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Last updated:

June 29, 2001

Eleven Retire from UW-RF

Eleven faculty and staff members with 317 years of service to UW-River Falls have retired from the University over the past academic year.

Those retiring, their departments, and their years of service are:

•M. Susan (Sorenson) Beck, English department, 32 years.
•W. Larry Brentzel, music department, 31 years.
•Chuck Brictson, Alumni Office, 21 years.
•Daniel E. Ficek, psychologist, Academic Success Center, 32 years.
•Jim Helminiak, health and human performance, 34 years.
•Dean Henderson, animal and food science, 33 years.
•Janet Johnson, Personnel Office, 24 years.
•Curt Larson, physics department, 36 years.
•Kermit Paulson, physics department, 17 years.
•James Shatava, agricultural economics, 30 years.
•Sandra Soares, modern languages, 27 years.

Here are their reflections on their academic careers, including their career highlights, their contributions, and the most noticeable changes theyıve seen at UW-RF.

Beck was first hired to teach freshman English at UW-RF at the age of 22. She left to teach for a few years at Hamline University in St. Paul, then returned to UW-RF in 1971 when she married Robert Beck, who also teaches in the English department.

Her career highlights include the publication of her books, "Baby Talk" and "Kidspeak," published by New American Library and dedicated to her children; being granted tenure in 1991; and being honored with the "Best Teacher in Humanities" award in 1993.

Beck feels she made a significant contribution to the University with her strong support for the Great Ideas in Humanities course, which reflected her academic background and her enthusiasm for interdisciplinary studies.

She says the most noticeable changes at UW-RF are the status of women (there is no longer a dress code, or curfews for women in the residence halls); the cyclical passion of students (it was strong in the 1960s, then mellowed, and has become strong again ); and the reality of a market-driven curriculum that may threaten liberal arts and general education programs.

Brentzel came to the University in 1970, after earning a bachelorıs degree in instrumental music education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a masterıs in wind instruments at the University of Michigan..

He says every successful class, rehearsal and performance has been a highlight in his career, and his sincerest hope is that he has contributed to the musical growth of his students.

The most noticeable change Brentzel has observed is that his students have remained the same age while he has grown older!

Brictson ,who graduated from UW-RF in 1963 with a bachelorıs degree in speech, first worked at the University from 1970 to 1974, then again from 1984 to the present. The focus of his career has been sales, alumni support and services, and fundraising.

Brictson feels his most significant accomplishment at the University has been the success of the UW-River Falls Foundation from 1984 to the present, and the impact that success has had on the students and faculty of the University. In 1984, the assets of the Foundation were $800,000. Last year, they were over $10 million. In 1984, grants to faculty totaled $7,500 annually; they are now $55,000. In 1984, the University awarded $157,000 in scholarship aid. Last year, 570 students received scholarships totaling $305,000.

Concerning change, Brictson is not sure things have changed as much as they have remained the same. UW-RF students still come from small Wisconsin towns and the Twin Cities. Many of them are still the first in the family to attend college, and most still work to pay for their own education. UW-RF faculty are as dedicated as ever to their students.

Ficek came to UW-RF in 1969, after completing bachelorıs and masterıs degrees in education at the University of New Mexico. The highlights of his career have included being a tenured faculty member, providing psychological services and consulting at area treatment services, and being intimately involved in the lives of students and faculty for the last 32 years.

He says his most significant contribution to the University has been his work on the Employee Assistance and alcohol and drug education programs, and the development of human relations course activities in the College of Education. Best of all, there have been no suicides on campus in 32 years.

The positive change he has seen on campus is the plan for new buildings and the remodeling of old buildings. However, he is concerned about the reduction of counseling services provided to students, because if students have to use a local mental health service they will need insurance that covers it, and they will receive a mental health diagnosis.

Helminiak has been at UW-RF since 1967. He holds bachelorıs and masterıs degrees in health education from Indiana University. He was selected as a Distinguished Teacher, the University's highest teaching award.

One of the achievements that he is most proud of is the "techniques of sport fishing" class he developed 30 years ago. News organizations and publications from across the country carried the story of this revolutionary new idea for a class. Some people felt this shouldnıt be offered at a university, but Helminiak felt fishing was a good skill to have and a good stress reliever for students.

He also was part of a five-person team that developed the "Take a Kid Fishing" program in conjunction with what is now called the American Sport Fishing Association.

Helminiak developed the health fair for second graders that was an annual event for 18 years, until it became too expensive and time-consuming. Between four and five thousand kids from 56 schools within a 100-mile radius of the university attended. He felt what the youngsters learned at the health fair were important to their emotional and social stability.

He thinks the most noticeable change on campus is that faculty and staff are not always as nice as they should be to students, and treating students well is part of providing them with a meaningful experience and a well-rounded education.

Henderson came to the University in 1968, after earning a bachelorıs degree in animal science, a masterıs in meat science and a doctorate in food technology and meat science, all from Iowa State University.

The honors he has earned include the 1978 UW-RF Distinguished Teacher award; the 1979 Distinguished Service award from the College of Agriculture; the 1993 Distinguished Teacher award from the College of Agriculture; the 1997 Meritorious Service award from the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors; and the 2000 Distinguished Teaching award from the American Meat Science Association.

For 18 years he was the faculty athletic representative to the NCCA and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and for 13 years he was department chair, involved in the planning and construction of the Food Science Addition of the Agriculture Science Department.

Henderson hopes to be remembered as an outstanding teacher who had a positive influence on students. He feels that being part of the building of an outstanding academic department was his most significant accomplishment.

Johnson, who has been at the University since 1977, earned a bachelorıs degree in business administration at UW-RF.

She was honored with the Chancellorıs Award for Excellence in 1993, and is a member of the University of Wisconsin System Fringe Benefit Advisory Committee and the UW System Tax Sheltered Annuity Committee.

The most gratifying aspect of Johnsonıs job in the Personnel Office has been her work with the UW-RF employees.

Curt Larson began his career at UW-RF in 1965, after earning a bachelorıs degree in physics and mathematics at UW-RF in 1960, and earning his doctorate in physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1965.

His career highlights were being chosen as Outstanding Science Teacher in 1991, and receiving the award for Excellence in and Service to Teaching Physics at the College Level by the Wisconsin Association of Physics Teachers in 1995, and an award from the Wisconsin Association of Physics Teachers in 1995.

Larson served as chair of the physics department for 18 years and ran the summer physics certification program for high school teachers for the past 12 years.

As the first physics faculty member with a doctorate to be hired at UW-RF, Larson had the privilege and opportunity to lead in the development of the Universityıs high-quality, student-friendly physics program.

Larson said there have been tremendous improvements in the physical facilities since he arrived on campus, but expresses concern that the pressure put on young faculty to do research will endanger the traditional emphasis on excellence in teaching at UW-RF.

Paulson began teaching at UW-RF in 1984, after earning a bachelorıs degree in physics from Augsburg College and a masterıs in physics at UW-Madison.

His career highlights include 37 years of teaching at UW-Green Bay, Augsburg College and UW-River Falls, and work as a scientific consultant to several companies. He has served as president of the Wisconsin Association of Physics Teachers and president of the North Central Chapter of the Health Physics Society.

Paulson received the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Award for Excellence in 1989, he was named College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Member in 1996, and he received the Health Physics Society Chapter Service Award in 2000.

His most significant accomplishment has been contributing to the education and career development of a fine group of physics majors, engineers and students from other majors.

Of the changes over the years, he has noticed a large increase in the number of non-teaching staff with modest change in the number of permanent teaching faculty members.

James Shatava joined the University in 1972. He holds an undergraduate degree in agricultural business administration from the University of Minnesota, a masterıs degree in agricultural economics from Colorado State University, and a doctorate in agricultural economics from the U of M.

He was honored this spring with the Outstanding Teacher award for the College of Agriculture.

Shatavaıs hope is that he has contributed to quality undergraduate education by helping students develop a good framework for decision making. He says the most noticeable change heıs seen during his career at UW-RF is an expansion of programs and course offerings within agriculture. He has also noticed that students majoring in agriculture do not necessarily come from traditional agricultural backgrounds.

Sandra Soares, who came to UW-RF in 1974, holds an AA degree from Cottey College, a bachelorıs degree in French from North Central College, a masterıs in French from the University of Florida and a doctorate in French from the University of Florida.

Her students have been the most rewarding aspect of her career at UW-RF.

She has enjoyed watching them grow, and has appreciated their eagerness to learn. Soares says she has learned a great deal from her students as well, and many of them remain good friends with whom she keeps in touch.

She also has appreciated the friendship and support of her colleagues. In the time she has spent as chair of the modern language department, she has particularly appreciated Deans Swensen, Prochnow, Hedahl, Karolides and Hagen, who always seemed to understand her

. Accompanying students to Europe on quarter and semester abroad programs has been her greatest achievement. Watching the students grow as they did the required research was her reward. She considers her recent work on the faculty handbook and the University catalog‹work that she enjoyed immensely‹another important contribution.

Although many things remain the same as they were when she arrived at UW-RF, there have been some obvious changes. One is in the area of technology. Where she once used ditto machines and typewriters, she now has computers with CD-ROMs, DVDs, e-mail, PowerPoint and the Internet.

Soares once fantasized about an electronic French dictionary that would give her the French definition and English translation of a word. Now, by bringing a CD into her classroom and booting it up at the beginning of class, she can make her fantasy come true.

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