Admired advocate

Lynda Kohler

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

Lynda Kohler strengthens communities in greater Milwaukee

She’s known for her drive and compassion advocating for families and children experiencing educational challenges. Lynda Kohler, ’83, has built community and forged new opportunities for underserved children of greater Milwaukee.

For nearly a decade, Kohler has been the driving force behind the SHARP Literacy program’s success. She believes that every child should be given the opportunity to become lifelong learners no matter what their situation. Students in SHARP develop the skills, curiosity and confidence necessary for success.

As leader of SHARP Literacy, Kohler helps the non-profit serve more than 8,000 at-risk students annually using arts-integration and STEAM-based programming to stimulate curiosity, reach for new connections, build analysis skills and promote critical thinking. The organization’s unique, hands-on approach reaches students not only in schools, but also extends to partnerships with universities, community centers, museums and senior living homes.

“Lynda’s example, attitude and drive all serve as examples to those around her to also strive and excel,” notes SHARP Board Chair Tom Mroczkowski.

She keeps SHARP Literacy relevant by encouraging staff to attend conferences about current trends.

Along with staff, Kohler has worked with the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in northwest Milwaukee to craft an after-school program focusing on the urban agricultural movement. SHARP also launched summer programs to help children sustain school-year learning, while working with the community.

Kohler also spearheaded a cooperative project that now operates a sustainable, community-based greenhouse that includes an aquaponics system and solar dehydrator. The program provides education, leadership and vocational opportunities for all ages — along with produce for the Westlawn neighborhood.

Her efforts have resulted in seven awards for literacy initiatives since she started at SHARP.

“She cares about making a better world and is doing something about it,” notes Silver Spring Neighborhood Center Executive Director Tom Ellis.

The Lynda Kohler file

• Admired advocate for children experiencing life’s educational challenges in southeastern Wisconsin.
• Current president and CEO of SHARP Literacy Inc. in Milwaukee. Former president of Ronald McDonald House of Eastern Wisconsin, director of Airline Partner Services for Midwest Airlines and city manager of Boston, Massachusetts.
• Recipient of 2017 Star Award by Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful for environmental contributions; 2015 Helping Hand Award for leadership addressing needs of low-income people; 2014 Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award; 2014 Driven to Achieve Award; 2000 Milwaukee Business Journal’s Forty under 40; others.
• Community involvement: VISIT Milwaukee, Vince Lombardi Charitable Funds, Make-A-Wish Foundation, UWL Alumni Association Board; others.
• Bachelor’s in recreation leadership in ’83.

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.

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 families and children dealing with disabilities and disadvantages 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.