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Lifetime Achievement Award

The UW-River Falls Alumni Association established the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 to recognize the accomplishments of alumni who have provided long-time exceptional service and leadership in their profession and community and demonstrated a continued interest and loyalty to UWRF. The award is presented at the Evening of Excellence each spring.

The UWRF Alumni Advisory Board selects the award recipients based on the recommendations of the Awards and Recognition Committee of Board. Nominations for the award may be submitted by members of the UWRF community, alumni and UWRF Foundation/Alumni Board members. A written recommendation should be attached to the nomination form and is limited to two pages.   

The written recommendation should address the following award criteria:

  • Long-time exceptional service and leadership in their profession and community
  • Continued interest and loyalty to the University  
UWRF Section Separator

Ramona Raeshler grew up in Rock Elm, Wisconsin. She is the second oldest in a family of eight children. She attended a two-room schoolhouse from first to eighth grade in Rock Elm and high school in Elmwood, Wisconsin. Throughout high school and during the summers, Ramona worked as a guide at Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, Wisconsin.

She knew she wanted to go into teaching when she was in high school. One of the teachers at her school needed assistance with her third-grade class. She would read to the students and fell in love with how loving and kind the children were. While at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, she worked for photographer Gene Brown for two years.

Ramona married her fiancé shortly after he returned home from Korea. Her husband had the GI Bill to obtain his college degree. While he was earning his degree, Ramona took a break from school. During that time, they had two sons. She returned to college to obtain her master’s degree after their sons were in school.

After Ramona graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1971, she was offered a teaching job as a second-grade teacher, where she taught for thirty years.

Being a lifelong learner, Ramona decided to go back to school at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She started out taking a history course. She then went on to take criminology courses. Ramona’s husband died of cancer in 2008. Taking classes and being with her professors and classmates helped her deal with her great loss.

In 2019 she received the Faculty Recognition Award for the Sociology, Criminology and Anthropology Department at UWRF. Ramona holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Education and School Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Richard Vilstrup, a 1951 graduate of UW-River Falls, was named the 2021 Lifetime Achievement award recipient. Vilstrup earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education from UWRF in 1951 and a Ph.D. from UW-Madison in 1963. He spent 27 years as a professor of agriculture economics, agribusiness and marketing at UW-Madison.

Vilstrup founded the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives whose initial focus was international cooperative education. He developed the National Cooperative Leadership program used by nearly all major co-op councils and was inducted into the National Cooperative Hall of Fame in 1998. He served as a board member for numerous organizations including the Central Livestock Association, Land O’ Lakes and Farm Credit Services.

Vilstrup received the Superior Lifetime Service Award from the United States Department of Agriculture and was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 1999.

Born on a dairy farm east of River Falls, Duane Roen loved language at an early age. In Woodville, his eighth-grade language arts teacher, Joyce King, was an inspirational role model and at Baldwin-Woodville High School, his English teacher Claire Stein (also a UWRF alum) further inspired him.

Roen earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English teaching at UWRF where his mentor was English Professor Nicholas Karolides. Nick's influence was so great, in fact, that Roen and his wife, Maureen, named their first child after him.

Roen began his career teaching English at New Richmond High School where he served as K-12 language arts chair and coached baseball, directed debate and forensics, and advised the school newspaper.

Currently an English professor at Arizona State University, Roen serves as dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, vice provost, and coordinator for the Project for Writing and Recording Family History. He has also served as head of interdisciplinary studies, head of humanities and arts; director of composition; co-director of the graduate program in rhetoric, composition, and linguistics; director of the Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence; and was president of the Academic Senate.

At Syracuse University, he served as the writing program director. At the University of Arizona, he was founding director of the graduate programe in rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of English, as well as director of graduate studies in the Department of English.

Roen has also been president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, Secretary of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, co-editor of the scholarly journal WPA: Writing Program Administration. He has served on their many committees, as well as the National Council of Teachers of English, Two-Year College Association (TYCA-West), and the Arizona English Teachers Association.

Roen has published 11 books in addition to more than 300 articles, chapters, and conference presentations

Allan Law is the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. Law earned his bachelor’s degree from UWRF in elementary education in 1967. He was an elementary school teacher in the Minneapolis Public School system for 32 years.

While teaching, Law founded “Love One Another,” a non-profit dedicated to serving homeless, poor and disadvantaged youth and families in the Twin Cities. In his 51+ years of service, Law has personally volunteered more than 200,000 hours. He has been recognized by three U.S. presidents for his public service and has received numerous awards including the American Institute for Public Service's national Jefferson Award presented at the U.S. Senate and the American Institute for Public Service's Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Gold Medallion presented at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Law continues to serve and provide over 800,000 servings of food and necessities to thousands of people annually in the Twin Cities.

Arlen Christenson is the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. Christenson earned his bachelor’s degree in social studies from UW-River Falls in 1958 and a juris doctorate from the UW-Madison Law School in 1960. Christenson spent his career protecting the air, land and water of Wisconsin as founding board president of Midwest Environmental Advocates. He is also professor emeritus of law and environmental studies at the UW-Madison Law School.

Christenson worked at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Larson, Loevinger, Lindquist & Fraser from 1960 to 1963. He joined the law faculty at UW-Madison in 1963, teaching classes in contracts, local government law, land-use regulation, environmental law and administrative law. He later served as deputy attorney general of Wisconsin from 1966 to 1969, and he was the assistant chancellor of UW-Madison from 1969 to 1971. He became the associate dean of the law school from 1972 to 1974, and the co-director of the center for public representation in 1974, 1975 and 1977.

After taking emeritus status in 1995, Christenson continued participating in environmental law. He was involved in non-profit environmental law and land-use issues as board president of Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) and faculty supervisor of the law school’s clinical program at MEA.

Todd Bol is the recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. Bol earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UW-River Falls in 1979 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1982. He is widely recognized as the founder of Little Free Libraries. Since starting the nonprofit in 2012, the colorful, book-filled boxes have become ubiquitous. They’ve spread to 70 countries and all 50 states. As of November 2016, there were about 50,000 little free libraries, resulting in an estimated 9.3 million book exchanges a year. In 2015, the organization was an honoree for the Library of Congress Literacy Award.

After leaving UWRF, Bol began his career as a middle school teacher. He then became a sales manager in corporate trade in 3M, and later started EPT Cadre, a financing, barter and counter trade and international offset organization for governments and corporations.

Bol worked for more than a decade with developing countries, the Philippines in particular, to develop sustainable and socially responsible programs and economic strategies in areas like healthcare funding and infrastructure. He has led a series of nonprofit organizations, including Care-Forth, Inc. and the Global Scholarship Alliance.

A 1957 graduate of UW-River Falls with a Bachelor's of Science degree in English and speech. She went on to obtain her master's degree from Kent State University in theater and speech, and then her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in acting and directing. At the University of Michigan, her dissertation won "best of the year" and went on to be named the top dissertation that year by the American Alliance or Theatre and Education.

After Kent State, Salazar became known around the world for her contributions to the field of theatre and theatre education. In 1967, she founded the theatre program at a new university. Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., where she taught for 33 years. Salazar wrote six books in theater and education over 60 professional papers. Her book "Teaching Dramatically" won the top prize for a book in the field of theatre education from American Alliance for Theater and Education. She awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Trinidad and Tobago in 1992 to study the original theatre genres of that country.

She became interested in performance art, creating performances on four continents, including Australia where she lectured about Theatre Standards K-12 and did workshops in performance art. Her book, "Make Performance Arts," is a standard in the field. She was very active in both her professional and civic affiliations. Salazar was on the founding board and served as the president of the American Alliance for Theater and Education, President Council of Performing Arts and Children in Grand Rapids, member of the International Amateur Theatre Association North America, the International Theatre for Youth (six international offices), International Amateur Theatre Association, and many more. She is also the founder of the Fabulous African Fabrics, a non-profit organization formed in 1999 devoted to raising funds for AIDS orphans and widows in Kenya.

Dobson, of Waunakee, is emeritus professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as an agribusiness economist with the Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research, been professor and chair of agribusiness at Massey University in New Zealand and served as a senior staff economist with President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors.

He graduated from UW-River Falls with a bachelor's of science degree in 1959 before receiving his master's of science degree from Iowa State University in 1961, and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1969. Dobson has received numerous professional awards recognizing teaching excellence and has authored or co-authored 200 professional publications and articles.

Dr. Brian Fife is a Professor of Medicine within the Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He joined the division in February 2008. He is also a member of the interdisciplinary Center for Immunology and Director of the Center for Autoimmune Disease Research (CADRe). Within the Center for Immunology, Dr. Fife also serves as the Imaging Core Director using advanced imaging techniques in his own research program. In December 2001, Dr. Fife graduated from Northwestern University Medical School. It is there that he initiated his research interests in autoimmune mediated diseases. Following graduation, Dr. Fife joined the Diabetes Center in the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco for postdoctoral research with Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone. The major focus of his research program is the restoration of immunological self tolerance for treatment of autoimmunity. Dr. Fife is interested in understanding immuological tolerance during Type 1 diabetes and focuses his efforts on understanding checkpoint blockade and the role for inhibitory pathways such as CTLA-4 and PD-1. This work has extending into tumor immunology and understanding the mechanisms involved in checkpoint blockade. Most recently his work has focused on chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR T cells) for novel treatment approaches for autoimmunity.