- Stephanie Kirk (2004-2005)
- Ekokobe Fonkem (1999-2000)
- Lucy Kronforst (1998-2000)
- Jim Putman (1989-1991)
- Steve O’Hearn (1978-1979)
- Patrick Michalkiewicz (1977-1979)
- Brian Borchardt (1971-1974)
- Charles F. Merbs (1954-1955)
Stephanie Kirk (UWFox 2004-05, Lawrence University, expected graduation summer 2008), was the lucky recipient of the Appleton Breakfast Rotary 2002-2003 year of study abroad during her senior year at Appleton West. She chose to study and live in Thailand, and that seems to have made all the difference.
“We lived two hours from Bangkok, in the countryside, where it’s very conservative, especially when it comes to girls. I wore a bandana to cover my hair, I was super polite, and even dressed in boys clothes” to try and make things easier, she recalled. It took eight months of full immersion before Kirk considered herself quite fluent in Thai. One of the highlights of her time in Thailand was a 9-day visit to a renowned Buddhist temple (Wat Ampawan) where she first learned the art of Insight Meditation. “With consistent practice, it really can assist in healing ourselves so that we can help ourselves, then others,” Kirk believes.
Kirk returned to Appleton more than a bit homesick, a tad broke, and uncertain about her next step into college. She spent the summer at Columbia College in Chicago enrolled in music classes, worked during the fall and then enrolled for the spring of 2004 at UWFox. Being at home was a big part of her decision. "What I remember most about UW Fox are the dedicated professors, and what lengths some go to in assisting their students to achieve their goals are amazing. Professor Susan Benedict (mathematics) certainly was dedicated, especially when she encountered hard-working students facing obstacles in their education. Other faculty, such as Jeff Kuepper (student activities director), worked to bring in enriching speakers and assist students to be involved on campus. It is these types of professors and faculty that made my time at UW Fox such a rewarding experience."
It wasn’t long before she felt that calling to go back to Asia. By the summer of 2004, she was teaching English to students in China and Thailand. Summer 2005 found her enrolled in the grueling Beloit College Intensive Chinese language program. (Each province within China has its own dialect, but mainland Chinese speak primarily Mandarin and their provincial dialects. Hong Kong and Taiwan dominantly speak Cantonese.) Kirk is fluent in Mandarin.
After three semesters at UWFox, Kirk transferred to Lawrence University with a Chinese language and literature major and a minor in government. She also was awarded three separate scholarships that sent her to study at the prestigious Capital University of Business & Economics in Beijing in the 2006-2007 academic year. “We all lived in a student dorm and we had taken a strict language pledge. Students were sent back (for lapsing into their own language and not keeping their pledge to speak only Mandarin)” Kirk recalled. Included in her language studies were weekly 500-character handwritten essays in simplified Chinese. Kirk explained mainland China uses simplified characters now versus the traditional characters that are still predominantly used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Her success in Beijing has already earned her a post as an intern in the U.S. State Department in Beijing in the summer of 2008, an Olympic feat, no matter the year.
The future? It’s bright. After graduating this summer from Lawrence University, Kirk will stay on for another fall term to pick up more upper level government courses. She’s been accepted to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies accredited through Johns Hopkins University in Nanjing, China. She plans to enroll separately in the joint-degree program with the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. After completion of the Nanjing program, she will apply to SAIS in order to earn her master’s degree. One of Kirk's most recent scholarships required her to participate in community discussions and help promote Asian studies. For now, look for Kirk around here. Soon, look for her on the international stage.
Ekokobe Fonkem came from Cameroon and enrolled at UWFox (UWFox 1999-2000; UW-Madison B.S. in biochemistry, 2002; Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O., 2007; currently serving 4-year residency in neurology at Ohio State Medical Center). An odd path, you might think? Not when you consider the global reach of Kimberly Clark. Dr. Fonkem’s father, who used to work for the Ministry of External Relations in Cameroon, met a KC employee while studying at the University of Minnesota. His family was invited to visit Appleton and liked the area so much that they permanently relocated to the Fox Valley in 1999.
Ekokobe speaks English, French, his local Cameroonian dialect Nweh and some Swahili. Dr. Fonkem plans to complete his neurology residency and begin to see patients in both the United States and Cameroon. “I want to do volunteer work in Africa with my students. In this way, I can give back to both the citizens of the United States and of Africa.”
Fonkem, now living and working in Columbus, Ohio, has countless memories of UWFox, and he rattles off professors’ names, student services staff members and administrators like he spoke to them just yesterday. It’s no wonder he’s chosen the healing profession as his career. With a name like Ekokobe, which means “to bring civilization,” in Nweh, he was bound to be an authentic people person.
According to Lucy Kronforst (UWFox 1998-2000; UW-Madison, B.A, 2002; UW-Madison Law School, 2005), being an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County is what she’s always wanted to do. “First of all, I love to get paid for doing what you think is right – doing justice, helping people.” Kronforst is part of a general crimes team in the Milwaukee County D.A.’s office that’s specifically assigned to a southside Milwaukee neighborhood. “It’s a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, and since I can speak Spanish, that’s helpful,” she explained.
Kronforst spends her days engaging in pre-trial negotiations, preparing for motions hearings or getting ready for court or jury trials. “Pretrial diversion is important. If someone does not have a criminal record, we try to help keep his or record clean, while meeting the needs of the community,” she explained. That may mean getting an offender drug treatment or anger management classes, plus assuring that the victim’s needs are satisfactorily addressed. “We need to focus our resources on people most dangerous to our community.”
Kronforst can play an important role in preventing a person’s criminal record from growing. Depending on how the legal system addresses these often first-time offenders, it may help perpetrators straighten their ways. Together with this mission-oriented view of her job, Lucy appreciates her regular work hours, unlike a corporate law firm would offer a new law school grad.
A graduate of Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin, Lucy landed at UWFox by chance and luck. She recalls a college fair that she attended while still in high school where a UWFox staff member talked to her about applying for an academic scholarship. When she later learned that she had been awarded the full two-year scholarship to the college, the decision to attend was easy. “Everyone wants to go to a 4-year college. I know I wanted to go to UW-Madison right away. But I still tell people about UWFox. You can do so much, and get so much done (at a two-year campus). I remember those were some of the best years I ever had.”
Jim Putman (UWFox 1989-91; MATC, 1994; UW-Madison, B.S., computer science, 1997) attended UW-Fox Valley right after graduation from high school in Kimberly, Wisconsin. He’s gone from the local college setting to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and now resides with his wife and two children in Shanghai, China. Along that long road he earned his associate’s degree in electronics from Madison Area Technical College, a bachelor’s from Madison in computer science, and an appreciation for the boost that UWFox gave him early-on. “UW-Fox Valley was a great step for me. The courses really helped my writing skills and of course math is a big part of programming and electronics. ”
Jim’s family history with UW-Fox is rich. His father, Dan Putman, has been a philosophy professor at Fox for 30 years. And as a youngster, Jim acted in a long list of theatrical productions at the college.
Jim launched his professional career at Motorola in Austin, and then shortly thereafter got a job as a software engineer with Intel. While at Intel he pursued international opportunities in Taiwan and then China. Today Jim has left Intel and in now the CTO of a technology based advertising company, Touchmedia, in Shanghai. “We build embedded computers that passengers in taxis interact with. We get millions of passenger views each month and will be deploying our devices nationally soon. If you ride a taxi in Shanghai you'll probably see our product.”
Steve O’Hearn (UWFox 78-79) and his wife Lisa now make their family’s home in Summit, New Jersey, yet have an intriguing list of experiences from across the globe. Catching up with him at dawn, just as he arrived at his office of Price Waterhouse Coopers in New York City, he spoke warmly of his time at FOX in an unmistakable native Wisconsin accent. “I have a tremendous respect for (my former professor) Pat (Hayes) in particular. He reinforced that a career in accounting could be fun,” he recalled with a smile. O'Hearn is now a managing partner in the 3000-professional New York financial services practice of the world-wide accounting firm. “I still find the pace to be exciting and thrilling. Everyday is new, different, challenging.”
After graduating from Appleton West High School in 1978, Steve went on to FOX and then to graduate from Notre Dame in 1982. He started his career with Price Waterhouse in Milwaukee in auditing, achieving partner in 1994, at which time he began to focus exclusively on auditing financial institutions. In 2001 he and his family accepted a three-year assignment in Tokyo to lead the insurance practice there. Steve and his wife Lisa, also a native of Wisconsin, together have Patrick (19), Meghan (18) and Connor (15). “It was a fantastic family experience. We had an apartment in the central city and the kids went to the American school in Tokyo. The expatriate community really gets tight,” Steve explained. The family returned to the U.S. in June 2004 so that the children could attend high school. They soaked up the language and culture while in Tokyo, Steve explained. “They can read and write Japanese, but I can get taxi drivers where I want them to go,” he laughed, which serves him well on his frequent return trips to the region.
He admits his weeks are long, starting with a 5:07 a.m. train into New York City, stretching into dinners and meetings well into the evening. “Weeks are long, but it’s not drudgery. Weekends, however, are sacred.” There is always a long list of sporting events, church activities and volunteer opportunities from which to choose. The O’Hearns also head back to Appleton each Christmas to see Steve’s parents, Tom and Mary, both retired educators. They also treasure their summer vacations in Door County … if for nothing else than to perfect that Wisconsin accent, perhaps.
Patrick Michalkiewicz, (UWFox 1977-79; UW – Madison, B.S.M.E, 1981) graduated from Appleton West High School in 1977 and enrolled at UWFox. In addition to pursuing pre-engineering classes there, he also participated in inter-collegiate basketball and tennis. “Smaller classes and easy access to professors enhanced and personalized my education at UW – Fox Valley. And the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities eased the transition from high school to college.”
From there Michalkiewicz transferred to the UW – Madison, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in December 1981. Since then he has been employed in various roles with the Integrys Energy Group, a gas and electric utility holding company serving Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. Career stops along the way have included engineering and management positions in nuclear power, gas supply, sales & marketing, mergers & acquisitions, and customer service. He recently transferred to Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, subsidiaries in the Chicago area. In his role there as as a manager for commercial and industrial accounts, Michalkiewicz is responsible for overseeing all aspects of account management for commercial and industrial customers, as well as the alternate natural gas suppliers serving Chicago and northeastern Illinois.
Michalkiewicz was born and raised in Appleton where much of his family still resides. His daughter Katie (24) graduated from Marquette. She recently married and lives and works in Madison, where her husband is attending graduate school. Patrick’s son Chad (22) is a senior at Winona State University (MN) where he is majoring in education and is an undergraduate assistant for their football team.
“UWFox changed my life by helping to ensure a successful transition to UW – Madison. There are definite economic advantages to attending a small local college. But in addition, I found that the quality of education is as good as or better than larger schools because of the individual attention that is readily available. Small classes and the opportunity to participate in other activities also made it much easier to meet people and develop new friendships. I truly benefited from this and, as a result, was better prepared for the transition to UW – Madison. That experience gave me the confidence to succeed in a highly competitive academic environment.”
Brian Borchardt (UWFox 1971-74; UW-Madison, B.S. in physical therapy, 1976) was a member of the UWFox class of 1974, the first-ever class to be awarded the 2-year associates degree at the UW Colleges level. Prior to that time, students would simply earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year university, but the 13 freshman-sophomore campuses were not themselves degree-granting institutions.
Borchardt’s bachelor’s degree was earned soon after graduating from UWFox. He experimented with the idea of pharmacy school in UW-Madison but chose a career in physical therapy because if the increased human interaction. It appears he chose well. Borchart returned to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton in 1976 as a P.T. and has worked his entire career there. ”My treatment focus is spine. I work mostly with low back and neck problems, non-surgical and well as post-surgical. I participate on the worker's rehab, ergonomics, and safety teams here at St E’s. I've also done preventive spine care presentations for local business and industry for the past 18 years.”
Borchardt has been blessed with a career and a passion that blend well together. As a passionate 40-plus-year golfer and golf instructor, he offers a golf performance enhancement program, complete with the video analysis on one’s swing, to golfers who care as much about their game as their body’s ability to play it far into the future. “I take a close look at the unique position of the body in a golf swing, the human body mechanics or the kinesiology of the body, to optimize that swing.”
Borchardt and his wife Jacqueline have three children. Katie (25) is married and expecting a baby. Kyle (22) will graduate from UW-Madison this year, and Julie is a senior at Appleton East. And his memories of starting out at UWFox? “I remember an organic chemistry class with Bill Guither,. I think we had seven people in it. There’s something about being able to sit opposite your professor after class and have a soda. It was such a cool way to learn.”
Charles F. Merbs, Ph.D., spent his first year of college at the University of Wisconsin - Menasha Extension (UWFox 1954-55; UW-Madison B.S. 1961, M.S. 1963, Ph.D 1969). He taught for 10 years at the University of Chicago before moving to Arizona State as the chair of its department of anthropology in 1972. Merbs spent six years as chair and remained at ASU as professor until his retirement in May 2004.
Dr. Merbs’ signature line at the conclusion of his e-mail messages reads: “May you always have skeletons in your closet!” Skeletons are his specialty, after all, as his areas of professional interest and expertise are osteoarcheology and forensic and dental anthropology. Dr. Merbs has innumerable academic publications, has been published in TIME, served various medical examiners’ offices across the U.S., supplied content to The World Book Encyclopedia, and even had portions of his research translated into Russian.
”I still have wonderful memories of my instructors back at the Extension. In the beginning I was not a very good student, but my instructors, Lila Locksmith, Blanche Swindell, and, especially, Kenneth Armitage, recognized my potential and showed me how to develop it,” Professor Merbs recalled. Many years later he got a chance to invite Dr. Armitage to his office at ASU to tell him how important he was in his life and to thank him. “Being a teacher myself I knew how much that would mean to him.”
Dr. Merbs still participates in professional meetings, does research and publishes the results. For now, he appreciates his newfound time for more creative writing, both fiction and memoirs.