Deputy director

Kara Pennoyer, ’06, received the Rada Distinguished Alumni Award.

Kara Pennoyer is respected state government leader

When Chief of Staff Maggie Gau was tasked with assembling an executive administration in under two months for newly elected Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in 2018, the very first person she offered a deputy chief of staff position was Kara Pennoyer.

“Kara has dedicated her professional career to helping others and making Wisconsin a better place for us all,” says Gau. “It’s exactly why I knew I had to have her in our office.”

Pennoyer, who graduated with a double major in political science and communication studies in 2006, has become a state leader for her strong, progressive values in policies she works to promote. She’s known for expanding opportunities for underrepresented communities and more — all reasons Pennoyer has been named the 2020 recipient of the Rada Distinguished Alumni Award.

“She seeks consensus, is a strong communicator, and works to support and build people up in a way that truly is an example for everyone around her,” notes Gau.

Pennoyer got her start in public service by fundraising and writing grants for the New Horizons Women’s Center in La Crosse. She then worked as a research assistant while getting her master’s at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She returned to the Badger State in 2009 as a legislative aid for then Rep. Jennifer Shilling, ’92. Pennoyer became chief of staff for Shilling when she was elected to the senate in 2011. She worked in the senate minority leader’s office until her appointment to the governor’s staff in December 2018.

“She used her position to lift up others, bring attention to overlooked issues and expand opportunities for underrepresented communities,” notes Shilling.

The Wauwatosa native remains an active leader on the UWL Alumni Association Board of Directors. Pennoyer also serves on the Wisconsin Women’s Network board of directors, and was with Wisconsin Women in Government from 2013-17.

As deputy chief of staff, Pennoyer handles a range of issues before they rise to the level of the chief of staff and oversees several teams that work for the governor’s office.

Kara Pennoyer, ’06

• Respected leader in state government, including advisor to the Wisconsin governor and his chief of staff on planning, policy development and problem resolutions, along with overseeing numerous internal teams.
• Deputy Chief of Staff for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
• Bachelor’s in political science and communication studies. Master’s from University of Illinois Chicago.

Six to receive distinguished alumni awards

Alumni from five 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. 18, in the Stzrelczyk Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. An Alumni Awards Brunch and Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 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.

Michael McGinley, ’82
• Revered for a dedicated career in animal health, improving the lives of animals by preventing disease and championing more effective vaccines and drugs.
• President of Biologicals & Pharmaceuticals, Heska Corp.
• Bachelor’s in microbiology. Master’s and doctorate from Iowa State University. Advanced management program at Harvard University.

James Burkhart, ’68
• Internationally recognized scholar in radon science and leader in developing high-quality radon measurement equipment to reduce radon-induced lung cancer.
• Professor emeritus in the Physics Department at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
• Bachelor’s in physics and math. Master’s and doctorate from UW-Milwaukee.

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.

Kara Pennoyer, ’06
(see above)

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.

Jennifer Miller, ’70
• Renowned career working with low-income, poverty stricken or abused persons; worked to revitalize neighborhoods in Rock County, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
• Retired but remains active volunteering for the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.
• Bachelor’s in history.

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.

Penny Kroening, ’85
• National award-winning leader in empowering kids to live physically active lifestyles by promoting physical literacy using creativity, design and integrated arts into lessons; 2016 SHAPE America Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
• Executive director of the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association.
• Earned a Bachelor’s in physical education with a concentration in adaptive physical education. Master’s from Carroll University.

Steven Olson, ’85
• Respected educator with a reputation for placing the best interest of students first while leading with integrity; recently facilitated a five-year district strategic plan resulting with a mission statement of “Enter With Promise. Leave With Purpose.”
• Superintendent of Community High School Dist. 155 in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
• Bachelor’s in broadfield social studies. Master’s from Northern Illinois University. Superintendent Endorsement from Aurora University.