Alumni networks extend campus life
One of the UWL Alumni Association’s most successful networks — groups of alums from specific campus organizations — got its impetus from a not-so-successful band appearance.
Glenn “Goose” Gossfeld transferred to the University of Minnesota in 1980 where he saw the university’s alumni marching band perform in a fall Minneapolis parade.
“I was embarrassed for them, as they were awful, but having fun,” recalls the former chemistry and math major. “Having been a trombone player at UWL, I knew a much, much better band was just down the Mississippi River.”
So, the next summer back in La Crosse, he visited UWL Alumni Association Director Eleanor Kennedy to talk about forming an alumni band. Gossfeld signed a few forms, chartering the Alumni Band.
With that framework, nothing much happened until 1985 when Gossfeld and some other Marching Chiefs alumni decided to march in Oktoberfest’s Maple Leaf Parade. Since, the group, which eventually added Screaming Eagles Band members, hasn’t missed an Oktoberfest. In fact, they’ve added parades in West Salem, Milwaukee and more.
“Young alumni join in each year,” explains Gossfeld, a project engineer contracted with Five Star Energy. “There are still about a half dozen along with me who have marched each year since 1985.”
The band quickly became a parade favorite. During the 50th Anniversary of Oktoberfest in 2010, the UWL Alumni Band was recognized with the Festmasters Award.
Gossfeld says the primary reason for establishing the group was for a convenient method of staying in touch with other band alumni as their professional lives spread across the country. “And performing with our instruments was a natural way to do this,” he notes.
Scott Butler, ’07, the network representative for Delta Sigma Phi, agrees that along with staying in touch with fellow classmates, networks allow alums to meet others from different years.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet fellow alumni who, because of where they live or their profession, you otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet,” notes Butler, an attorney and partner at Fitzgerald, Skemp and Associates in La Crosse. “You may have completely missed them during college, but now have a lot in common.”
Butler also enjoys spending time with current students in his alumni activities. “It’s great to work with awarding scholarships and being able to meet some of the undergraduates,” says Butler.
Chuck “Chico” Rudrud, ’69 & ’80, represents the Beta Sigma Chi network, the Alumni Association’s first network chartered in 1969, the year the Betas folded on campus. Through the network, Beta alums, credited with starting the Lighting of the L tradition on the bluff, have sustained their fraternity. This fall, they will have their 85th annual Beta Breakfast during Reunion Weekend.
Rudrud, who worked at La Crosse’s Trane Co. for 39 years, recommends alums stay involved in UWL, particularly with alumni networks.
“These experiences opened the doors to developing friendships that exist today,” he says. “Get involved in something new that may take you out of your comfort zone and you’ll both learn and appreciate the experience.”
For Adekunle Samuel, ’09, being involved in a network — the Twin Cities network — has extended beyond social gatherings and networking. “One of my favorite events so far was a function we did with “HandsOn Twins Cities,” Samuel notes. “We met at a brewery and assembled and decorated snack packs that went to students in need within schools in North St. Paul.”
Samuel says the Twin Cities alumni network has provided him an opportunity to share his passion. “I’ve met several people along the way who also express similar interests, such as networking and giving back to the community,” he says.
Samuel is currently seeking others in the Twin Cities to get involved. He says the work the university and these networks do speaks volumes.
“We aspire to keep the La Crosse experience alive,” notes Samuel. “Every person I’ve met these past few years wants to give back. I believe that these networks are the key to doing so, especially within your community.”
Current active Alumni Association networks
Beta Sigma Chi
Delta Sigma Phi Epsilon Iota
Current inactive networks
Alpha Phi-Delta Kappa
Prairie du Chien
Residence Life Staff
Student Alumni Ambassadors