President’s Message

President’s Message: WALSAA: My CALS Connection for Life

Vern Dougherty, WALSAA President

I attended the annual FISC reunion held in Madison and was fortunate enough to speak with Hugh Evans, FISC class of 1942. Hugh is a very sharp 93-year-old, who grew up on a farm not far from where I currently live. In our conversation, he shared with me that before he was a zookeeper at the Milwaukee County Zoo, he farmed a section of land that is now a part of Lapham Peak State Park near Delafield. In our discussions, it turns out the hiking trails that I use in Lapham Peak, include a field called “Evans Prairie” and that prairie was named after him. How cool is that!

It is moments like this one that remind me why I am proud to be a lifetime member of WALSAA and it reinforced that indeed WALSAA is my CALS Connection for Life! It also reminded me of what being a FISC, CALS and UW-Madison alumnus is all about. We are a very small community. Whenever we meet another member of our “community” no matter from what generation, there is an instant connection. It was absolutely a joy to meet Hugh Evans!

Which brings me to the question I asked in the last WALSAA Express. This past fall, a 2016 CALS graduate told me he didn’t see the “reason” why he should join WALSAA. At this point in his career, money is short so “giving back” really didn’t pertain to him. Let alone coughing up money to join. I have been thinking about that question ever since and reached out to a number of you asking the same question. This is what I heard:
What are the top three reasons a new CALS/FISC graduate should join WALSAA?

  1. Staying connected to UW-Madison CALS/friends
  2. Networking opportunities
  3. Opportunity to give back to their alma mater (time, not just money)

I also heard a counter against joining. I have plenty of friends and those I want to “stay connected with” I already do, so “staying connected” doesn’t pertain. To that argument, I say, I wish you had met Hugh Evans. Fact is, our connection only happened because of WALSAA. We graduated multiple decades apart, but his enthusiasm for life and UW–Madison FISC/CALS was contagious. I am glad to have met him. I am proud to say he is an alumnus of the same college that I attended. I am glad I am a WALSAA member.

Final note: At our recent WALSAA Board meeting we discussed the need for some new volunteers. It doesn’t matter if you graduated 40 years ago or three months ago, we can use your help. Whatever you have time for is appreciated. As mentioned above, volunteering allows you to stay connected and gives you an opportunity to “give back” to your alma mater without digging into your bank account. Please consider it. Areas of need include: website development, social media outreach, scholarship committee and helping with events such as Fire-up on Sept. 9. If you are willing to help, please send me an email at or let one of the board members know.

Thank you and Go Badgers!