say that the job market was not that forgiving when yougot out of college?
JR: (laughs) With my particular major, yes, it was very unforgiving at thattime. I think if I had had an accounting degree or an engineering degree I would have been swooped up in a big hurry. You make choices, and you're either rewarded or pay for those choices. I think me working in the press was an 55:00awesome experience. I had, I hate to use the word humbling, [unclear] I think at times I was content there because I was getting paid based on performance. I also knew there was something out there that I wanted something different in my life. Again, I was blessed with the opportunity, down the road, to have several different opportunities. One of the fortunate ones, up till this stage of my life everything I left I left on my terms not being told that you have to leave or fired or whatever. Again, I guess, again, I'll go back to the skill I learned in this university. You try to be compliant with a eye on how best to serve. I 56:00think… I'd like to believe with the things I've done I hope I've been a sufficient leader.
SP: So did you get involved in UWO since you graduated?
JR: A little bit (Laughs). I am the, this was on my bucket list by the way, I'vebeen honored. I'm the immediate past president of UW Oshkosh Alumni Association, and also past treasurer and board member as well. I am a, proud to say, I'm signed on for Rose Legacy Society. I'm a regular contributor to the UW Oshkosh Foundation, I believe in very much. I'm proud to say that my siblings and I have established a scholarship in our parent's memory. The four of us graduated from UW Oshkosh, ironically the four surviving, that we created that scholarship in my parent's memory. Side note, I get to operate the play clock for the UW 57:00Oshkosh football team and also do some stuff for the UW Oshkosh basketball team. As I mentioned before my involvement with Delta Sigma Phi on a national level as well as a local level.
SP: What are your thoughts on UWO now?
JR: My thoughts on UW Oshkosh, I'll say I thought Chancellor Kerrigan was anamazing chancellor. Chancellor Wells certainly changed the footprint of this campus in a very positive way. I'm very excited about Chancellor Andy I think he will create in the area the scholarships that we've been sorely lacking. That's one of the reasons that I… and when I actually leave here I'm going to be 58:00making a donation. Something I strongly believe is oh so important and I believe they hire the right man when they hire Chancellor Andy.
SP: So then, last note here, what advice would you give to current students?
JR: Well since I worked my way through college and I have a… my number fourson just earned a CPA. Only work summers, I would strongly encourage you to buckle down on the books. Get involved in things outside the classroom. For me it was fraternity, for my other brother it was track and field. Get engaged and develop your infinity groups, and did a little deeper too. Because it's a D3 59:00school we are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships but there are
academic scholarships out there. With Delta Sigma Phi national fraternity wehave a Mckee scholarship, that if people join our fraternity. My son received three scholarships and there are some people getting 10,000 dollar scholarships out of that. My advice would be get engaged to your university and dig little deeper, find out were those opportunities are for ya. Going back in time, why'd I join a fraternity, part of it was I knew I could live cheaper than I could in private housing and save money. Now, I'm saying, it costs money to join a fraternity, costs money to be on the basketball team too. But I'm saying there's opportunities to find sources of revenue by being part of that. Get engaged, 60:00check things out. Reeve Union, wonderful memories of my time with that. The relationships, if you come to college and just focus strictly on the classroom and never make any friends, that wouldn't be for me. I think you wanna… I can run into people I haven't seen in 25 years and have a conversation like it was just yesterday. As I look back, again, at my life and I think, wow, what if I had not gone to college, what if I had not gone to UW Oshkosh. I'll just say, Stefan, that it's very scary where I might be. I'm not sure I'd even be alive, first of all. I think that through things that have happened because of my affiliation with this institution I think my wife and I have been blessed with 61:00how our lives have turned out up and to this point. I have seen, sadly at my age, many of my friends now have passed away. Others have continued to reap the benefits of their college education, particularly from this. To me, I want to strongly encourage folks to seriously consider giving back to UW Oshkosh no matter how they see fit.
SP: Alright, and we have gone over and signed the deed of gift. Thank you very much
JR: We're done?