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Distinguished Alumni

Alumni that deserve recognition

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually by the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation to outstanding alumni who reflect the ideals of UW quality and have established an exceptional reputation in their careers and communities.

The UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation is soliciting nominations from the public for the Distinguished Alumni Award. The criteria and selection process has been determined by the Friends of the University Committee of the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation. The nomination form should be submitted by April 1. When nominating someone via the nomination form, complete all required sections to the best of your ability. If you are uncertain of certain information, just indicate that in the narrative. IF YOU WOULD RATHER EMAIL a narrative to nominate a worthy alum, please include as much detail as possible and send your email to, subject: Distinguished Alum Nomination. You will be contacted if follow-up information is needed. 

2021: Dean Kallenbach

Class of 1977
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Dean Kallenbach, former Wisconsin Public Radio personality and regional manager, was named UW-Eau Claire — Barron County’s 2021 Distinguished Alumnus at the campus’ May 13 commencement ceremony.

Kallenbach, a Hillsdale native and Barron High School graduate, attended what was then the University of Wisconsin Center – Barron County from 1975-1977 where he participated in Forensics, Swing Choir, Concert Choir, Jazz Band, The Dean’s List Big Band, theatre, soccer, cross country, basketball and was sports editor for The Twig student newspaper. After completing studies at the Barron County campus, Kallenbach earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio and Television Broadcasting from UW Platteville.

The first Wisconsin Public Radio employee hired to do local programming in western Wisconsin—a bureau that has grown to seven employees and dozens of volunteers—Kallenbach later became the first regional manager for the western Wisconsin WPR bureau, and the first senior regional manager overseeing all six regional offices in Wisconsin. He created and served as executive producer of the regionally based programs The West Side, Spectrum West, Mental Health Today with Dr. Minette Ponick, and On Your Money with Kevin McKinley which later became WPR’s most popular statewide program.

Committed to the next generation of journalists, Kallenbach provided guidance to more than 150 students through internships and advised student broadcasters at UW-Eau Claire for two decades. For the past five years, he has created and supervised full-time paid summer journalism internships specifically for underrepresented students. He has partnered with more than 30 western Wisconsin non-profits for promotional sponsorships, building awareness of their events and activities among the WPR audience. A former president of the United Press International Broadcast Advisory Committee, Kallenbach currently serves on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Kallenbach received the UW-Extension Chancellor’s Award for Excellence (2002) and Award for Career Service (2017). He has also earned multiple journalism and programming awards from the Midwest Broadcast Journalism Association, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Associated Press and United Press International.

After a 35-year career, Kallenbach retired from WPR in April 2021. He resides in Eau Claire with his wife, Sandy, where his community involvement includes Eau Claire Regional Arts Council; Chippewa Valley Girl Choir; Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra; Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild and the Eau Claire Children's Theatre. He is a member of the Chippewa Valley Beekeepers and the Eau Claire Horseshoe Club. In addition, he has served 12 years on church councils in Polar, Rice Lake, Menomonie, and Eau Claire; 12 years as a Sunday School teacher and Confirmation Guide at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Eau Claire.

Past Distinguished Alumni

2020: Jean (Lenz) Anderson, Class of 1986. Librarian and Volunteer

2019: Knute Brekke, Class of 1983, WIAA Player of the Year/Soccer 1981, ROV Operator

2018: Terry Wiesner, Class of 1972, Drama Director

2017: Karla (Schreiber) Hulne, Class of 2002, Music Educator

2016: Mike Rogers, Class of 1975, Academic and Administrative Financial Management

2015: Kathe Nickleby, Class of 1991, High School Educator and Principal

2014: Chris Fitzgerald, Class of 1993, Law Enforcement; County Sheriff

2013: Peter Muschinske, Class of 1983, Minister

2012: Jeff Hile, Class of 1976, Artist, Art Educator, Entrepreneur

2011: Mark Gilbertson, Class of 1977, Chemical Engineer, Dept. of Energy

2010: Eric Ness, Class of 1981, Agriculture Engineer, SBA Director

2009: Karyn (Nelson) Schauf, Class of 1975, Agriculture Entrepreneur

2008: John P. Gamoke, Class of 1976, Stage and Screen Actor

2007: Lance Allan Hajdasz, Class of 1990, Sports Broadcaster

2006: Louis E. Muench Jr, Class of 1974, Master Meat Processor, Entrepreneur

Award Process

The UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation Board recognizes outstanding alumni of the The UW-Eau Claire – Barron County with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. The nominee’s professional, volunteer and personal achievements at the university, in the community, and in the world will be considered.

All nominations submitted to the The UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation by the stated deadline will be considered. The final selection will be made by the Distinguished Alumnus Award Committee. The award will be presented to the Distinguished Alumnus at the spring commencement ceremony. If your nominee is selected, you will be asked to attend the Commencement ceremony with the nominee if at all possible. An award will be presented that evening and you and the nominee will be included in festivities.

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