Terry and Tom Wirkus announced for the UWL marching band for 50 years. That tradition ended in November.
Terry Wirkus, ’79 & ’88, has hung up his clipboard after 25 years announcing for the UWL Screaming Eagles Marching Band during home football games. He followed the footsteps of his father, Tom Wirkus, who had announced for the band the previous 25 years.
Posted 11:56 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2000
Many people follow in their parents’ footsteps. Terry Wirkus practically walked in his father’s shoes.
Wirkus, the distance learning technology coordinator at UWL Information Technology Services, has traced the life and career of his late father, Tom, almost to a T.
Both studied speech in college and went on to work at radio stations.
Both left their media jobs for a position at UWL, where they both taught communication courses.
And both spent exactly 25 years announcing for the UWL Marching Band during home football games — a family tradition that ended Nov. 13 when Wirkus announced for the final time.
“The parallelism of our careers brought us closer,” says Wirkus, ’79 & ’88, who will retire sometime in 2022. “He never said a lot directly to me about it, but my mother has shared that he was extremely proud.”
For this branch of the Wirkus family tree, announcing for the university marching band is the perfect pastime. It combines three things that have long been central to their lives: communication, music and UWL.
It started in fall 1968, when then band director Ralph Wall was looking for an announcer. Tom was recommended for the job — one he would dutifully perform until his retirement in 1993.
According to Wirkus, his father’s only regret was he did not start a year earlier. If he had, he would have been at the most famous NFL game in history, the 1967 Ice Bowl, where the UWL marching band attempted to perform at halftime.
“Attempted” is the operative word, since the performance was cancelled after band members complained that the frigid temperatures caused their instruments to stick to their lips.
When Wirkus returned to UWL in 1996, it seemed only fitting that he continue the family tradition.
In the 25 years since, he has not earned a dime announcing. But he has accumulated a trove of memories.
He’s been at Roger Harring Stadium at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex for every home game but one. But some of his favorite memories came during performances at Lambeau Field.
At one game, Wirkus ad-libbed: “From Bill Schroeder’s alma mater, it’s the UW-La Crosse Screaming Eagles Marching Band!”
Schroeder proceeded to fumble the opening kickoff of the second half.
Another time, the band was set to do a “fifth quarter performance.” As the announcer, Wirkus was permitted to stand on the sidelines after the two-minute warning.
The Packers, trailing by four to the Minnesota Vikings, had the ball.
“With 10 seconds left, Brett Favre throws a perfect ball to receiver Corey Bradford in the end zone. Touchdown Green Bay!” Wirkus remembers. “The Packers bench erupted in front of me. Wow! I was high on adrenaline when I announced for the band that day.”
More than the individual memories, Wirkus has cherished the opportunity to make his father proud.
Taking after him, Wirkus says, “has meant everything to me.”