For you. For La Crosse. For a Lifetime

Alumni Association’s humble start blossoms into strong source for alumni connection

It was 1964 when Eleanor Kennedy walked into the university public relations director’s office. English Professor Mary Hebberd, who also handled the university’s publicity, asked Kennedy to stop by to make arrangements for an article.

Kennedy and her youngest son, Dennis, were both graduating on the same May day. And, Kennedy’s daughter, Dawn, was a campus freshman. Hebberd thought it would be a great article for the La Crosse Tribune.

But during the meeting, their conversation turned to developing the university’ public relations and alumni departments — recommendations from a recent accrediting team. The conversation ended with a call to then-President Rexford Mitchell with Hebberd proclaiming she had found the person to work with alumni records.

The following September, Kennedy entered Graff Main Hall — this time as an employee.

“I had only a beat-up typewriter, a hard chair and a long work table,” recalled Kennedy in an “Alumnus” interview before her retirement in 1987. “They handed me a box of 3 x 5 cards with about 5,000 names. That was it and they said, ‘go for it.’”

With that humble start, Kennedy developed the files that eventually moved to a computerized system. Five years later, the UWL Alumni Association was officially organized with Kennedy as its executive director.

Today, the association’s list includes more than 67,000 alumni and friends. And its mission of building and maintaining relationships among students, alumni, friends and the university remains.

“I have met alums young and old, in our own backyard and continents away,” says current Executive Director Janie Morgan, ’85 & ’86. “The one thing that we all have in common is this place — this campus. Other universities may have something similar, but being part of the ‘La Crosse Experience’ is truly something special.”

The leaders

Five people — three alums — have led the Alumni Association during its first 50 years.

Eleanor Kennedy, Secretary and Executive Director,  ’64 & ’76 — 1964-88 

Tom Macgillivray,  Coordinator, ’70 — 1976-77 

Roger Hughes, Coordinator — 1978-79 

Caroline Norelius, Executive Director  — 1988-97 

Janie Morgan, Executive Director ’85 & ’86 — 1998-present 


“My goal has been friend raising, not fund raising. Every contact I have made may not have brought money into the university, but it has brought either students, friends or resources that have helped to make this a great institution.” — Eleanor Kennedy, ’64 & ’76, upon her retirement


How did the Hanging of the Lantern start? What about the big “L” on Grandad Bluff? Find out how these UWL traditions got started.

The UWL Alumni Association

Vision statement

To create a lifetime connection with the university.

Mission statement

To support UWL by building and maintaining relationships among students, alumni, friends and the university.

Core values

Tradition…we believe in “The La Crosse experience” and are committed to enhancing the vibrant history that makes UWL unique.

Service…we provide the highest level of service through commitment, loyalty and passion.

Education…we encourage and support lifelong learning.

Diversity…we embrace individual differences and recognize that we are strengthened by them.

Integrity…we treat everyone with the utmost respect, with our actions guided by honesty and fairness.