‘True, visionary leader’

Phil Ertl

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles recognizing alumni receiving distinguished service awards in September 2018.

Phil Ertl among seven to receive distinguished alumni award

If a book is ever written about superintendents who saved a school district, expect Phil Ertl to be in it.

When Ertl came to the Wauwatosa School District in 2005, the suburban Milwaukee district was in crisis. The school board was divided, the administration building was for sale, an elementary building was set to close within a year and a budget deficit was projected.

Ertl turned things around. Today, the elementary building set to close houses a high-performing STEM school, the administrative building for sale is home to a high-performing Montessori and the district continues to receive national recognition for educational accomplishments.

“If ever there is to be a book titled, ‘Savior Superintendents,’ the story of Phil Ertl in Wauwatosa should have a prominent chapter,” says Michael Meier, a member of the Wauwatosa School Board.

Colleagues call Ertl a “true, visionary leader” and “inspiring” in his approach for leading the district of 7,400 students. “With a sharp focus on student learning, Phil has a strong understating of the complex school finance issues at the local and state levels, and has been an active advocate for public schools,” says Kristin Bowers, director of teaching and learning for the district.

He’s also known for his modesty and humbleness. “Often, Phil graciously allows others who serve with him to accept the recognition for the achievements that his leadership has produced,” says Jamie Price, supervisor of technology in Wauwatosa. “His leadership approach is a refreshing, unique beacon in a sea of traditional leadership styles.”

The Phillip Ertl file

  • Superintendent of Schools in the Wauwatosa School District since 2005.
  • Former teacher and administrator at Marble Falls, Texas; Tomah, Menasha and Kiel, Wisconsin.
  • Defensive lineman who led the UWL football team to the 1985 national championship; inducted into the UWL Athletic Wall of Fame, 2013.
  • Holds a doctorate from Columbia University, 1999; master’s from Winona State University, 1993; and a bachelor’s from UWL, 1988.

Seven to receive distinguished alumni awards

Alumni who graduated during the past four decades have earned the 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. 21, in the Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. An Alumni Awards Brunch and Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, 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 Alumnus 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.

  • Joonkoo Yun, ’92
  • Jon Erickson, ’76

Rada Distinguished Alumnus 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.

  • Matt Brantner, ’05
  • Marc Gall, ’03

Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding alumni who have contributed greatly to improve multiracial culture and understanding on campus and in their careers. History Professor Emeritus James Parker initiated the award in 1997.

  • Thomas Harris, ’11
  • Houa Xiong, ’98 & ’00

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.

  • Phil Ertl, ’88