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  “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

The passing of
Dr. Edward Weidner
1921 - 2007

Remembering UW-Green Bay Founding
Chancellor Edward W. Weidner

People who knew and worked with UW-Green Bay Founding Chancellor Edward W. Weidner remembered the impact he had on UW-Green Bay, Northeastern Wisconsin and higher education. Weidner, UW-Green Bay chancellor from 1966 to 1986, passed away early today (Wednesday, June 6, 2007).

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Emeritus David Outcalt
Ed Weidner's passing is sad for his family and friends and is a great loss for the university and community.

Ed did some remarkable things. It is tough to be an innovator, to carry out new ideas, to swim against the current; but that is what he set about to do with great vision as Founding Chancellor of UWGB. Not all innovations work and those that do often are modified in time, but the continuing character of UWGB has been profoundly shaped by his concepts. I am sure that he was very gratified by what the campus has become as am I.

A few months after I took over as chancellor from him, he came into my office and asked how things were going and then said something such as, “By the way, I've received a $4 million pledge from David Cofrin toward a performing arts center. “ Getting from that day to the opening of the Weidner Center was one tough assignment, and I got to know Ed quite well in the process. We developed an enduring friendship and although distance kept us from getting together often during the last few years, it was always great fun for Marcia and I to be with Ed and Marge.

I will miss him a lot.

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UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard
“We are, in so many ways, Dr. Weidner’s University of Wisconsin: as the direct expression of his revolutionary vision for higher education, as the product of his tireless hard work, and, even after his retirement, as the focus of his caring, concern, and commitment.
“The depth of the loss for our community and for our university is matched only by the personal loss we all feel for Ed. He was held so strongly in the affection of so many of us, and together we grieve. Marge Weidner and the entire family are very much in our hearts.”

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Mark Perkins, third UW-Green Bay chancellor
“It was a special day in the life of the Perkins family as Carolyn, Patricia, Diana and I left our hotel for the drive along the Bay to Shore Acres. There we would first meet the founding Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. We had been invited for breakfast before I officially began my service as the third Chancellor of the University with the daunting responsibility of realizing the bold vision of one of higher education's greatest educational architects.

And what a meeting it was! It was a family event, a homemade breakfast with the Weidner family and grandchildren. Everyone shared stories about family and of course the founding of the University and our dreams about the distinctive difference the University would make in the lives of the people of Wisconsin and the landscape of American higher education. It was a warm and welcoming experience which our family soon came to appreciate as “The Green Bay Way”.

As you know, Ed was soft spoken, and oh so passionate and persuasive when it came to his University and Green Bay. What you might not know is how close we became as he not only offered me advice on how to work with, or should I say work, the UW System but also on what we might do next at the University. Chancellor Weidner was a mentor and a friend who dared to dream the impossible and simply make it happen. I think it was that soulful connection that gave us the greatest joy in our work together.

To have followed in his footsteps was a privilege, to walk with him in life a joy, and if we follow his example, we can touch the life of thousands who can make a great difference in our world. Ed was a man of quiet courage and deep passion for making a difference in this world. I appreciate the family's offering me this opportunity to share these thoughts in celebration of Ed's journey with me and my family. While we have lost a friend, we have been shown the way. The Perkins family is grateful to the people of Wisconsin and, especially Edward W. Weidner and his family for “Touching our Lives. ”

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Former Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus
“Ed and I were in a pitched public battle over merger. Despite that battle, we never lost our personal friendship. That’s unusual. Most people take these things personally. Ed never did. “This was a man who was very warm, but he had to be close to you before he’d show it. When you were a friend of Ed’s, you were a friend for life. “His legacy is that he established a standard that has carried through today. That initial chancellor is crucial.”

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Green Bay Major Jim Schmitt
“It's hard to imagine what Green Bay would be like without its university. Ed Weidner’s vision and leadership from the very beginning have created an everlasting legacy that will continue to enrich the lives and the spirit of the Greater Green Bay Community for generations to come. Ed showed how quickly a university could build a strong reputation from scratch for both academics and athletics, and we can't thank him enough for that gift.”

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Dr. David Cofrin, longtime friend and supporter of UW-Green Bay
"It is very seldom that anyone is privileged to have known a man of such depth of vision, wisdom and understanding, as was Ed Weidner. This, associated with great love of family and a great kindness and gentleness of spirit that extended to all his relationships with others. In the more than 25 years that Ed and I were good friends, I never heard him speak ill of any person. Not once. Not ever. Now he has passed into our fondest memories and this great institution will continue to feel the influence of his founding years for generations to come."

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Phil and Betsy Hendrickson, longtime friends and supporters of UW-Green Bay
"Our memories of Edward Weidner go back to about 1975 when we met him soon after he had been appointed as chancellor for the new University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. Ed Weidner dreamed of establishing a 'communiversity' with environmental emphasis. We think of Ed as an administrator who was persistent in his goals, planned for the future, and was practical in seeking new ways to reach out into the community. With this new approach to higher education, students from all over the country applied for admission to UWGB. During Ed's retirement years, we have many happy memories of good times and declicious food at his Shore Acres home. We admire Ed and Marge for their persistence in bird watching and love for travel. Ed has touched the lives of countless students and left our community with an outstanding university and forward thinking community leaders. We will miss him."

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UW System President Kevin Reilly
“On behalf of the Regents, the entire UW System, and myself, condolences to the Weidner family and the UWGB community on Ed’s passing. He is sure to be remembered as one of the giants in the history of the University of Wisconsin.”

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Retired UW-Green Bay Associate Chancellor Donald Harden
“Ed was a Renaissance man. He loved the arts on the one hand and athletics on the other and just about every other human endeavor between the two. He had a very rich and full life and made contributions not only to the University, obviously, but to many other community organizations with which he worked.

“Ed started the campus from scratch, which is an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It was a monstrous task. This campus has been a major force not only economically and educationally, but culturally. To have started this University, he made a major contribution to the lives of anyone who attended the University and also those who have lived in this community and throughout the region.”

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Retired UW-Green Bay Vice Chancellor William Kuepper
“It’s important that the current generation of people in the University community who knew Ed as chancellor emeritus and as a very enthusiastic supporter of Phoenix Athletics understand what he did. He brought to the campus a spirit of innovation, which really captured the souls of many of the faculty members who already were here (at the Green Bay two-year center campus) and decided to make a commitment to the University just like Ed Weidner did.

“He was a remarkable chancellor in those early years. UW-Green Bay would not be what it is today if someone else had come in and assumed the reins in those early years. He was demanding and very determined. He was marvelously creative. I don’t know that I’ve found anyone who was more innovative, determined and with a quicker mind than Ed Weidner.”

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Community member James Temp
“He was a bird watcher who was highly intelligent and could talk education and politics. Yet he could have a beer with you and talk football.
“We now have UWGB graduates the world over. It got off to a great start with Ed Weidner. His legacy? The name on the center. That says it all.”

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Prof. William Laatsch, UW-Green Bay’s longest-serving faculty member
“He was certainly a futurist. The testimony of that is that it would be difficult to find a school in the country that didn’t have an environmental science program or some program that addresses the environment. He also made a huge contribution through his approach to an integrated general education program. A program like that emphasizes problem solving, communication skills of writing and speaking, and working effectively within a group. It was the interdisciplinary concept. Other universities have adopted it. We’ve gotten away from it a little.

“He liked and encouraged fluidity of ideas, of faculty assignments. He never allowed an organizational chart on campus. He thought that stifled people. He wanted faculty to be pursuing new ideas and new frontiers.

“He was enormously creative and understood students. He was kind and personable and warm as an individual.”

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Nancy Deprey, UW-Green Bay’s first graduate in 1970
“He always remembered who you were. He made you feel you were an important person. It always surprised me when he would say, ‘Hello, Nancy, how are you?’

“When we had the celebration of the 20,000th graduate (in 2002), it was wonderful to see how the faculty and staff greeted him. He was very well-respected by everyone. He had a vision for the University and carried it through and worked very hard for it. The University was ahead of its time.”

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Betty Brown, founding head of UW-Green Bay News Services
“Ed was a dreamer. He also had the passion, the political skill and the will to see many of those dreams come true. His interest was always in furthering the interests of the University. It was never self-aggrandizement. It was always in building the institution.”

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Former UW-Green Bay women’s basketball coach Carol Hammerle
“As the former chancellor at UW-Green Bay, Ed displayed outstanding leadership because he had a vision for such a young campus. I believe his vision was well ahead of the times. The atmosphere and success that UW-Green Bay athletics and especially women’s athletics enjoy today is what Ed Weidner envisioned for this University.

“In my 32 years of coaching, he was the only chancellor to ask me each year what I needed to improve the quality of the women’s basketball program. When I reflect back I realize what a pivotal person he was in my career at UW-Green Bay.

“After I left UW-Green Bay he made it a point to stay in contact with me. He was a role model, a mentor and a friend. I will miss him dearly.”

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Former UW-Green Bay men’s basketball coach Dick Bennett
“My life has been enriched by Ed Weidner’s leadership and friendship.”

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Retired UW-Green Bay Business Manager Cyril (Zeke) Backes
“Ed would always listen to an idea or suggestion whether it was contrary to his thinking or not. That was a gem of his. He took universities in a different way of thinking. He moved away from the standard letters and sciences theme and put more emphasis on environmental themes. I enjoyed working for him for a lot of good reasons. He never left you out hanging.”

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State Sen. (and UW-Green Bay alumnus) Dave Hansen
“As a member of one of UWGB’s first graduating classes I was saddened to hear of the passing of Chancellor Weidner. Not only was he UWGB’s founding chancellor, he was widely respected as an innovator in education and is rightfully considered the father of the institution. Under his guidance the university grew from its infancy into a respected campus in the university system that has made it the pride of Northeast Wisconsin. Through his vision, dedication to higher education and commitment to our community, Chancellor Weidner set an extremely high standard for all who followed him. I am thankful to have known him, grateful for his contributions and wish to extend my sympathies

  Photo: Weidner at podium.
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