Scott Walker  |  Wisconsin Governor

Just weeks into his term as governor, with the shingle “Open for Business” still swinging under the Capitol dome, Scott Walker brings both a confidence and an intensity to his new role. 

He has the easy confidence of a person who is comfortable around people; the air of someone who has the resume to make good on his campaign promises. Chief among those promises is to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in the state — anything less is failure. “It’s branded on the hearts and minds of all my cabinet members,” Walker says. “Every great business out there in modern history has had a leadership team with a clear goal. We have a clear goal and we are going to meet it.”

He’s taken his jobs platform across state boundaries and into the national spotlight, making the case for businesses to come to Wisconsin. He’s gotten press in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times; he’s on the radio, TV, Facebook and Twitter. Of Twitter, he says: “It’s just one more way for people to be connected to government.”
He’s appearing around the state, campaigning not this time for votes but for jobs. “I love meeting all the different people, not only in the Capitol but traveling around the state. People are just thrilled to have the governor coming (to their part) of the state.”

He hasn’t abandoned his “everyman” style with which voters identified. People want someone in charge of government who understands their values, like living within one’s means, Walker says. To that end, he’s still brown-bagging it in the governor’s office — two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat with mayo — though he has staff now at the governor’s mansion that insist on making them for him.   

As governor, he is guided by the principles of the Wisconsin constitution, that government exists to help people with the things they can’t do on their own. “No more, no less,” he says. “I’m going to be questioning everything we do in government (and ask) ‘Is that what the people who originally created the constitution really wanted or have we gone beyond that?’”

He admits he hasn’t taken much time for sleep, nor has he spent much time thinking about the magnitude of the position, mainly because he just got right to work. “As a legislator I was probably more impressed with the governor than being the governor,” he says. He did, however, take a brief moment before he took the oath of office to scan the crowd. “It made you realize all the people who were there, not from an intimidating standpoint, but realizing the awesome responsibility.” 

leading by example
On Partisan Politics:
He holds a “never personalize” philosophy. “There’s not enough of that,” he says. “For too many people it’s all or nothing. That’s not what I think people expect out of their chief executive. Republican, Democrat — just lead.”

Role Models: My parents; my dad is a great leader, former pastor, great speaker; my mother: selfless, very caring about others, very good listener. The focus Tommy Thompson had on jobs early in his first term. Ronald Reagan, who inspired him to public service.
Walker in Three Words: Compassionate, frugal, courageous. 

On courage: “To me, if I think it’s the right thing, I’ve rarely had times in my life I wasn’t one who did what it took to do the right thing.”
Wisconsin in Three Words: Vibrant, exciting, wholesome

EDITORS NOTE: The interview with Gov. Walker was completed and sent to press before the Budget Repair Bill gained widespread state and national attention.

character revealed
Buzz Williams  |  Marquette University
Men’s Basketball Coach 

Buzz Williams knows the measure of success for an NCAA Division I basketball coach, but mere wins and losses are not what motivates him. “I understand I will be judged in accordance with how many games we win or lose —­ and rightfully so — but I am consumed with who our young men are and who they become, because in the very end I believe that’s what I must be accountable for,” Williams says.

In his 17th year in coaching, Williams concedes that his ways are not necessarily the same as most coaches. “That’s not to say they are better or worse, but they are different,” he says.

“What I say to our team is, “Basketball is what we do, it’s not what we are.’ My title is that of a coach, but in order to be a leader, particularly of young men, regardless of your title, what you do on a daily basis is what they see and what they learn from. We spend a lot more time on a daily basis talking about life than we do about basketball. Basketball is a microcosm of life. In many ways it’s easy to use basketball as a teaching point.”

But don’t think for a minute Williams’ brand of basketball is soft. Game preparation is intense and serious, practices are brutal, the schedule demanding for these student-athletes. Williams tells his players only the toughest will be on the court; he challenges them mentally and physically at every step along the way to develop the toughness he seeks. And when they show great character on the court or away from it, Williams doesn’t hold back the praise.

“You can’t run any organization if it’s self-promotion or it’s because of your ego. The intent of your heart must be pure. The only way to gain God’s favor is to be pure of heart. To be on a team your intent must be what’s best for the team, not necessarily what’s best for you.”

That’s sometimes a difficult concept for players to embrace, young men with different backgrounds, expectations, personalities. But through shared experiences, being pushed beyond their limits, absorbing Buzz’s Life Lessons, a team takes shape.

“I think you can never be a leader unless those that you are leading realize that you are a servant for them and their growth, and not just their growth as players but their growth as people,” Williams says. “I think the culture we have established here and that we work within every day ... you can’t survive it if you are void of trust, void of emotion. I’m around unbelievable kids and because they view me the way they do, it forces me to become a better person.”

adventure and discovery
Edo de Waart   |   Milwaukee Symphony
Orchestra Music Director

A world-renowned maestro once said it takes four to six years to really hear a conductor’s mark on an orchestra; if there’s no mark evident after six years, the conductor has failed.

In his second season conducting the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Edo de Waart’s imprint is already becoming evident. The orchestra is flourishing as a result of its hard work and determination, mirroring that of its conductor who spoke those very words. Though he’s not out to make his mark on the orchestra — “You never go about doing that,” he says — he acknowledges the conductor is the one to chart the course. “If you do your work well, the orchestra becomes an expression of the things you believe in.

 Of course de Waart doesn’t have to prove himself here or anywhere else. In four-plus decades as a conductor, he has appeared with every major orchestra in the world. This season alone, in addition to the MSO, he is working with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

As the MSO has extended de Waart’s contract through the 2016-17 season, Milwaukee is perhaps getting the best of the conductor’s storied career. The fact that he’s not learning his craft in front of an orchestra is a benefit, he says. “I’m more ‘relaxed excited’ not ‘excited excited’ (about a performance),” de Waart says. “It’s an excitement that comes from knowing your craft, knowing what the orchestra can do. It can be an extreme rush.

“In the first half of your career you have no idea what lies around the next corner,” he says. “Now I enjoy tremendously the thought of what is coming around the bend.”

As a conductor, he says it’s vitally important to reinvent yourself. He compares the evolution to classic literature. “You can read the great Russian authors five or six times and still get new things out of a book. The same goes in music. It’s a lifelong quest to try to unlock all of that and grasp it all in yourself, convey it to the orchestra and bring it to the audience.”

Even though the MSO’s attendance is up — an enormous accomplishment during a down economy, he says — the Dutch-born conductor worries for the future of the arts here and around the world. “I hope people realize how important in life the beautiful things are.” Nobody dies if there is not an orchestra in a city, but cities with almost no art are highly uninteresting in a sad way, he says. “Kids need to go to concerts, they need to hear art, they need to see art. It is what sets us apart from the animals.”

As the MSO and other city symphonies struggle with developing an economic model to sustain themselves when times are not so good, de Waart takes hope from the response he has gotten here. “I feel very positive about it. There is a willingness to come out — even in bad weather — to listen to us. There is no sign that it is less than really, really good. We can be satisfied with ourselves walking off the stage knowing we are giving it the absolute best we have.”


flavor shift
Ken Arnone  |  Corporate Chef

Chef Ken and Johnny V. are a match made in food heaven — like the chef’s prime rib and parsnip puree — a perfect complement. When other chefs were telling “Mo-Nation’s” Johnny Vassallo why his food concepts wouldn’t work, Ken Arnone said simply, “Let me think about it.”

“I think it caught him off guard,” Arnone says.

For the last six years the two have been collaborating on developing menus for Vassallo’s Milwaukee-area restaurants like Mo’s Irish Pub and Mo’s … A Place for Steaks, and other Mo’s restaurants in Texas and Indiana. “He will just say to me, ‘Here’s the dish I want. You are the expert, go figure it out.’ He’s always pushing me and challenging me — and he’ll do it at the last minute or a day before the dinner,” Arnone says.

The New-York born award-winning certified master chef isn’t one to back away from a challenge. He has responded with some of the most innovative cuisine in the city. “I think that your one food philosophy as a chef is to be constantly evolving,” Arnone says. “My philosophy has certainly developed and taken its shape more in the last five or six years. I am incredibly passionate about the starting point of ingredients.”
What works at the steakhouse in Milwaukee doesn’t always work at Mo’s in Houston, but sometimes it does, Arnone says. “It affords me the opportunity to understand and see what the trends are and understand the differences in the different markets,” he says of his work with Mo’s.

“I’m always going back to the dish looking for more. I’m trying to ensure the dishes are really cravable and have a good flavor system that creates a really nice harmony on the plate,” Arnone says.

He says diners are educated and want healthy foods. “People care about what they are putting into their bodies. People want to eat foods that are going to make them feel good.” He has responded with dishes that are healthy in nature but are still incredibly bold, using herbs and spices to “push the envelope.”

Arnone has a book in the works, due out early next year, on food and wine pairings, another passion of his. “A lot of food and wine books tend to address pairings from a very, very vague standpoint,” he says. “We’re being incredibly specific, with a base recipe and the exact wine we chose.”

highball wizards
Nicholas Kosevich andIra Koplowitz  |  Bittercube Founders

Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz are bringing back credibility to the once respected profession of mixology. “Before Prohibition, bartenders rubbed shoulders with doctors and lawyers,” Kosevich says. But when “The Noble Experiment” began in 1920, bartending became illegal and the tops in the field mostly moved to Europe and Japan to continue their work.

“The cocktail is an American tradition,” Koplowitz says. “It’s something we have lost over the course of time.”

Kosevich and Koplowitz have a simple goal: to change the world one cocktail at a time. They are proprietors of Bittercube, where they create their own unique varieties of bitters, syrups and liqueurs, tonics and tinctures. The Minnesota and Illinois transplants are creating a buzz around the city, guest bartending — among other places — at a secret speakeasy at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, at Bacchus and at the newly opened The Hamilton, where they’ve created a winter cocktail menu.

Kosevich and Koplowitz aren’t merely slinging drinks. They are educators, entertainers and historians. Each drink is a conversation piece, like The Fall of Temperance, a daiquiri served on a coaster from the cover of Walt Whitman’s “The Inebriate,” a book in support of the temperance movement that Whitman reportedly wrote while inebriated. The Captain Truman is a cocktail adapted from one drunk by Harry S. Truman as a captain stationed in France during World War I. Though they are serious about their work, the two know how to have fun. “We pride ourselves on our convivial jocularity,” Koplowitz says. “We bring a lot of energy and light to the show.”

The craft cocktail movement has been gaining ground for the last five years, Kosevich says, following the evolution of the organic food movement. “People are demanding the same thing from cocktails,” he says.

“People don’t eat the same food every day or every meal but a lot of people drink the same thing night after night,” Koplowitz says. “One of our missions is to break that down and get people to try something new.”

They create the bitters by hand, peeling hundreds of pounds of citrus and preparing dozens of spices. The six flavors of Bittercube Bitters take anywhere from three to six weeks to make and are produced at a Madison distillery.

Their bitters are sold locally and around the Midwest; the two also do consulting work for bars and restaurants in the Midwest and around the country. They say they enjoy the feedback from customers. “It’s a whole community of people just trying to learn how to make better drinks,” Koplowitz says.

Bittercube founders Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz don’t want to keep their recipes a trade secret. In fact, they encourage others to “riff” their recipes for themselves. “We’re not really about creating these cocktails you can’t make at home,” Kosevich says. “We built the bitters line to be educators.” Here are two of their favorite craft cocktail recipes. For more, check out their website at

The Fall of Temperance is a fall style daiquiri with addition of the rich, Cruzan Blackstrap Rum and Bittercube Jamaican No. 1 Bitters. The cocktail is served on a coaster, which is from the cover of “The Inebriate,” a book written by Walt Whitman in support of the temperance movement. Later in life he would claim to have been completely intoxicated when writing the book.  

1 1/2 ounces Appleton White Rum
1/2 ounce Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
3/4 ounce lime
Skinny 1 ounce Simple Syrup
13 drops Bittercube Jamaican
No. 1 Bitters
Glass: coupe and sidecar
Garnish: Seven drops of floated
Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters and Inebriate Coaster
Shake, strain.

President Truman drank the classic, French 75, when stationed in France during World War I, when Truman was still a captain. He substituted cognac for gin in his version. In this riff, we substitute an American brandy for the cognac in addition to a French ginger liqueur.

1 ounce Paul Masson Brandy
3/4 ounce Domaine de Canton
3/4 ounce lemon
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
Top: 1.5 ounces champagne
Glass: flute
Garnish: lemon twist
Shake without champagne, strain.
Top with champagne.


milwaukee’s maverick
Michael Cudahy  |  Philanthropist

For a guy with the same name as one of the area’s stalwart businesses, one might expect Michael Cudahy to champion “Old Milwaukee.”

But Cudahy has never made a habit out of doing what people expected of him, and he’s not going to start now at nearly 87. The grandson of meat-packing plant founder Patrick Cudahy, he didn’t get the family money as the business went to his uncle, not his father. “If that hadn’t happened, I might not have been successful,” Cudahy says. Cudahy’s well-documented success as co-founder of Marquette Electronics and its 1998 sale to General Electric has afforded him the opportunity to give millions to the city he loves.

And he’s not afraid to butt heads with anyone who stands between him and his goals, chief among them to raise up the city with bold development ideas. “My passion is to take anything in this world and make it into something better,” Cudahy says. “That is how I get my jollies.”

He fought for the building of the Discovery World Museum on the lakefront, donated $2 million to UW-Milwaukee’s Innovation Park development and last year opened Harbor House, a fine dining restaurant on a prime piece of lakefront real estate. But none of that happened without quite a bit of drama, much of it being played out in the media. He makes no apologies. “I have a tendency to get things done. I have an obsession to get things done.”

He has strong words for his retired peers, hoping to motivate them to civic action. “I feel it’s really a shame that executives run off to Florida or Arizona and play golf three times a day. To me, it’s a terrible waste of a human being. At 65, you still have a lot of energy and intelligence, experience, so why not use it?”

But he’s not all spit and vinegar. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a softy where children are concerned. He cites his involvement with Discovery World among his most satisfying endeavors because of its potential to inspire children and change lives. On his right wrist he wears a simple bracelet of wooden beads given to him by a child at St. Francis Children’s Center, though the consummate inventor grins that he replaced the fragile string with airplane wire.

in a word:
Milwaukee in three words:
“Good, old home.”
Michael Cudahy in three words or less: “Guardedly eccentric.”
On his critics: “I don’t care.”


spiritual journey
Neil Willenson  |  Kapco Inc. VP

Neil Willenson has seen the highs and lows of the human spirit. Though the lows have had a lasting impact on him, it’s the highs that give meaning to his life. Maybe it’s because of his unique ability to find hope in the midst of tragedy.

As founder of Camp Heartland, a camp for children with HIV/AIDS, he eulogized dozens of children who died from the effects of AIDS. “When I see children who are suffering it emboldens me even more that I must contribute, I must alleviate their suffering.”

Along the way he met like-minded Kapco Inc. President Jim Kacmarcik, who made philanthropy a cornerstone of his company’s mission. The two worked together on a 2008 home makeover for a Grafton family that was featured on “Dateline NBC.” After 20 years, he says he was at a crossroads with Camp Heartland (now called One Heartland). “The organization grew so far beyond what I ever envisioned,” he says, “but it was time to evolve. My midlife crisis was not buying a car, it was taking on a new role.”

He began as Kapco’s vice president of community relations last fall, in charge of all of Kapco’s philanthropic giving, community events and special projects. He says it’s a nexus of the skills and attributes he gained in his professional life. “I’m doing a lot of the same things I did at One Heartland but with more financial support,” he says.

Willenson is currently planning the Grand Slam Charity Jam on April 2 that will benefit dozens of Milwaukee-area charities. Kapco plans and underwrites the event; the charities sell tickets and keep 100 percent of the proceeds. “It’s an idea I had for years,” Willenson says, “but I didn’t have the funding.”

Willenson is also heading up Kacmarcik’s new recording/entertainment company called K-Nation Entertainment, which will include music, television and film. He’s been able to tap into the contacts he made through the years in the entertainment industry and his radio/TV/film degree from UW-Madison to build up the company, which has two recording artists in its sights, including pop country singer Erica Hoyt.
Meanwhile, Willenson is still very much involved with One Heartland and is able to be on the front lines again. “The parts of the job I missed the most (as executive director) I am still doing,” he says.

At One Heartland and at Kapco, Willenson says he’s energized by people’s willingness to make a difference. Those who help, he says, learn firsthand of the power of human achievement, “the power each of us has in helping others.”

go time
Neil Willenson believes each person has the responsibility and the privilege to help others. “Once you start doing it, you will do it until the day you die,” Willenson says. He was first motivated to act as a teenager when a homeless man asked him for money. That inspired him to start Milwaukee Live charity at age 15, which raised $8,000 in two years for St. Ben’s homeless outreach. “It felt good knowing that even though we didn’t end homelessness we were still doing something. We engaged hundreds of teens in philanthropy.”

But Willenson says you don’t have to start a charity to make your life count. “Just be a good citizen.” Here are some of his basic tenets of leading a helping lifestyle:
Believe in yourself.
Find your cause.
Get involved.
If you see a problem, try to solve it.
Never assume anyone else will act.
The worst that happens is maybe three of four other people do the same.
Know that it’s always the right time to do the right thing.


a purpose-driven life
Curt Gielow  |  Concordia University Wisconsin School of
Pharmacy Executive Dean and Mequon Mayor

In the midst of a successful career developing national and international businesses, Curt Gielow had a water problem in his Mequon neighborhood. That spurred a grassroots effort that led to the former pharmacist running for alderman, then serving two terms in the state Senate where he was named Legislator of the Year by two different groups for his efforts on health care. That eventually led to the post he’s held since 2008 at Concordia University Wisconsin, building its new pharmacy school. In 2010 he was elected mayor of Mequon. “I’ve got enough of an ego to believe I can fix problems and I take them on. Hence the deanship, hence the mayorship, hence the water problem. I’m not easily intimidated,” Gielow says. Married for 42 years, he’s the father of two grown sons and grandfather to one.

Here’s a snapshot of what he’s learned from his personal and professional experiences:

As an Elected Official: You can’t please everybody. Unfortunately, you learn that because people have the passion or guts to run for public office, people’s first impression is that you are a politician — and I say that in context of a negative sense — looking for power or pushing an agenda. You’ve got to earn your reputation everyday. You’ve got to convince people you’re here for the right purpose.

About Dealing with Bureaucracies: I don’t consider myself a politician, I consider myself a fixer or a policy guy. Bureaucracy gets in the way of fixing things. Everywhere I go I try to break down bureaucracy. I’m facing that now as mayor of Mequon. I’m trying to inculcate a culture change from a control culture to a customer culture. The senior leadership at the city is beginning to understand that the mayor wants to get to “yes” if possible, or “How can we help?” as opposed to “We can’t help you.”

As a Husband: To have a successful marriage of 42 years you have to understand that as antithetical as it sounds, you must learn to grow apart to stay together. You’ve got to give your partner the latitude and the space and the permission to (find) what fulfills them and do that in such a way that doesn’t threaten you. What you learn over time is you grow closer if you separate a little bit.

As a Father: It took me a while to realize my (older) son was not me reincarnated. Once I recognized and supported his passions, my relationship as a father to a son became much more supportive and much less wistful. I’ve learned to tell my kids I love them. My dad never told me that until the end, but not when I needed it. (He was) of a generation that didn’t wear it on their sleeve. I learned to wear it on my sleeve.

About Business: The key to business is never forget your customer. Whatever your business is, you are serving somebody something. Never become more important than your client. I’ve built five businesses: one failed, four succeeded. I’m good at starting and growing it to a certain size, but I’m not good at taking it to a second level. That’s something I’ve learned about myself. Then I sold the businesses to others who can take them to the next level.

About Fundraising: Fundraising is friend-raising. You raise money by asking for advice. You get advice if you ask for money. It’s just purely a relationship-building effort where you try to match your need with the passion or the hot button of the potential donor. It doesn’t always work, but that’s what you are looking for. In tough times, I’ve raised $8.7 million in the last two years for this pharmacy school.

About People: Whoever said be nice to people on the way up because you will meet them on the way down coined a truism. Deal with people with dignity, with respect, whether you agree or don’t, like or don’t like. You can’t make all the people like you. You can’t make all the people happy, but you can always treat them with respect.


the branding of braun
Ryan Braun  |  Milwaukee Brewers Outfielder

Ryan Braun is looking forward to two opening days this spring: the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season and the reopening of the Milwaukee restaurant that bears his name. Ryan Braun’s Waterfront Restaurant, which closed its doors last November, is getting a complete design and cuisine revamp by new owners SURG restaurant group. With big-time chef Dominic Zumpano cooking up authentic Italian at the newly named Ryan Braun’s Graffito, it again will be the city’s hot spot to chill with professional athletes like Braun. 

When Braun lends his name to something he has two criteria: quality and credibility. “It is important to always associate myself with brands that have similar vision and ambitions,” he says. That goes for the people behind the companies, too, he adds.

As he continues to make his mark on the field, the three-time All-Star is a rising star off the field, garnering endorsements for sport drink Limelight, Cyto Sport supplements and Remetee clothing. Braun has another restaurant in Lake Geneva and is a Milwaukee pitchman for AirTran Airways. He’s got his own bat line, RB8, and is one of a select group of athletes associated with Nike’s Swingman line.

“I recognize that all these opportunities are the result of how I’ve performed on the field,” Braun says. With that in mind, he says it’s easy to maintain his focus. “My main job is baseball. This is what I do for a living and the rest I deal with when I have time.”

Besides his money-making ventures, Braun is involved with a number of charities, particularly the Boys and Girls Clubs of Milwaukee and the Little Brewers charity. “I’ve realized that being in the position I am in, I can make a difference in a very positive way,” he says of his charity work.

Life in the limelight has potential pitfalls, but Braun has been careful to keep himself above the fray. “The way I look at it, it’s all positive. I’ve worked hard to put myself in this position and I take what it has to offer and make the best of it. There really are not too many downsides, and if there are, I try to focus on the positive about what I do instead of the negative.”


mind over water
Mike Schnitzka  |  Canoeing Extremist

Mike Schnitzka has one more mountain to climb — make that one more river to paddle.

On April 16, he and Dan Hoffmann will attempt to break the world speed record on the Rhine River in Europe. It’s been Schnitzka’s goal since 1989. That’s the year he and long-time race partner Bill Perdzock set the record for canoeing 2,348 miles on the Mississippi River and the year the British Royal Airforce Canoe Team set the record for canoeing the 720-mile Rhine. “What record do you think made the Guiness Book of World Records?” Schnitza says. “We canoed three times farther and were never mentioned.”

He and Perdzock attempted to break the record in 2007, but were stopped by their support crew after they flipped several times on the first leg and nearly drowned. “The third time they pulled us off the river. We were hypothermic and didn’t even know it,” Schnitzka says. “Sitting on the banks of the Rhine knowing basically that we were done … crushed would be an understatement. We were devastated.”

Perdzock retired after that, but Schnitzka was still determined to conquer the Rhine. The two had been racing partners since their first venture in 1982, a dare to paddle the 430-mile Wisconsin River.

Schnitzka started training with Hoffmann, nearly 25 years his junior, and the two set a record paddling across Lake Michigan last fall on a training run in 11 hours, 22 minutes. When they hit the Rhine next month, they are going to paddle for 21 hours a day, sleeping three in the canoe. “Once you hit the water it’s 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical,” Schnitzka says. “You can be amazed at what you can make your body do, but if you don’t have a strong mind you will fail.”

Preparing for the race ­— training, obtaining sponsorships, working out logistics — is nearly a full-time job. The trip covers seven countries with three different languages. “The rules and regulations in Europe are considerably different,” Schnitzka says. A violation can lead to an arrest. And then there is the weather to contend with. “If Mother Nature throws too much at you, you will not break records. Period. That is the X factor that will make or break any of these events,” Schnitzka says.

Besides the decades-old score to settle, Schnitzka says his motivation is simply to get as much out of life as he can. “This isn’t a dress rehearsal for life,” he says. “Why do people climb mountains? It’s much more than that. You’ve pushed your body to the point of utter collapse and survived. How many people have ever done that?”

Schnitzka says he’s very confident going into his last race before retiring. “I’ve logged more than 20,000 miles canoeing,” he says. “There is nothing the Rhine has that I haven’t done before.”


full-speed ahead
Michael Lovell  |  UW-Milwaukee Interim Chancellor

The reason Michael Lovell chose to come to UW-Milwaukee in 2008 as dean of the school’s College of Engineering and Applied Science might just be the same reason he was named interim chancellor last fall.

“When I make decisions with my career, it’s not based on ego or other things,” he says. “I want to go where I can make the most impact, make the most difference. I felt I could make a big impact here based on my skill set and experience.”

By all accounts, he has done just that, raising the profile of the engineering school in the community and around the country in a very short time. And now as interim chancellor after the departure of Carlos Santiago, Lovell is leading the university at a critical juncture as it faces financial cuts from the state while at the same time expanding on multiple fronts, including a $240 million initiative to bolster academic and research strength. 

His Pittsburgh background plays well here. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh have similar value systems, Lovell says, a strong work ethic and a modesty among its people. 

By his very nature, he’s not a “keep the seat warm” kind of interim chancellor. “One of the reasons I took the interim role is that all these projects are close to a point of being reality,” he says. “This year is critical for us with all the major things going on.”

He’s also made it a priority to repair the relationship between the faculty and administration that had become strained under the previous leadership. “If UWM is going to achieve what I believe it can achieve, the faculty must be more trusting and both sides must come together,” he says. “Not that we haven’t done great things already, but I think we have a lot more in us.”

Lovell speaks of the importance of transparency, obtaining input from all angles, building a sense of community. “I do feel people are seeing the changes and are more excited about what we are trying to accomplish,” he says.

For Lovell, the characteristics of a strong leader are vision, fairness, passion and energy. “Nothing worthwhile comes easy,” he says. “You have to be willing to put in the effort. When you have passion about something, you are not afraid to fail. You can’t be worried about setbacks. If you aren’t passionate about what you are trying to accomplish, you will give up when you have a setback.”

And whether or not Lovell ends up with the job permanently, he’s giving it his all in the interim. “I feel an obligation to the community and the region to be a university that gives back and helps improve the state.”