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Campus storyteller writes final chapter

Campus storyteller writes final chapter

Brad Quarberg to retire after 38 years with UWL

Brad Quarberg, '85, director of News & Marketing at UWL, is retiring after 38 years with the university. “I’ve had the opportunity to know so many great colleagues and alumni who have gone on to do amazing things,” he says. “To hear their stories and write about them — and maybe inspire people who read it — is something I’m going to miss.”

Posted 7:06 a.m. Monday, July 3, 2023

For nearly four decades, Brad Quarberg has told the story of UW-La Crosse. 

Starting with an entry-level position in 1985 and culminating with his current role as director of News & Marketing, Quarberg has penned countless campus news stories, capturing the spirit of the people, places and moments that have come to define UWL. As the university’s legislative liaison, he has also carried those messages to local and state politicians, advocating on behalf of the university.

Now, after 38 years — 42 if you count his time as a student here — Quarberg is retiring effective July 5. 

His modest sensibilities would object to the headline, “Storytelling stalwart completes remarkable career.” But that is exactly what he is, and exactly what he has done. 

“I never planned on staying as long as I did,” says Quarberg, ’85 (mass communications and political science). “The job market was slow the year I got out of college. I thought I’d be here for a bit, and then I’d go someplace and do news for a radio station. To be honest, when I got here, I didn’t even know this arm of the university existed.”

Storytelling through the years 

It was a different world when Quarberg started with UWL University Marketing & Communications, then called Information Services & Publications. 

The internet was an abstract concept rather than an accepted component of everyday life.

Quarberg in his old office in Graff Main Hall in the early 1990s.

News releases were delivered by mail.

Phrases like “social media” and “livestream” were still 20 years from entering the public lexicon. 

“A lot has changed, whether people realize it or not, in how people receive their news,” Quarberg explains. “Back then, feeding news releases to the La Crosse Tribune and local TV and radio stations was how we got our message out. We still do that, but now we have our website and four or five social platforms where we can share news. It’s made some things easier, and it’s made some things more challenging.” 

Whether the medium was fax machine or Facebook, Quarberg did what he has always done best: tell stories:  

Quarberg has written all that and much more, producing dozens of issues of campus and alumni news publications. These stories not only promoted UWL to a wider audience — they served as a sort of glue for those hoping to stay connected to the university, instilling a heightened sense of school pride among alumni, friends and community members. 

“We play an important role in carrying the message of the Wisconsin Idea to all corners of the state,” Quarberg notes, referring to the principle that education should influence people’s lives beyond the walls of a classroom. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to know so many great colleagues and alumni who have gone on to do amazing things,” he adds. “To hear their stories and write about them — and maybe inspire people who read it — is something I’m going to miss.” 

Boosting colleagues, building community

Quarberg has also played a pivotal role in shaping the stories of those around him.  

“I know Brad truly cares about the people he works with — their lives, their families and how they can grow in their professions,” says Kjerstin Lang, content marketing specialist. “I’ve had so many opportunities open because Brad made me aware of them.”

Quarberg serving as Maple Leaf Parade marshal during Oktoberfest in 2016.

Mike Lieurance, '02,  former university photographer, adds: “A greater leader not only shows the way but also walks the way. From his community engagement to his commitment to UWL, Brad lives that quote every day. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed working with him. He valued everyone and made people better. I will be forever grateful for the time working with him.” 

Quarberg’s desire to help others can be seen through his involvement on campus and in the community — work that has little or nothing to do with his job description. 

He has served on several campus committees, including two terms on the Academic Staff Council, highlighted by two years as council president. He was integral to the creation of the Academic Staff Excellence Award — recognizing outstanding Academic Staff and raising awareness of their work — and went on to receive the award in 2001. (The UW System Board of Regents would later create a similar award.)

Quarberg is in his third term on the Board of Education for the School District of La Crosse, where he served as treasurer and currently serves as vice president. 

He is a longtime member of the La Crosse Valley View Rotary Club and received the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. 

And he is a preeminent historian on La Crosse’s largest community festival, Oktoberfest, having served as chief editor of a book about the celebration, “The Fest of Times.” He was president of the festival in 2001 and marshal of the Maple Leaf Parade in 2016. 

Janie Morgan, executive director of strategic engagement, says she admires Quarberg for several reasons — not the least of which is his dedication to the community.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Brad for the past 25-plus years,” says Morgan, '85 & '86. “He has taught me a lot about the written word (the famous red pen), how to navigate the UW System, how to participate in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (our professional organization), and how to be of service to the community. He is not only a great colleague but a wonderful friend.” 

Through philanthropy, Quarberg and his wife, Gail, will continue to make a difference on campus and in the community.

Even in retirement, Quarberg will continue to change lives through philanthropy. 

Quarberg and his wife, Gail, established an endowment to fund band and choral initiatives at Logan High School, using the pay he receives for serving on the school board. 

More recently, the couple established the Brad and Gail Quarberg Scholarship Fund at UWL. Each year, the fund awards a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior from Mondovi High School, Quarberg’s alma mater. It will be fully endowed through a future estate gift. 

Quarberg hopes students transitioning from Mondovi to UWL will feel the same sense of belonging he felt as an incoming student all those years ago. For someone who made UWL his home, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate legacy. 

“We came down in December of 1980, and I remember my Vanguard and everyone being so friendly and personable,” Quarberg says. “You can tell when someone is faking it, and it never felt fake here. It stuck with me. After that visit, I decided I didn’t want to be any place else.”


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