President’s Message

President’s Message: WALSAA 2017: It’ll be HUUUGE!

Vern Dougherty, WALSAA President

Holiday Greetings to all UW-Madison CALS & FISC Alumni and friends. I hope this newsletter finds each of you in good health, good spirit and looking forward to the year ahead.

I am writing this letter before the Presidential election has taken place, so not exactly sure if the word HUUUGE will make it into 2017 edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary … or not.  None-the-less I am honored to be serving as your WALSAA President and look forward to 2017 being a HUUUGE year for WALSAA.

Our goals are to continue the legacy from years past, but also take on new endeavors to support the UW-Madison CALS campus as well as CALS & FISC students.

A little bit about myself:  I am originally from DeForest, Wisc. and currently live near Oconomowoc, Wisc.  I am a 1983 CALS graduate with a degree in Ag Education.  After undergrad, I went to work as the Waukesha county agriculture agent before returning to the UW and getting an MBA in Marketing.  After grad school, I went to work for Merck AgVet, which is now part of Merial, and worked in a variety of positions in veterinary product sales, marketing research and brand management.

In 1999, I started a qualitative market research firm (FOCUSED Marketing Research) with a specialization in brand positioning and messaging.  I am married to Judy ((BS ’84; DVM ’88) and we have 2 children, Jeff a 2014 UW-Madison, Finance/Real estate graduate and Corinne a 2016 University Denver graduate.  Again, I am honored to be serving as your president and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the year ahead.


I was recently talking with a 2016 UW Madison CALS graduate who told me he hadn’t joined WALSAA because he didn’t see the value.  (Ouch, that hurt!).   To paraphrase our conversation, he said: “I don’t have a lot of money, so why would I join WALSAA? Even at a 60% new graduate discount of $200 for a lifetime membership.  I’m not sure it has any value to me.”

Honestly, this hit me pretty hard and I have been struggling ever since trying to come up with a succinct way of saying what I thought were key value points:

  • WALSAA: Is your CALS connection for life !
    • A WALSAA membership allows you to reconnect with CALS and give back to the college where it all began.
  • Your membership dollars will be used to award scholarships, fund CALS Ambassadors, support student leadership and recognize exceptional faculty – all in support of the college and the alumni’s connection to it.

As I look at the membership enrollment form it includes a quote from Roger Biddick, first WALSAA president at the organizations’ first meeting:

  • As alumni we can act more effectively than any single group to rebuild the image of greatness that this college so justly deserves and at the same time enjoy the fellowship of working together.”

So – How would you answer the question: Why WALSAA? The reasons I gave weren’t enough.

Everyone has there own reasons, for me it wasn’t really even a question if I’d join, it was why wouldn’t I join.  WALSAA is my UW-Madison Alumni Association.  CALS alumni are the people I went to school with (and played with).  You are ‘my people’.  I admit, cash was tight and I did the WALSAA membership, 5 year payment plan (Did you know we have a 5 year payment plan?  $105/year for 5 years).  But, still I joined!

Again, I ask – Why WALSAA?  Why did you join?  I’d love to hear back from you.  How would you answer this new graduate’s question?  Please send me your response: .

Also, I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our new WALSAA board members: Tammy Beard & Paul Patterson as well as our 2 student representatives: Emma Wagner & Logan Voigts. Welcome on board.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to publically thank a few people who have been shaping WALSAA not only this past year, but for many years.

Outgoing president Tom Janczewski, thank-you for your leadership & guidance this past year.  Job well done.  Al Herrman, if you do an internet search with the words ‘philanthropic volunteer’ your picture comes up. Thank-you, don’t know how we would have succeeded this year without you.  Jill Makovec, your on-going oversight of our finances and commitment to WALSAA is beyond appreciated. Outgoing board members: Robb Bender, thank-you for helping guide our scholarship and awards programs these past few years.  And then there’s Valerie Johnson.  Val, you have made a huge impact on WALSAA & I cannot imagine the WALSAA Board without you.   Thank-you.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful year-end and fabulous start to the New Year.

On Wisconsin!