Colossal donation jump starts university fundraising driveArea News
-- It’s not often that UW-River Falls is given $1 million.
By: Phil Pfuehler, Pierce County Herald
It’s not often that UW-River Falls is given $1 million.
In fact, in the school’s 138-year history, it’s only happened three times -- but never by a living person.
That changed last month when John Bryant Walker donated the seven-figure sum.
Walker downplayed his sizable donation by simply saying that it was meant “to honor my mother and father, perhaps in perpetuity, and to bring new ideas to UWRF students.”
The announcement of Walker’s gift came last month as the university and its foundation publicized a “first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign.”
Called Rising to Distinction, the campaign aims to raise $20 million by June 2016. Already $7 million, including Walker’s donation, has been raised.
The money will go toward student aid (such as scholarship support for deserving students), faculty support, student learning opportunities, and facilities. Bill Boehm, a 1970 UWRF graduate, chairs the fundraiser.
“ Dr. Bry Wyman's gift is important and historic in a number of ways,” Chancellor Dean Van Galen said. “As an endowment gift, it will live on in perpetuity and provide support to visiting professors in our art and history programs. This will positively impact student learning and those academic programs for years to come.
“The magnitude of the gift makes a statement that UW-River Falls is, as we know, an outstanding university that is worthy of support.
“What is very special about Dr. Bry Wyman's gift is the way it honors his parents, Dr. Walker and Helen Wyman, who are so highly respected by many of our alumni and community members.
“I often hear alumni speak about how the Wymans were so important to them during their time at the university. This gift honors them, and, in a real way, honors our university's roots.
Local connections,past and present
Bry Wyman said he still has strong ties and fond memories of River Falls and its campus.
“This is where my parents raised me to age 20, when I transferred to UW-Madison,” he said. “I have good friends who remained in River Falls, but their numbers are less.”
Wyman’s father, Walker, was a noted author, folklorist and a UWRF history professor from 1932 until retiring in 1978. Between that span, from 1962-67, he also left to serve as president at UW-Whitewater.
A campus mall at Whitewater is dedicated to Walker Wyman.
On the River Falls campus, the Walker D. Wyman Education building was dedicated in his honor in May 2000.
During the dedication ceremony, former UWRF Chancellor Gary Thibodeau said of Walker Wyman: “I have never met a man I have admired or respected more. He was a civil, intellectually honest man.”
Van Galen noted that in 1977, Walker Wyman wrote a book about the history of the UWRF Foundation from 1948-1976 called, “The Frosting on the Cake.”
Van Galen said the Wyman’s son Bry would agree that today, universities increasingly rely on private Foundation gifts.
“Student scholarships, faculty support, and support for programs and projects such as the Falcon Center and Ramer Field are essential to UWRF’s future,” Van Galen said, adding this meant “the time is right for the Rising to Distinction campaign.”
Van Galen said all charitable gifts and financial goals must ultimately translate into something more tangible.
“Sometimes you hear people speak of ‘root problems’ in our world,” he said. “Investment in education is a ‘root solution’ to many of the challenges that we face.
Using the money,continuing to work
Bry Wyman’s UWRF gift on behalf of his mom and dad will establish the Walker D. and Helen Bryant Wyman Endowed Visiting Professorships in history and art.
“This will allow the departments of history and art to bring in people with different skills, ideas, and opinions for a day, three days, a week,” Wyman said. “I hope there will be enough earnings of the investments to bring in several people each year to each department, and perhaps some of the visitors will give talks for the community.”
Bry Wyman, 78, continues his duties at UW-Madison. He teaches medical students and patient care in the field of gastroenterology.
“Why retire when I enjoy what I am doing, and I am helping some people,” he says. “The state required that dad retire at age 70, but I can continue working past 70, and therefore continue earning a UW-Madison academic salary.
“I enjoy caring for patients and helping some, and teaching my acquired skills and knowledge to medical students.”
Wyman has taught for two decades on the Madison campus.
Before that he worked at the Mayo Clinic and then at the Marshfield Clinic from 1967-92.
Wyman’s wife Barbara died in 2008. The couple have three two sons and a daughter. The latter, Anne, is a graduate of UWRF who lives in Trempealeau with her family.
The UWRF Foundation has received two previous gifts in excess of $1 million: from Lucile Spriggs and from Willis Miller.
In both cases these were “planned” or estate gifts. Both were designated for student scholarships.
Phil Pfuehler is editor of the River Falls Journal.