A servant leader

Wale Elegbede received the Rada Distinguished Alumni Award.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final in a series of articles recognizing alumni receiving distinguished service awards later in September 2019.

Elegbede is a leader in strategy execution, cancer, community’s interfaith network

Wale Elegbede has had a successful career in numerous industries from consulting, information technology and systems, lumber, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, and healthcare. But it’s his work at Mayo Clinic with a novel cancer treatment called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR T-cell therapy) for adults with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that has been the highlight and most fulfilling part of his career to date.

CAR T-cell therapy is a cell-based immunotherapy and “one of the most promising new areas of cancer treatment” according to Yi Lin, a hematologist who chairs the Cell Therapy Cross-Disciplinary Group at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Elegbede led the planning efforts of a large multidisciplinary project team at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. CAR T-cell therapy is approved for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma “and acute leukemia.” In this treatment, cells in the immune system, known as T-cells, are genetically modified to equip them to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

“The service line is operational and saving lives, thanks to the effort of the entire Mayo Clinic multidisciplinary team which included the Cancer Center, Division of Hematology, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Center for Regenerative Medicine and others,” says Elegbede.

But his innovation doesn’t stay at work. Elegbede is a founding member of the La Crosse Interfaith Shoulder to Shoulder Network. The La Crosse-based organization established in February 2016 works to empower people of all faiths, or no faith, to work together to end anti-Muslim sentiment and hatred toward any targeted group by increasing understanding and strengthening the voice of tolerance, freedom and peace.

The native Nigerian also helped organize La Crosse’s first public Ramadan celebration. Mayor and police chiefs from La Crosse and Onalaska, along with other community leaders, broke bread with Muslims during the event.

“[Elegbede] has courageously spoken out against the dangers of the rise of Islamophobia and has been an example of a voice advocating for justice for all people,” says the Rev. Kent D. Johnson, pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent.

Elegbede’s colleagues call him a remarkable co-worker and a friend. “He forms an amazing relationship with whoever he meets and is truly one of the most distinguished people I know,” says Teresa Knudson, senior director of Strategy Management Services and former director of Enterprise Portfolio Management Office at Mayo.

Elegbede is also president of the Project Management Institute (PMI) La Crosse-Rochester Chapter, an organization committed to empowering people to make ideas a reality. The chapter does this by helping community members and organizations learn and leverage project management best practices and experience.

The Sulaimon “Wale” Elegbede file

•Esteemed business and servant leader. Founding board member of La Crosse Interfaith Shoulder to Shoulder Network to curb anti-Muslim sentiment.

• Currently, Director of Strategy Management Services (Innovate Delivery Team) in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Olmsted County Human Rights Commissioner. Adjunct Faculty of Graduate Project Management, Viterbo University.

• Previously served as Senior Project Manager and Head of Project Management Office, Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine; E-Retail IT Project Manager, Ashley Furniture Industries; Information Technology Manager, People’s Food Cooperative, La Crosse; Senior Application Developer, UWL Residence Life; consultant for numerous companies.

• Honors: Viterbo University 2019 Graduate Commencement Speaker, Ashley Furniture Industries Foreman Award (Omni-channel E-commerce Launch), People’s Food Cooperative Outstanding Staff Member, and developer of Lumbergear, a business management/ERP software for the lumber industry mentioned in the 2007 edition of INC 5000 magazine.

• Bachelor’s majoring in Information Systems, 2005; Master of Business Administration with Ethical Leadership Emphasis, Viterbo University, 2019.

Six to receive distinguished alumni awards

Alumni from the past four decades have earned top awards bestowed by the UWL Alumni Association. They’re being honored for distinguished service and successful careers.

The alumni will return to campus in fall to speak with students and participate in a panel at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, in the Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. An Alumni Awards Brunch and Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, in The Bluffs Room, UWL Student Union. Tickets are $25 per person and can be ordered through the Alumni Association at 608.785.8489. Learn more.

The awards and honorees include:

The Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding achievement of alumni who have brought honor and distinction to the university. Long-time administrator Maurice O. Graff instituted the honor in 1977.

Sharon Weston Broome, ’78

• Respected politician. Former Louisiana State Senator and State Representative; first woman to hold pro tempore positions in both. Currently, Mayor-President of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish.

• Bachelor’s in mass communications.

Lynda Kohler, ’83

• Admired advocate for children experiencing life’s educational challenges in southeastern Wisconsin. Currently, president and CEO of SHARP Literacy Inc. in Milwaukee.

• Bachelor’s in recreation leadership.

Rada Distinguished Alumni Award

Recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 20 years, achieved professional distinction and taken part in humanitarian activities. Professor Emeritus Ron Rada and his wife, Jane, created the award in 2002.

Sulaimon “Wale” Elegbede, ’05

• Esteemed business and servant leader. Founding board member of La Crosse Interfaith Shoulder to shoulder Network to curb growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Currently, Director of Strategy Management Services in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

• Bachelor’s of information systems.

Corey Sjoquist, ’96 & ’03

• Influential college admissions counselor in the state of Wisconsin. Currently, director of the UWL Admissions Office, where he has worked since 1996.

• Bachelor’s in mass communications; master’s in college student development and administration.

Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding alumni who have contributed significantly to the improvement of multicultural understanding on the campus and in their careers. History Professor Emeritus James Parker initiated the award in 1997.

Angela Kellogg, ’92

• Renowned student services administrator; advocate for diversity and inclusion. Currently, senior academic planner for the Office of Student Success at UW System Administration.

• Master’s in college student personnel.

Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award

Honors and recognizes outstanding educators and the significant contributions they make to children and communities. Professor Emeritus Burt Altman and his wife, Norma, long-time supporters of teacher education, created the award in 2015.

Pamela Kalafut, ’77

• Prestigious high school teacher, mentor and student activities director at Hinsdale, Illinois, Central High School for 34 years. Currently, retired and serves as a substitute teacher with the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

• Bachelor’s in art education.