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Sheboygan recognizes partnerships with UW–Madison as university celebrates 175 years

Inspirational alumni stories, delicious brats, and a coveted Memorial Union Terrace chair were part of the fun.

Sheboygan County rolled out the cardinal red carpet to celebrate UW-Madison’s 175th anniversary.

It started at the Kohler Company where about 200 UW alumni employees came together for a celebration breakfast. After a rousing rendition of “Varsity,” Sara Braas from UW’s Office of Business Engagement, discussed the many connections between the company and the university. Braas described the four pillars of the partnership, “Engaging students, engaging with faculty, startups and networking, and then giving back to the community.” Kohler has donated more than $8.5 million to UW-Madison, including the Visualization Studio in the College of Engineering.

With a practiced hand, Sue Sell, culinary resource manager at Johnsonville, grills hundreds of brats during a Johnsonville Employee Brat Fry. (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

A panel of UW alumni employees spoke about their personal journeys through UW-Madison to Kohler. They described their favorite memories of UW-Madison. “My husband, who's also a Madison grad, proposed on the Terrace,” said Saranya Tangvitoontham. “I remember that night — he was so nervous because he actually walked out on the pier and he was just shaking as he pulled his ring out.” For Benjamin Marotz, his mechanical engineering degree from UW-Madison was critical to his success at Kohler, but it’s much more than just a degree. “It comes down to the skills I learned in problem-solving and getting stuff done,” said Marotz. “And that translates wherever you go. And then you can put the technical piece behind it.”

After breakfast, the festivities moved down the road to Sheboygan Falls for a good old-fashioned brat fry at Johnsonville Foods. “This is a pretty exciting day for me because it is my first brat fry,” said UW chancellor Jennifer Mnookin. “We’re really pleased and proud of the decades of partnership that UW-Madison has had with Johnsonville.” That partnership goes back more than 30 years. Most recently, Johnsonville was a generous donor to and valued professional adviser in the construction of the new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building at the university, which now houses the Johnsonville Lecture Hall. Currently, about 50 UW-Madison alumni work at Johnsonville. “We are so proud of our relationship and our affiliation with UW Madison,” said Kevin Ladwig, managing director of Johnsonville Ventures.

Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison

Over those years, hundreds of UW-Madison interns have also gained valuable experience at Johnsonville. Emily Bruckschen is a current intern. She’s a senior studying international business and marketing. She says this 175th anniversary celebration brings her two worlds together. “Last year I was in strategic insights and analytics in the marketing department, and now I've switched into consumer insights, but still in the marketing department,” said Bruckschen. “It's been a great opportunity to see multiple areas that I wasn't even aware or existed before.”

Johnsonville interns Emily Bruckschen and Christabel Forney.
(Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Following the brat fry, the event continued at Kohler with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association Community Celebration. The relationship between Kohler and the University of Wisconsin dates to 1919 when Walter Kohler Sr. served as president of UW’s Board of Regents. He championed the building of the Memorial Union on the UW campus. In honor of that connection, Chancellor Mnookin and Bucky Badger presented David Kohler, chair and CEO, with a red Memorial Union Terrace chair. “We are honored by our past to really help chart the path for the future and … continue to make the university one of the best in the state, in the country, in the world,” said Kohler. “Greatness is at its best when you can have great universities and extraordinary companies that are working together to leverage what they each do for the good of all,” said Mnookin. “That is at the heart of what we're trying to do at the university and what I know Kohler is trying to do as well.”

Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison

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