University of Wisconsin System President Katharine C. Lyall held her sixth annual convocation for UW System employees on Friday (Sept. 6) at the Wisconsin State Historical Society on the UW-Madison campus. The following are her remarks.

President Lyall addresses employees at the sixth annual UW System convocation (Jay Salvo photo)

President Lyall addresses employees at the sixth annual UW System convocation (Jay Salvo photo)

“Good morning. Thank you all for taking the time to get together. Once again, we come together at the start of a new academic year. For all of us in higher education, this is a very exciting time. We are reminded of the importance of our enterprise as families arrive here in Madison to leave in our care some of their most precious possessions – their sons and daughters. We accept these students with the pledge that we will provide what they need – within and beyond the classroom – to, in the words of the UW Colleges: “Give them the best start for the life they want.” That really sums up what we all do, for, and why.

And the experiences that our students have do truly transform their lives.

Today, as our convocation got underway, we handed out key chains. Not only can you use them at football games, to hold your office keys or your car keys, we hope they will serve as a constant reminder that your work is, in a very real sense, the key to Wisconsin’s future.

Running the eighth largest system of higher education in the nation is a huge task-one that you handle with enormous capability and dedication. As we engage in worrying about enhancing investment diversification, conducting internal audits, preparing capital budgets, doing accountability reports, developing new degree completion programs, implementing PeopleSoft on the campuses, managing the budget, working with legislators, doing classification surveys, defending the university in court occasionally, managing Board of Regent meetings, and keeping our computer network running, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of why all these tasks are important. They are important because:

  • One-third of the state’s high school graduates walk off the commencement stage and directly into one of our classrooms. They depend on us for the education they need for the futures they want.
  • We train 62% of the state’s elementary and secondary teachers, 90% of the state’s pharmacists-think about that the next time you fill a prescription-and the majority of its nurses, lawyers, political and business leaders, who make our lives work day in and day out.
  • And because each year, we graduate 25,000 students, the vast majority of whom stay in Wisconsin and improve the quality of life for all of us.

And you make this possible.

Thank you for that everyday.

Each year, Beloit College issues its annual “mind-set” list, which is designed to help college faculty and administrators relate better to their new students. So, as you see our UW-Madison freshmen walking around State Street looking a bit lost, keep in mind that for them:

  • Cyberspace has always existed
  • A southerner has always been president
  • Cars have always had air bags
  • Richard Burton and Ricky Nelson have always been dead
  • Afghanistan has always been a front-page story
  • There have always been minivans, and
  • The UW System has always been here.

Indeed, for anyone born after 1971 and that includes some of you here today, the UW System has always been here. Last fall, we celebrated our 30th anniversary and the new UW seal on the key chain commemorates that event.

The idea of unifying the administration of state institutions of higher education was not entirely new when proposed by Governor Lucey more than 30 years ago. As early as 1911, President Charles Van Hise-a name that should sound familiar to most of us-cited some disadvantages of a disjointed system, including “duplication of work, diffusion of energy, insufficient financial support for any institution, and consequent inadequacy in view of the educational requirements of the day.”

Governor Lucey brought that first controversial vision to reality in 1971.

And today, 45 states have one or more systems of higher education. And today, both state and federal policies require mechanisms for coordinated planning, budgeting and accountability. So, we have had 30 years as a UW System to forge a true system of public higher education in Wisconsin. We’ve worked hard at that. So how are we doing?

  • In 1971, we enrolled 133,706 students. Today, we enroll close to 160,000.
  • In 1973, the first year of our fully merged system, the UW budget was $568 million and about half of that budget came from state taxpayers. This fiscal year, our budget is about $3.5 billion, of which a third comes from the state. The state’s investments has increased four-fold in 30 years, while other sources of support-tuition, private gifts, federal grants and auxiliary earnings-are 12 times what they were at merger. Among other things, this means we have many stakeholders that we must keep happy, not just one. And I know that all of you experience that, as I do, almost daily.
  • In 1972-73, our campuses received approximately $88 million in federal grants and contracts; today, they receive more than half a billion federal research dollars. Thirty years ago, we received some $16 million in private support; today, that number stands at $327 million-or about a 20-fold increase.
  • Our campuses also have grown physically (haven’t we all!). Since 1971, we have added 17 million square feet of space or roughly a third of our facilities. At the same time, two-thirds of our campus buildings are over 30 years old themselves and need renovation, maintenance and tender loving care.
  • Over the past 30 years, we have conferred degrees on more than 700,000 people, the vast majority of whom stay and work in Wisconsin, including many in this room this morning. This achievement alone has had a staggering impact on our state.

Of course, progress can’t only be measured in dollars, space and students. Those figures represent the academic programs we have added (and some we have taken away), research breakthroughs like the stem cell work at UW-Madison, the students we have taught, the public we have served through UW-Extension and our radio and television stations, our athletic victories, the outstanding faculty and staff we have hired and the many achievements-large and small-that occur on our campuses every day.

It took the efforts of many thousands of people to build this system during the past 30 years. I’m sure you haven’t been counting, but someone has: 83 Regents, 68 Chancellors, 46 UW College Deans and 5 Presidents. But more important have been the efforts of more than a thousand men and women-you among them-who have worked in system administration day in and day out to create this united, seamless university system that is the envy of many states. And I’m very proud of our achievements, and I hope you are, too.

We have just come through a challenging year that included first a budget increase and then a budget cut-talk about a fast turnaround! I’m not sure there was 30 days between the two! But it is important to remember that we have encountered challenges before and our team has always taken those lemons and made lemonade. I am confident we will continue to be constructive and creative as we “manage for quality” this year. Our theme, “manage for quality,” you will hear frequently this year.


In the spirit of this “can do” record, I’d like to take a few minutes to note some of the things that you all have accomplished this past year. I recognize that much of what you all do is accomplished quietly behind the scenes, often in confidence, as you assist students and employees, respond to legislative requests, adjust to state and federal changes in law, negotiate and manage contracts, crunch data for your President and the Board of Regents, and … oh yes, manage budget cuts, too. I want to thank you as much for these daily, steady accomplishments as for some of the bigger projects you undertake. They are all important.

You are an exceptionally competent, professional team, pushing our enterprise ahead constantly. Here are just a few examples to give us all an appreciation of the scope of things accomplished this year.

  • Doug Hoerr and the Trust Funds Office have taken the first steps to invest some of our funds in new 21st century Wisconsin businesses to better position our long-term endowment fund. Working with our legal staff, the Office of Procurement, State of Wisconsin Investment Board, UW-Madison School of Business and others, two fund managers have been selected and we are on track to help nurture the state and national entrepreneurial culture.
  • Betsy West and Larry Rubin worked with the tech colleges to develop two new systemwide degree programs in Nursing and Early Childhood Education, which will make it easier for tech college students to transfer into the UW System. These are the first of several new agreements we anticipate with the tech colleges over the next few years.
  • Ginny Richert and Lori Fuller have put enormous effort into classification surveys to be sure that our classified employees are properly titled and compensated and have worked with DER as they move to a new application and certification program that will help us fill our classified jobs faster.
  • Jude Temby, Cheryl Goplin and the Regent staff helped make this another very productive year for our UW Board of Regents. They have a list of accomplishments two pages long, including a major study aimed at broadening the UW System’s resource base, which will be especially valuable this year.
  • Kerry Niemcek, Sheri Ackley and Ernie Stracener created the UW System’s first Crisis Management Plan after 9/11, a plan that was long overdue and has made our workplaces safer.
  • David Miller, Mary Hartl Biel and Aural Umhoefer and the University Relations staff staged the first ever “UW Day at the State Fair” where thousands of people got to know us-and our campus mascots-up close and personal. Kris McGrew and her staff at Help Online were the busiest at the fair doing what they do so well-answering questions from prospective students about our campus offerings. We also thank Kris and her staff for taking on the production of “Introduction to the University of Wisconsin System,” which looks just terrific this year. Be sure to ask for a copy, and we’ll get one to you.
  • Ed Alschuler and Chris Ashley successfully leapt the legal hurdles that permitted construction of the radio tower in the Town of Montrose and the beginning broadcast of WSUM, 91.7 FM., our student radio station at UW-Madison.
  • Thanks to Ellen James and her staff who worked with our institutions to increase our purchasing with minority-owned businesses by more than $4 million; total purchasing with minority-owned businesses is now $11 million this year.
  • Gary Prisbe’s worked tirelessly on a number of travel regulation changes that have been adopted by the state. He also represented the UW System on a statewide committee to improve travel management, an area getting closer scrutiny downtown these days.
  • Laurie Dies and Erik Christianson helped make our Economic Summit II, with more than a thousand attendees, a great success last fall and they are hard at work on Economic Summit III, coming up in middle October, which we expect will be equally well attended.
  • Hal Schlais, Judy Brown, Glenda Morgan and Lori Voss worked with a systemwide task force to prepare recommendations for meeting the Web-based learning needs of the UW System.
  • Enormous effort went into preparing our 2003-05 operating and capital budget proposal that was approved by the Regents a few weeks ago.
  • Nancy Ives and her staff spent countless hours on the road to our campuses, in meetings and in discussions with DOA to sift and winnow, as we say, the campus’s $1.5 billion in capital needs down into a $150 million GPR bonding request for 2003-’05. I also want to thank them for their work that led to the best capital budget we have ever had in this biennium. That was great work.
  • On the operating budget side, Freda Harris, Andy Richards, Melissa Kepner and their staff wrought similar miracles, preparing a 2003-’05 biennial operating budget request in the midst of shifting timelines and budget targets for 2002-03. They are real professionals and make us all look good. They also get us the money that keeps us going.
  • Margaret Lewis and David Miller performed the ticklish but critical task of communication with legislators through a seemingly endless session, working with our campuses and Regents to fend off the most draconian budget cuts proposed for the UW System and keeping information channels open. It’s exacting and often unsung work… and I thank them for it on behalf of all of us.
  • The staff working on the Shared Financial Systems successfully completed a major software upgrade and enabled three additional institutions to give up their independent systems and become part of the common systems effort, saving them time and money. Yes!
  • Doug Hendrix and his crew completed a new banking contract for us that will result in about 50% lower fees than we had been paying. Every penny saved counts these days.
  • The Office of Academic Diversity and Development, led by Tess Arenas, has developed the first-ever Hmong Enhancement Plan to serve Wisconsin’s Hmong community and continues its grants activity to support Plan 2008.
  • Lorraine Cadwallader and the staff in University Relations put together three wonderful events this year: the Brittingham Art Invitational last September; the 30th Anniversary event “String of Pearls,” which occurred at the Milwaukee Public Museum last October; and, with Jude Temby, the Regent Awards Banquet in April. These events help us raise the visibility of the good things we do for our students and the state. They help us both friend-raise and fund-raise. And besides, they’re fun, so thank you for that!
  • Tom Stafford and Jennie Taylor have taken on the responsibility for technology transfer at all of our institutions (other than UW-Madison) and this year, have processed some 30 invention disclosures which we hope will evolve into successful patents – and royalty payments. They are helping to turn our intellectual capital into financial capital.
  • Margo Lessard, George Brooks and their CORE team continue to do impressive work, developing the groundwork for adapting the new Lawson software to our HR and payroll systems throughout the system, so that our paychecks and benefits will continue to flow! Yes! This is very important as our current systems approach gridlock. The possibility of paychecks and benefits not flowing smoothly could be a real reality.
  • Louise Root Robbins organized a very successful national work-life conference to identify ways we can accommodate the changing lifestyles of our employees, young and old.
  • Frank Goldberg, Sharon Wilhelm and the OPAR staff prepared and published the tenth edition of the UW System’s Accountability Report. Sharon also worked with Lisa Kornetsky of ACSS to stage a very successful systemwide Retention conference. We were one of the very first systems to issue a public accountability report and we continue to stand tall in this field.
  • Nothing captures the sense of commitment and teamwork of System Administration better than your active support of the SECC, which helps our friends and neighbors through hundreds of community organizations. Last year, 88% of UW System Administration staff participated, compared to an overall state participation of 34%. Whether it’s $1 or $1000, your participation in this year’s campaign, Oct. 14-Nov. 29, will help those in our community who need a hand. I want to thank Dace Zeps and Cheryl McCormick for leading the SA campaign again this year-they do a great job!

Finally, I’d like to ask all the colleagues who have joined System Administration since last September to stand up. Here’s another great accomplishment. We’re delighted that you are part of System team, and it’s wonderful to have you.

I could go on and on. I apologize for not mentioning every thing that each of you accomplished this year, but there just isn’t time. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t appreciate what you do. You should know that I brag often in national higher education circles about our team and the standard of excellence you all maintain.

When I look at the scope of these achievements and the many years of your dedicated service to the university and this state, I bristle at the state employee bashing that seems to be in vogue among political leaders at this time.

I believe our state leaders should be thanking their lucky stars that they have such a dedicated state workforce instead of implying to voters that thousands more could be cut without diminishing the state’s service to its citizens. And I fervently hope that DER and the state employees union will soon come to a resolution on the pay plan for our classified employees who have been working for more than a year without a contract. They deserve it.


So what lies ahead for our state and for our university?

I see three major themes that will impact the work we all do this year:

First, the Board of Regents has adopted the theme “Engage Wisconsin.” This means we will be strengthening our partnerships with community and business organizations, working closely with the student ambassadors and student governments in System and emphasizing the economic impact that our System has statewide.

Second, we will need to build new relationships at every level with the DOA, DER and other state agency staffs as the next gubernatorial administration gets settled. Regardless of the election outcome, we know that there will be changes in staff and on-going challenges to help state government maintain services in the face of budget pressures. I would guess that everyone here would experience some change in our professional contacts during the coming year. We must be flexible and patient and we must seek to forge new alliances and partnerships with state government that can be mutually beneficial to all of us.

Third, the UW System may once again be asked to take budget cuts. I have told the regents that we have “hit the wall” with this year’s $44 million cut. Any future cuts must either be offset with tuition or result in enrollment reductions. And we will be seeking additional management flexibilities related to tuition setting, pay plan and cash management to accompany any future cuts.

This lets me say at this point that I know how many extra hours many of you are putting in, in order to sustain your own standards of service and professionalism. We will be looking for ways to ease those pressures a bit this year, so that you don’t all go crazy in the process.

As we start this year, we have some very important assets:

  • We have a very committed Board of Regents who have made financial support for the UW System their highest priority
  • We have deep public support for the university
  • We have a cadre of students, faculty, staff and alumni who care deeply about our institutions and will play an ever more critical role in advocating for us.

And I would remind us that the state economy could look very different a year from now than it does today. Eighteen months ago, state leaders were expecting a budget surplus and 18 months from now, the economy could be in much better shape; already we are hearing that state revenues are picking up and will likely narrow the expected deficit. So I am hopeful that the university can actually emerge from this year with a more stable and encouraging outlook.

And I am hopeful because of the fine work that all of you are doing to help stabilize us and keep our services flowing.

I’d like to now take a few moments to recognize our long-term employees. In your program, you will find listed all of our employees who have been with the UW System 10 years or more. Let’s give them all a round of applause.

This morning, we want to acknowledge those who have hit a milestone of 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. I’d like to start by asking those who have hit the 15-year mark to stand-Nancy Crabb, Freda Harris, Doug Hendrix, Bob Jokisch, David Pulda, Donna Silver and Virginia “Ginni” Zuege.

President Lyall recognizes staff with 25 or more years of service. Pictured: (left to right) Sharon Wilhelm, Sandy Erdmann, Debbie Durcan, George Brooks, Ron Weidemann, Sandy Gullickson, Gary Prisbe, and Deb Mergen. Not shown: Alan Schultz and Amy Calvillo. (Jay Salvo photo)

President Lyall recognizes staff with 25 or more years of service. Pictured: (left to right) Sharon Wilhelm, Sandy Erdmann, Debbie Durcan, George Brooks, Ron Weidemann, Sandy Gullickson, Gary Prisbe, and Deb Mergen. Not shown: Alan Schultz and Amy Calvillo. (Jay Salvo photo)

Now, I want to acknowledge those who have hit the 20-year mark this year: David Hill and Margaret Ries, please stand.

Would Sandy Erdmann, Alan Schultz and Sharon Wilhelm please come forward? Please join me in thanking them for their 25 years of service to the UW System.

I’d also like to call to the stage George Brooks, Amy Calvillo, Deb Durcan, Sandy Gullickson, Debra Mergen, Gary Prisbe and Ron Weidemann. In recognition of more than 25 years of service, on behalf of your colleagues in the UW System, I would like to present you with these pens as a token of our appreciation.

Would Judy Hatlen and Terri Reda please come up here? Judy and Terri join the select circle of employees who have served this university system for more than 30 years.

President Lyall recognizesTerri Reda (center) and Judy Hatlen for 30 years of service. (Jay Salvo photo)

President Lyall recognizes Terri Reda (center) and Judy Hatlen for 30 years of service. (Jay Salvo photo)

Terri has devoted her entire UW System career to what is now known as the Office of Capital Planning & Budget. She is a mainstay in our capital budgeting, and she is a true success story. She has worked her way up through the ranks and now serves as a senior Capital Budget and Policy Analyst, and also serves as the System’s Environmental Affairs Officer. She balances her career with a full personal life, with four children and high level of volunteerism in the community. You may recall last year she won a Volunteer of the Year award from the Madison School district. Congratulations, Terri, on 30 years of service to the UW System.

Judy Hatlen is the travel auditor for the Office of Finance. She is responsible for Systemwide billing and reviewing travel expense reports. Those of you who deal with Judy know that she is a stickler for accuracy so fair warning to anyone trying to fudge their travel expenses! She is a dedicated and conscientious steward of public funds and in her spare time, she also is a wonderful cook, and an avid gardener. Judy, thank you.

President Lyall recognizes (from left to right) Jim Albers, Nancy Westrum and Chuck McConnell for more than 30 years of service. (Jay Salvo photo)

President Lyall recognizes (from left to right) Jim Albers, Nancy Westrum and Chuck McConnell for more than 30 years of service. (Jay Salvo photo)

I’d like to ask Nancy Westrum, Jim Albers and Chuck McConnell to join us President Lyall recognizes (from left to right) Jim Albers, Nancy Westrum and Chuck McConnell for more than 30 years of service. (Jay Salvo photo)

here. All of you have served this university for more than 30 years and we are appreciative of your contributions which really go all the way back to the birth of the UW System. Please join me in thanking our 30-year plus employees. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. We are blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent.

Now it is my very great pleasure to present the 2002 Eugene Craven award, named in memory of the former Assistant Vice President in the Office of Analysis Services and Information Systems. He was a wonderful colleague. President Robert O’Neil established a memorial fund to recognize academic staff members who best exemplify the commitment, vitality, excellence and initiative that characterized Gene’s career.

We are very pleased to present this year’s award to Betsy West. Betsy, please join me on stage.

President Lyall (left) presents the 2002 UW System Eugene Craven Award to Betsy West, special assistant in the Office of Academic and Student Services (Jay Salvo photo)

President Lyall (left) presents the 2002 UW System Eugene Craven Award to Betsy West, special assistant in the Office of Academic and Student Services (Jay Salvo photo)

Betsy is the Special Assistant in the Office of Academic and Student Services. She has served with dedication since 1995 with student success always at the forefront of her agenda.

She has been a critical force behind the Student Transfer Information System, the online system that is used by thousands of students each year to transfer into or between UW institutions. She has helped our institutions develop strong academic and career advising programs including helping to get state funding in the last biennium for 28 new advising positions throughout the system. Betsy has also helped develop and promote credit transfer between the tech college and UW systems, including chairing several key joint system committees and coordinating the development of the recent degree completion program in Early Childhood Education. In the area of disabilities, she has been instrumental in developing systemwide guidelines for implementing the Board of Regents Policy on Disabilities and drafting a memorandum of understanding between us the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for disabled student services funding.

To add to this record of achievement, Betsy has been elected to chair the national Advising Transfer Students Commission within the National Academic Advising Association. This is both a wonderful tribute from her peers and recognition of her professional contributions to the field. In short, she is a great ambassador for the UW System in many arenas. Congratulations Betsy.

I would like also to thank the person who makes this event possible every year. I know you think that I get up very early on these mornings to bake the goodies and make the coffee, because I tell you that, but the fact is that Kathy Dickerson gets up early and does that! Would Kathy stand up so we can show our appreciation?

In closing, let me acknowledge how our world has changed since last September. Over the coming week, there will be events held, including many on our own campuses, to commemorate September 11th. I hope you will have a chance to participate in some of them.

One thing that struck me about the collapse of the World Trade Center was how much co-workers helped each other. In the most stressful moment of their lives, many stayed behind to help carry a disabled colleague down the stairwell or to make sure everyone had evacuated their offices.

This was an extreme case-God willing we will never face one like it-but I think it demonstrated how close-knit a team becomes when they work together day in and day. I feel that team spirit in our UW System and I am very grateful for it. You are a remarkable group and, as in Garrison Keillor “Lake Wobegon” terms, you are all above average! Thank you.”