Spirit of Excellence Award

This award honors individuals who have made exceptional commitment of support to the Fond du Lac campus and the  Foundation, making it an excellent learning institution. It has been presented a limited number of times.

Brian Jones, 2022

With all events cancelled for nearly two years because of the Covid -19 pandemic, the Spirit of Excellence Award was finally presented once again to former Foundation Board member Brian Jones at the Corks & Forks event sponsored by the UWO-Fond du Lac Foundation, Inc. on March 24, 2022 at the campus.

This award recognizes an individual, couple or business who through their drive and dedication exemplify the mission and vision of the UWO-Fond du Lac Foundation, Inc., “to promote excellence at UWO-Fond du Lac while enhancing the educational and cultural activities available on campus.”

Brian spent countless hours as a Board member working to help students obtain a college education.  He served numerous terms on the Board of Directors, including serving as Board President.  And along with his brother Jeff, Brian founded the Bernie Jones Big Cup Golf Outing to honor his father (a former business manager and basketball player at UWO-Fond du Lac who suffered an untimely death) and to raise thousands of dollars for scholarships for hard-working and deserving students at UWO-FdL campus.  Brian’s family joined him for the surprise award presentation!

Bob and Crystal Carew, 2019

Bob and Crystal Carew have been selected as the 2019 Spirit of Excellence Award winners. Bob and Crystal have been donors to the Fond du Lac campus for many years and for many reasons. In the Fall of ’73, Bob had decided to attend the nearly new the Fond du Lac campus in order to stay local, help his family and save money.  He attended for one year and then found he was really needed at his father’s fledgling family business, the Action Printing/Action Publications, so he took a year off school.  Bob knew he wanted to continue his education, so after his year working in the family business, he returned to the Fond du Lac campus.  He found the faculty and staff helpful and the price was right.  He said it felt like a small private school and he loved it.  Bob noted, “this is a special institution” and he was thrilled with what it did for him!!

the Fond du Lac campus helped Bob figure out where he wanted to go – in life and in business, and eventually he transferred to UW-Oshkosh to complete a journalism degree.  He met his wife Crystal there, and the rest is history!  Bob and his family were co-owners of Action Printing/Action Publications for many years before Bob retired in 2007.  Residing in Florida now with a full life and many activities, UW-Fond du Lac is grateful for Bob’s many contributions over the years. Bob and Crystal will receive their award at the Scholarship Reception in September here at the Fond du Lac campus.

John. K Wright, 2018

John Wright demonstrates the spirit of excellence by the example he has set through his support of the Foundation.

In 1999 under his leadership as the first Executive Director of the Foundation, the framework of the Foundation was strengthened and the friends of the Foundation increased substantially.

After retiring from his Foundation position, he continued his service to the board as a board member and UW System Board of Visitors Representative. He continues to support the Foundation through volunteer work and the John K. & Sandra J. Wright Scholarship endowment.

Rick Parks, 2017

President and CEO, Society Insurance

Rick’s exceptional commitment of support is evident in his personal and professional support of education.

Through Rick’s leadership, Society Insurance has generously provided the Society Insurance Charitable Scholarship, which has inspired and enabled students to strive for academic success.

He has encouraged Society employees to serve as active board members and led the way as the first Crystal Sponsor for Corks & Forks. Rick’s extensive community involvement includes the American Red Cross, the FDL Area Women’s Fund, National Exchange Bank and Trust, the FDL Area Association of Commerce, and Rotary.

John E. Ahern, 2016

Chairman, J.F. Ahern Co.

John E. Ahern embodies the spirit of excellence by the example he has set through both his personal and corporate support of education.

Under his leadership J.F. Ahern Co. has generously supported the Foundation through board membership and donations.

His commitment to education and this community is a legacy that that has been reflected in the J.F. Ahern Co. and its employees.

Jim and Ginny Gilmore, 2015

The Gilmores believe strongly in student success and have supported student scholarships at the Fond du Lac campus for many years. Through their leadership in the Sophia Foundation, they support an important campus-community partnership in the area of servant leadership.

Jim was a member of the the Fond du Lac campus Foundation Board of Directors for two terms and also took classes here. He spent his career in law enforcement and the military. He was with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department for 28 years and was elected Sheriff in 1986. He served six terms, becoming the longest-serving Sheriff in the county.

Ginny was the first woman in her family to work in the business her grandfather founded – Kaytee Products in Chilton. Her experience there was a very strong foundation for her learning about leadership and the spirit of community in our organizations. She founded the Sophia Foundation in 2000 with the vision of “Creating Caring Community.”

Allen Buechel, 2014

Fond du Lac County Executive

Allen Buechel was recognized for his continued support of the Fond du Lac campus and education in the community.

Under his leadership, Fond du Lac County made a significant investment in this campus, completing a major renovation in 2000. That project included updating of all classrooms and the addition of the University Center building which features the Prairie Theater and the two story commons area.

He’s also shaping the vision for the future of the campus through his support for on-campus housing and development of a long-range master facilities plan. These projects will guide our university into the next decade and beyond. He believes investing in education and securing it for future generations is vitally important.

Judith Berger O'Brien, 2013

Judith Berger O’Brien was recognized for her establishment of the Berger Book Bag Fund to honor the memory of her late husband Joseph Berger, Jr. and his father, Joseph Berger, Sr. The Bergers were a driving force behind the efforts to establish this campus here in Fond du Lac.

Having the textbook for a course is critical to being successful in the classroom. When a student faces a short term financial challenge, they often decide to not purchase the textbook, putting them at a big disadvantage in their academic studies. The Berger Book Bag fund provides a hand-up to purchase the textbooks the student needs to be successful in their courses.

Dr. Willard Henken, 2009

Founding Campus Dean

Dean Henken was the campus dean when it first opened its doors in 1968, staying until his retirement in 1987. Some might say he has never really left his role as ambassador of the Fond du Lac campus. Dean Henken was presented this award in recognition of his love for education, his unending support of the Fond du Lac campus and the many ways he has contributed to educational excellence. He was instrumental in founding the Foundation as a way of supporting scholarships for deserving students.

Harold "Danny" and Charmaine LaShay, 2006

Long-time the Fond du Lac campusthe Fond du Lac campus supporter and scholarship donor Harold LaShay died Feb. 2, 2009. The campus community will miss his dedication and personal presence. 

The LaShays contributed more than 25 years of volunteer service to the Fond du Lac campus and the Foundation and were long-time scholarship donors. When the five-member Fond du Lac Citizens’ Committee met with the Coordinating Committee for Higher Education of Wisconsin in 1966 to discuss the establishment of a UW campus in Fond du Lac, Danny was one of the five. He was also a founding member of the Foundation Board. In 1986, as a gift to his wife, Danny began the Charmaine L. LaShay Music Scholarship at the Fond du Lac campus, which they donated annually to for more than 20 years.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Fond du Lac Campus
400 University Dr
Fond du Lac, WI 54935
(920) 929-1100