April 13, 2004
Coombs Addresses Campus Community
In the aftermath of a sad and fearful two weeks at UW-River Falls, Interim Chancellor Ginny Coombs addressed the faculty and staff at an all-campus meeting Monday, April 5.
"We have suffered an enormous shock 10 days ago," said Coombs of the death of Chancellor Ann Lydecker March 25. "The grieving process will continue, and it will be both personal and collective. There is no timeline for such a process, nevertheless, there were many projects and scheduled events in the works at the time of Ann's death. Some of these need to be attended to now, and others will wait a bit."
Coombs opened the meeting by reading a resolution from the April 2 UW System Board of Regents meeting.
"Whereas Ann M. Lydecker was a highly respected and graceful leader, a talented and dedicated educator, and a woman of extraordinary compassion, radiant warmth and genuine spirit; and
Whereas Lydecker served admirably for three years as the 14th chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and was the first woman to serve in that role in the campus' 130-year history; and
Whereas the genuine enthusiasm and unwaivering commitment to improving lives in education Ann elevated the stature and scope of UW-River Falls where she inspired faculty, staff and countless students to continually pursue their passions and reach their fullest potential; and
Whereas Lydecker contributed significantly to the university's role in regional economic and cultural development through the work with organizations including the Governor's Council on Workforce Investment and the River Falls Economic Development Corporation; and
Whereas in addition to her service as chancellor, Lydecker's lifelong commitment to education included roles as a sixth-grade teacher, an assistant and associate professor of education at Gustavus Adolphus College, professor and chair of the curriculum and instruction department at Minnesota State University-Mankato, founding dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bridgewater State College; and
Whereas Lydecker was active in local, state and national education organizations helping to chart the future of the UW System, enhance educational excellence, ensure a more seamless educational system; and
Whereas Ann's contributions to higher education, UW-River Falls, the University of Wisconsin System, the St. Croix Valley region, the state and the nation are immeasurable; and
Whereas we lost a valued colleague, an inspiring role model, a vibrant leader, and beloved friend when Ann Lydecker died in an auto accident on March 25, 2004.
Be it therefore resolved that as the University community remembers Chancellor Ann M. Lydecker, her many contributions, and her gracious, welcoming smile, the Board of Regents extends its deepest sympathy to An'’s husband, sons, grandsons and family; recognizes Ann's many achievements; and pledges to sustain her legacy of excellence, commitment, compassion. Madison, Wisconsin, this second day of April 2004."
On April 2, Coombs and UW System President Katherine Lyall met to discuss transition issues for the campus, including the search process for the vice chancellor for administration, a position vacated by Virgil Nylander, who recently retired.
"Ann shared her decision with me and President Lyall just days before her death," said Coombs. "She just didn't get time to act on it. President Lyall …has asked me to move on that process toward its completion."
Coombs will continue as interim chancellor through at least the end of spring semester. She will also continue her duties as provost as well, with additional support from deans and other administrators. Other searches for faculty-staff positions will proceed as planned.
Governor James Doyle will visit campus at the end of April to sign S. 474, which was approved the day of Lydecker's death. The bill authorizes the Hunt-Knowles renovation/expansion as part of the Kansas City Chiefs' summer camp negotiations. Lydecker invested much effort in that endeavor.
Coombs also outlined spring activities on campus. "This is the time of year Ann loved. She loved to celebrate the achievements of faculty, students and staff. We can honor her memory by attending these events and supporting our students."
These events include:
Finally, Coombs lauded staff and student efforts and thanked the campus community in the face of recent graffiti threats of violence. On March 20, graffiti threatening a "Columbine-style" action for March 31 against a campus group was found in a local restaurant. Then on March 29, a nonspecific threat was found on a whiteboard in Johnson Hall. Local law enforcement are investigating the incidents, and increased campus security measures were set in place.
"In the midst of our sorrow over Chancellor Lydecker's death we had to deal with this very real threat," said Coombs. "The student development staff met with students the week of March 22. Chancellor Lydecker was aware of the [March 20] graffiti incident and she and [River Falls] Chief [Roger] Leque issued a joint statement deploring this kind of development."
At noon on March 30, the University held a news conference to discuss increased public safety measures for March 31. At 7 p.m. nearly 1,000 people rallied to hear speakers from the campus and community. Afterward, students and staff gathered in town-meetings held in dorms and in various campus venues. The rally was covered by KSTP-TV Channel 5 and KARE-TV Channel 11 in the Twin Cities.
"Police officers from the Madison campus complimented our students on the turnout," said Coombs. "Students, faculty, staff, citizens of the local community and all the speakers at the rally were clearly outraged at the appearance of the graffiti."
Classes were held without incident on March 31. "I want to thank the faculty who were flexible about class on Wednesday," said Coombs. "Many students whom I spoke with on Tuesday night said they would go to class because to stay away was to admit defeat."
The administration is taking precautions and extra measures in campus security. "We are reviewing our public safety staffing and our campus patrol operations," said Coombs.
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