Connect Newsletter

Connect Newsletter

Spring 2016

Love is in the Air

For those who attend Western, it’s the college where they get a great
education and the start of a great career. For some of our alums, it’s also
where they found their spouse! In fact, when doing our research for this
article, we discovered there are more than 1,100 couples who either met at
Western or are both Western alums! Let’s meet three of those couples now.

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Fall 2015

A Golden Year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of varsity athletics at Western or Coleman Technical Institute as we were known in 1965. Starting with four sports, men’s basketball, wrestling, golf and bowling, Western’s athletics program has continued to grow throughout the years. Those first teams had 33 players total, while current teams average 75 players per year.

But while some things have changed, others have stayed the same. We have always been the Cavaliers!

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Spring 2015

Leading the Way

When Tim Hyma, 2010 Landscape Horticulture graduate, took the helm as executive director at the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, it seemed like the right fit. As someone heavily involved in his community, a former veteran (retired), commander at the American Legion in Sparta, husband, foster parent, father of six, and student leader at Western, Tim has spent most of his life honing his leadership skills.

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Fall 2014

From CNA to CEO

“Do your best and work hard.” Those are the words of advice shared by Kyle Bakkum, ’82 Marketing grad and CEO of Vernon Memorial Healthcare in Viroqua.

A Westby, Wis. native, Bakkum knows a little about hard work. After graduating from high school, he came to Western not really knowing what he wanted to do. He decided on Marketing and Sales mostly because he was a people person. In 1982, he took a job at Bethany St. Joseph’s in La Crosse as a CNA, a job he calls one of the most rewarding he’s ever had. It combined his love of people with the satisfaction of serving others.

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Spring 2014

Layoff Leads to New Opportunities

Sitting behind her desk in the Human ResourcesDepartment at Altra Federal Credit Union, you wouldn’t guess that Megan Weibel started her career as a social worker. She rattles off her list of responsibilities: recruitment, some payroll and benefits, new employee on-boarding, campaign coordinator for United Way and Children’s Miracle Network. A promotion to HR specialist, starting in March, will add even more responsibility: more payroll, worker’s compensation, and medical leaves for the 315 employees that Altra has nationwide.

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Fall 2013

Support and Scholarships Provided the Pathway for Student

Lenora Parr came to Western in Viroqua in 1995 to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate when she couldn’t find a decent education after high school graduation. Education after high school wasn’t a possibility for her. She had entered the workforce immediately after high school, married, and started a family. After she divorced, she realized that the job she had wouldn’t support her or her son. Once she had her daughter, she knew she needed a career.

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Spring 2013

Entrepreneurial Spirit

You know that Western graduates are an essential part of our daily lives. From paramedics to accounting assistants and carpenters to medical assistants, Western grads are everywhere! What you may not know is how many of them are business owners. They own businesses large and small and in a variety of fields. In this issue, we highlight four who we think represent the entrepreneurial spirit of a Western grad.

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Fall 2012

Reel Life

Nate Berg loves to fish. He's loved it since he was a kid. In fact, he loved it so much he fished 1,261 consecutive days as a young boy growing up in Blair, WI, a feat that gained some attention.

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Spring 2012

Western Through The Years

In honor of our 100th year, we asked some of our retirees for their best memories of their time at Western Technical College. It was fun riding down memory lane with them. We hope you enjoy reading (and remembering) as much as we did.

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Fall 2011

A La Crosse Legend

Dale Rudy recalls his days at the La Crosse Vocational School
To talk with Dale Rudy is to get a history lesson about La Crosse. This living legend, has tales to tell about La Crosse, about his family, and about the La Crosse Vocational School.

Dale Rudy is "Rudy" of the instantly-recognizable Rudy's Drive-In restaurant. What perhaps isn't as well known is his personal history.

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Spring 2011

Construction Project Brings Brothers Back to Western

This summer, the La Crosse Campus's Kumm Center courtyard area saw a flurry of construction activity. One of the companies providing work was Wieser Brothers General Contractor, Inc. They were responsible for the concrete, the stonework, and stone seating.

Jeff Wieser, '83 and Brian Wieser, '86 of La Crescent, MN, are graduates of Western's Wood Tech program and owners of Wieser Brothers. After graduating from the Wood Tech program, they started as apprentice carpenters, graduated to journeyman carpenters, then became job superintendents before starting Wieser Brothers in 1994.

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Fall 2010

Three Grads, Three Decades, Three Reasons

At Franciscan-Skemp Healthcare, it isn't uncommon to see a Western graduate. The Respiratory Therapy department is no different. In this issue, we highlight three of our Respiratory Therapy grads, learn their reason for enrolling, and what they've been doing since graduation.

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Spring 2010

Making it Work

Most of us take the temperature in our homes or workplaces for granted. We rarely think about it. But for Harold Coppernoll, '92 Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Technology, it's what he does. Day in and day out, he's figuring out how to make us all comfortable.

Not part of the plan

Harold hadn't planned to go to college. In fact, he hadn't finished high school. He was in some special needs classes as a kid and was picked on by his classmates, so he dropped out at 16. He joined the US Navy, then became a licensed cheese maker, working near Richland Center. Then in his late 20s, he was injured, badly enough that he collected workman's compensation and disability. "I decided to take the opportunity and make going back to school my job for two years," he says. He was 31.

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Fall 2009

For the Westpfahls, Western is All in the Family

For the Westpfahls, Western is a family tradition. Rich, his wife Carol, and their children, Ryan, Christin, and Aaron, are graduates of the college. Most chose different career paths, but they all chose Western for the same reason: The handson experience.

Rich was the first to enroll at Western (then Coleman Technical Institute) in 1965. His brother was attending Coleman, so Rich, then 17, moved to La Crosse from Tomah, roomed with his brother, and enrolled in the Printing program. After graduation, he was offered a job running the first “copy center” on campus. It was during that time he also met Carol Call, who had just graduated from the Practical Nursing program at Western and would soon become a Westpfahl and a full-time nurse.

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Spring 2009

Designing Woman

A career in architecture was Candice Peters' ultimate dream. As a high school student in Portage, Wis., Candice, '77 Interior Design, loved the idea of building and creating. She loved her drafting and design courses and blueprint drawings. She loved architecture and planned to pursue a career in it. That is until a high school teacher told her that her math skills weren't strong enough. She chuckles at the memory. "Now I do all of the estimating for my company and I use math every day from reading blueprint measurements to figuring out angles to estimating bids."

In the early 1970s, it was harder to work in the building industry because of the stereotype that it was "man's work." So, Candice found a way to foster her love of design by pursuing an Interior Design degree at Western. "[Western] had the degree I wanted, plus the community was smaller, which I was looking for, too," she says.

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Fall 2008

Western's first basketball team scores a lifelong friendship

George Kleinertz, Bob White, and Ed "Duke" Cunningham came to Western in the late 1940s in search of a career. George chose accounting, while Bob and Ed chose graphic arts. Kleinertz and White were here on the GI Bill, while Cunningham had yet to join the service. He would do that after college, in 1951, during the Korean War. The men had grown up together. Kleinertz and White had been schoolmates since grade school at St. Joseph's; Cunningham joined them at Aquinas High School.

They all loved basketball and played during high school. Even as high school graduates, they played whenever they could. They were part of the Catholic Youth Organization, intramurals, and played in city rec. "We played every night of the week," recalled Kleinertz. "Sometimes twice on Sundays!"

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Spring 2008

"Dorm Girls" Return to Hixon House

Sixty years after they last stayed in Hixon House, 14 of the original 17 "dorm girls" attended an afternoon tea and reunion, hosted by Hixon House. These young women, from small towns throughout the region, were students at the La Crosse Vocational School (now Western Technical College) in 1946-47, studying bookkeeping, office machines, and secretarial science.

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Fall 2007

Task Force Meets Challenge

The Western Alumni Association took a major step forward this spring. Four alumni board task force members-Cinda Vingers, '88 Supervisory Management; Tina Johns, '91 Medical Administrative Specialist; Lynn (Smyrk) Lenz, '86 Respiratory Therapy Technician; and David Christensen, '05 Human Resource/ Business Administration—completed a strategic plan and bylaws, providing structure for the Alumni Association. The next task will be creating an alumni board to provide direction to carryout the mission of the association. These steps will facilitate greater involvement with Western and create new opportunities for alumni.

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Spring 2007

Making a Fresh Start

Jessica Church wasn't ready to return to work after her six-week maternity leave with daughter Chantel. It was 1997 and Jessica was a young, single mother ready to pursue an education. She felt like she didn't have any options, but she did.

Amy Delagrave, a friend of Jessica's and instructor in Western's GOAL area, told her about the Fresh Start scholarship, which provides childcare funding to young, single parents so they can have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life through post-secondary education. A mentor is also assigned to each single parent for ongoing guidance, support, and companionship. Jessica applied for

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