Active couple is funding addition to building project that may inspire students, others to pursue a healthy lifestyle
Staying physically fit, active and inspired by the world around them is a way of life for Dallas and Edye Pankowski, who enjoy downhill skiing, biking, hiking and adventure-based trips.
It stands to reason then that Dallas, an alum, and Edye, a Menomonie native, are supporting the upcoming Recreation Complex renovation at UW-Stout with a gift of $5 million — the largest in university history. Their hope: Inspire students and others to be active and pursue a healthy lifestyle.
The gift will provide one-sixth of the cost for the $30.5 million project and create a new welcome and community space named in honor of the Pankowskis. The 2,700-square-foot addition will be on the west side of the Sports and Fitness Center, just south of the adjoining Johnson Fieldhouse.
About 2,000 people a day from students to staff to community members to Athletics recruits and other potential new students could pass through the space.
“We were impressed by the overall design, the asset that it would be to the university and the community, and we have a strong interest in health, wellness and physical fitness,” Dallas said. “It’s a fairly large atrium that would really dress up the building.”
The Pankowskis, from Plover, near Stevens Point, originally committed $4 million in 2018 to Stout University Foundation as an estate gift. However, they hadn’t decided how they wanted the gift to be used. After hearing about the funding opportunity to enhance the Recreation Complex, they chose it for their original gift and added $1 million.
“We really believe in athletics and recreation as part of the university program,” Dallas said.
The Pankowskis were on campus recently when their gift was announced at the Stout University Foundation’s annual scholarship reception, and they received a standing ovation. The Foundation announced more than 400 scholarships totaling $1.2 million; the Pankowskis also sponsor two of those scholarships annually for STEM students.
“Their gift and legacy will be truly transformational in its power to attract and retain students and serve the broader community,” Chancellor Katherine Frank said.
“Dallas and Edye immediately recognized the importance of this project to our campus and to the community and stepped forward to participate in and further enhance the building and the co-curricular experience for our students,” Frank added.
The Pankowski-named space, including a lounge and retail area, will create a new, central entryway to the Sports and Fitness Center, which includes student recreation facilities, and to Johnson Fieldhouse.
Without the gift, the space would not have been included in the project. The other $25.5 million will come from student segregated fees. In 2019, students voted in a Stout Student Association advisory referendum to approve raising fees for the project. It includes:
- A new, larger cardio and strength-training facility, 10,000 square feet, on the west side for students, next to the Pankowski gathering area
- Renovating the old swimming pool, which was closed in 2018, and replacing it with a multiuse gym for recreation
- Expanded and upgraded locker rooms for students
- Moving the Athletics weight room to the former student fitness facility
- Creating multiuse studio spaces in the current Athletics weight room.
The design process is underway. UW-Stout will seek formal approval for the renovation in the 2025-27 state budget. No additional state funding is needed, but inclusion in the budget allows UW-Stout to proceed with the project.
Construction could begin in 2026 and finish in 2027, according to Justin Utpadel, UW-Stout senior facilities officer.
Including the Pankowskis’ gift, private support for the project totals $7.3 million.
The north end of the building, including Johnson Fieldhouse, opened in 1965, when the university had less than half the students it does today. It was the first complete Athletics and recreation facility in school history, replacing a 1901 building called the School of Physical Culture that was east of Bowman Hall.
In 1989 a major addition to the south end of the building included the Multipurpose Room indoor track. Minor additions followed in 1997 and 2000.
Pankowskis have built successful company, traveled the world
Dallas Pankowski remembers the old School of Physical Culture. “There wasn’t much for gyms and no intramurals to speak of. I envy these kids today with the things they have available to them,” he said.
The Milwaukee native earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial education from UW-Stout and a doctorate from the University of Missouri, then taught electronics at State University of New York-Oswego. He met Edye in Menomonie. She worked for two years at Stout because she could not afford college, then eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art at Oswego, New York, a master’s in fashion design at Syracuse University and a doctorate in interior architecture at Penn State University. She is a retired university professor.
In the late 1970s, the Pankowskis moved to Plover and established Pankowski Associates, a real estate construction management company in the Stevens Point area. Dallas oversaw construction of their apartment buildings and single family homes; Edye handled the interior design and accounting. The company, still in business but smaller now, also owned commercial real estate properties in the Green Bay-Appleton area.
“I’ve always had a warm feeling in my heart for Stout because of what it did for me,” Dallas said, noting when he came to UW-Stout in the mid-1950s it was the first time he’d ever stepped foot on a college campus.
“I really believe in the Stout philosophy,” he said, adding that he strongly supports the blend of liberal arts with hands-on technology education. He cited the numerous labs he had at UW-Stout and personal interaction with professors.
The Pankowskis also have supported many projects near where they live, including an amphitheater at Schmeeckle Reserve in Stevens Point, an extensive lighted trail system at Standing Rocks Park and three state-of-the-art handicap-accessible, all-weather fishing piers in Lake Pacawa Park in Plover. Edye designed the signage for the last two projects, and Dallas oversaw construction.
Their lifelong interests have included border-to-border state bike rides, downhill skiing out West and adventure hiking. Last summer, they did three consecutive tours — 12 days of hiking in Albania, 12 days on an ice-hardened ship, 800 miles above the Arctic Circle, doing zodiac wet landings to remote islands, searching for wildlife, including polar bears, with armed guides, and 16 days of remote hiking in Mongolia. In 2022 they hiked the Azores islands off the coast of Portugal. Dallas also recently took race car driving lessons and experienced high-performance go-carts.
They have traveled to more than three-fourths of the world’s nearly 200 countries.
With their physical activities and their career in the building industry, supporting a recreation building project at UW-Stout “ties it all together. We want to be part of a project that gets done, has the highest level of workmanship and will be used to make a difference,” Dallas said.
Written by Jerry Poling