Charles Rhyner was one of the first faculty members to arrive at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, arriving the year before the campus was open.
“Some of us needed to be there to create programs and order equipment,” he said. “It was a very interesting time. You’re starting from scratch and needed to bring it all together.”
Rhyner’s career at the university stretched until he retired in 2001. During that time, he taught courses in physics, natural and applied sciences and waste management while also serving as director of graduate studies from 1978 to 1982, chairman of the Physics department in 1972-73 and again from 1985 to 1991 and department chairman of Natural and Applied Sciences from 1999 to 2001. Rhyner received the UW-Green Bay Founders Association Award for Institutional Development in 1983.
John Katers, dean of the UW-Green Bay’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, had Rhyner as a professor while a student at UW-Green Bay and said he built a great legacy at the university. “(Rhyner) helped build the institution from the ground up. He’s an excellent teacher,” he said.
Rhyner came to UW-Green Bay after graduating from UW-Madison with his doctorate and spending a year at UW Center—Kenosha. “When I was in Kenosha, I knew I would be coming to Green Bay.”
When UW-Green Bay opened in 1968, Rhyner said there were no endowments and limited outside giving and scholarships making it a real challenge for some students. To provide them with support, he began donating to the retirees’ scholarship fund, which awards a scholarship. He later also began giving to the science and math scholarship fund. Rhyner and his wife, Lenora, have supported the university for 36 years as annual donors.
“(Rhyner) has left a great impression on the university. Supporting students through scholarships is so important in the university’s access-oriented mission,” Katers said.
In addition to their regular giving, Rhyner said they wanted to do more to help students and created the Charles R. and Lenora M. Rhyner Endowed Scholarship for students who are juniors or seniors and majoring in natural sciences, math, science education or human biology.
“An endowment allows you to keep giving. We got to a place where we thought we could endow a scholarship and we made a gift of stock to get it going,” he said. “I wanted to help upper class students since I felt it would be more impactful and would be a good way to encourage them in their studies.”
Katers said Rhyner has left a lasting impact on the community through his work with Brown County Solid Waste Board, where he served as president for several years.
“He has done a lot in the area of solid waste, including writing the software still used to weigh vehicles at disposal facilities,” said Katers, who currently serves as president of the Brown County Solid Waste Board.