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'Transformational' gifts

Posted 3:22 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2024

Interim Chancellor Betsy Morgan speaks to the campus community Thursday at a news conference announcing two major gifts in support of UWL's Microbiology Department and River Studies Center.

Donations from McGinleys, Radas to support faculty in microbiology, river studies

Two donations totaling nearly $3 million will transform education and research opportunities at UW-La Crosse.  

A $1.5 million gift from Mike and Kathi McGinley will establish UWL’s first named and endowed faculty professorship, to be awarded to faculty who demonstrate leadership, professionalism, and a passion for undergraduate research and experiential learning. 

A second $1.3 million gift from Ron and Jane Rada will establish two permanent fellowships for the director and associate director of UWL’s highly regarded River Studies Center

The gifts were announced at a news conference Thursday, May 16. 

“Largely, the work of faculty is unseen. It is in the late hours or in the summers, and it is work that makes a difference to our students,” interim Chancellor Betsy Morgan said. “Today is a day where some extraordinary donors have come forward to say they appreciate the work of our faculty and their direct impact on the classroom and the other experiences they provide to support students and the lives they go on to lead."

McGinley Endowed Professorship in Microbiology

Kathi and Mike McGinley

The McGinleys’ gift provides financial support for summer research by UWL microbiology faculty — an added benefit that will allow the university to more effectively recruit and retain outstanding educators. 

The first McGinley Endowed Professorship in Microbiology will be awarded in summer 2025. 

“We're so grateful for this gift from Mike and Kathi — it’s really transformational for UWL and our department specifically,” says Mike Hoffman, chair of the Microbiology Department. “Many of you might not know that we do research in the summer but get paid very little to nothing to work with undergraduate students. Now, we’ll really be able to support faculty working one on one with students — designing and carrying out experiments, interpreting data, and then putting those results into posters and presentations, and ultimately into publications.” 

Mike McGinley, ’82, a longtime professional in the animal health industry, and Kathi, a lifelong horticulturist and advocate for people with developmental disabilities, say they are firm believers in the strength of UWL’s Microbiology Department. They hope their donation will inspire others to consider supporting faculty and research across campus. 

“Kathi and I have supported students and various scholarships and fellowships, and we really felt that the time was now to support faculty — which, in the end, supports students,” McGinley says. “Our passion has always been undergraduate research and experiential learning. Our goal is to continue and enhance what’s already been started, and also to stimulate others to think similarly in their various other areas of study."

Rada Endowed Fellowships in River Studies 

Jane and Ron Rada

The Radas’ gift provides financial support for the director and associate director of the UWL River Studies Center, which has provided world-class education and research opportunities on all topics related to freshwater since its creation in 1972. 

Eric Strauss, director of the River Studies Center, says La Crosse is an optimal location for this kind of philanthropic investment. 

“The Upper Mississippi and its connected ecosystems are special and revered by the historical Native peoples of this area and those that live here today,” Strauss says. “These systems are heavily used commercially and recreationally. With that comes many challenges related to multiple uses, habitat alteration, water quality, native and invasive species, and climate change. The River Studies Center strives to advocate for these special systems, study the challenges they face and document their cultural and natural history. 

“Transformational contributions like (this) will certainly help lead UWL to great achievements.” 

Ron Rada, a longtime UWL faculty member and administrator who led the River Studies Center from 1979 to 1997, says the impact will be felt beyond the sciences.  

Ron and his wife, Jane, a former business instructor at Western Technical College, are particularly excited about the multidisciplinary nature of the center. This includes collaboration with members from UWL’s departments of Biology, Chemistry, English, Geography & Environmental Science, Mathematics & Statistics, Microbiology, Recreation Management & Recreation Therapy, Sociology & Criminal Justice, and Sustainability & Environmental Studies. 

“With all that expansion and activity, the center’s visibility and relevance have increased,” Ron says. “It’s in recognition of this long, rich history and exceptional reputation that we make this gift. Our vision is that the center will use the endowed fellowships to enhance its reputation for excellence by building upon the multidisciplinary base of freshwater knowledge and education, and by further extending its influence beyond the whole of academia, ultimately informing, educating and inspiring individuals of all ages in the community and beyond.” 

The first Rada Endowed Fellowships in River Studies will be awarded in summer 2025. 

The director and associate director are selected by the River Studies Center Committee, which seeks faculty members who demonstrate leadership, professionalism, and an impact of the success of the center and the university as whole. 

Endowed faculty positions, such as those established by the McGinleys and the Radas, are permanent revenue-generating investments that are critical to campuses like UWL. They provide perpetual financial support that enhances the work of faculty and their ability to deliver high-quality education to students.

The gifts from the McGinleys and the Radas will unlock education and research opportunities in a variety of disciplines across the sciences and humanities.


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