5 Famous Blugolds

Tom Giffey

Local tennis enthusiast John Menard.
Pictured: Area tennis enthusiast John Menard.

1. Mark Green | politician/diplomat

Back in the early 1980s, Green was a standout on the Blugold swimming team and a good student to boot: In 1983 he was conference swimmer of the year, UWEC’s Outstanding Scholar-Athlete, and an NAIA Academic All-American. Today, he’s better known for his political and diplomatic career. After six years as a Republican in the state Assembly, he spent eight years in Congress, then ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006. He later served as ambassador to Tanzania and now is administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

2. John Menard | retailer and billionaire

No, for the last time, the super-enthusiastic white-haired guy in the old Menards TV spots wasn’t John Menard (it was the late Ray Szmanda). The real John Menard keeps a much lower profile, even though his name is on more than 300 giant home improvement stores. Menard was a student at UWEC back in 1958 when he started putting up pole buildings to pay for college. Over the years, that building business led to a cash-and-carry lumber company, manufacturing plants, the namesake hardware chain, and a racing team. Along the way, Menard amassed a fortune estimated at $11 billion, making him America’s 41st richest person.

3. T. Keith Glennan | NASA administrator

Glennan was the man who helped NASA earn its wings. As the space agency’s very first administrator (1958-61), Glennan oversaw the consolidation of various space and rocketry projects under the NASA umbrella. Glennan attended UW-Eau Claire (OK, so he’s not technically an alum) and graduated with an engineering degree from Yale. Before NASA, he did everything from work as studio manager for Paramount Pictures to directing the Navy’s Underwater Sound Lab during World War II.

4. Ann Devroy | journalist

Devroy was respected – and feared – by politicians and fellow journalists alike during her career tenaciously covering the White House for USA Today and The Washington Post in the 1980s and ’90s. A 1970 UWEC graduate, Devroy was lauded in 1997 as “the most dogged, determined, complete reporter any of us ever saw” by legendary Post columnist David Broder after her untimely death from cancer. An annual scholarship and forum were created in her memory at UWEC.

5. Kato Kaelin | z-list celebrity

Before he was launched to fame as a witness in O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, Kaelin was just a guy from suburban Milwaukee with a funny nickname (he’s really Brian Kaelin). In 1977, Kato hosted shows on the UWEC in-dorm cable channel, TV10, before leaving for Hollywood. There, he waited tables, appeared in a few grade-Z films, and ended up living in a guesthouse on Simpson’s estate. His surfer-dude persona made him an instant, quirky celebrity during the “Trial of the Century,” a status he’s parlayed into two decades of reality TV shows and pop-culture cameos.