Greetings…and a word about our most rewarding day

by Office of the Chancellor | December 17, 2010

Greetings from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where the last week of fall semester 2010 is filled with final exams and special excitement for nearly 400 graduating seniors.

We celebrate their achievement at mid-year Commencement Saturday afternoon (Dec. 18) at the Weidner Center. A highlight is the tradition of having a UW-Green Bay alumnus return as speaker. Neil Diboll, Class of ’78, has a fascinating story.

Neil is both an entrepreneur and a true believer in the environmental movement. It was at UWGB he nurtured his passion for native plants, especially prairie species.

When he bought a small nursery in central Wisconsin, native landscaping was relatively uncommon. Neighbors called his place “the weed farm.” A self-made salesman, Neil armed himself with color catalogs to prove grasses and wildflowers could rival non-native annuals. The message that low-maintenance prairie meadows could save time and money didn’t hurt, either.

Today, Prairie Nursery ships products nationwide and counts among its landscape clients such high-profile names as the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits golf courses near Kohler, and the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. A national magazine nicknamed Neil “The Prophet of the Prairie.” He lectures worldwide on the economic and ecological benefits.

Who among our newest graduates will be just as influential, in their own fields?

I shake hundreds of hands at Commencement as our graduates cross the stage. I’ll know many by name, but there will also be those I recognize but can’t immediately place.

The thing I treasure most? Sprinkled throughout that long line of happy graduates will be plenty of future stars. Names that will be widely recognized in the future. By applying their creative problem-solving skills, by transforming their industries and agencies and communities for the better, they will have rewarded our efforts many times over.

That’s why Commencement is a special day.