Memories, Ministry and Munificence
Tara Gagne's memories of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh began much earlier than her freshman year at college. As a 3-year-old, she lived on Florida Avenue in Oshkosh with her parents, William '75 and Joy Vanden Heuvel.
Tara, '93, '98, warmly recalls riding on the back of her father's bike on campus when he was a student at UW Oshkosh. She attended day care at the Newman Center, a campus ministry that helps students develop a faith that is the center of their lives. And she still remembers people cheering during Winter Carnival and her wide-eyed excitement when her tricycle was used during the competition.
In Dad's Footsteps
Following in her father's footsteps, it seemed natural for Tara to enroll at UW Oshkosh. By then, the family had moved to Wausau. UW Oshkosh was far enough away from home yet close enough to family.
She loved learning and applying knowledge. She thrived while student teaching because she could build on the solid foundation she gained, take charge and move to the next level.
As president of the Student Council for Exceptional Children, Tara used her marketing skills gained at UW Oshkosh to create fundraising activities and foster awareness for special education. She remembers trips taken with the Ski Heilers Club and the lifelong friends she made at UW Oshkosh.
Tara was named outstanding senior and outstanding senior in special education. She graduated with a bachelor's in special education in 1993. She returned to campus and earned a master's degree in educational leadership in 1998.
The Part That Newman Plays
The Newman Center continued to play an important role in Tara's life. As a student, it became the source of her spiritual ministry. She was inspired by the leadership of Rev. Jeff Vanden Heuvel, who later conducted the marriage ceremony of Tara and her husband, Scott.
Enlightened and inspired by the Christian values she embraced at UW Oshkosh, Tara incorporated them into her life and passed them onto her children, Carter, Spencer and Sydney. Further, she integrated them into her profession of teaching autistic children and service through mission work.
Tara is grateful for her UW Oshkosh experiences. She recognizes that others gave gifts to further her education. Based on her belief of giving back, it was natural for her to create a bequest in her will to her alma mater.
Her estate gift will provide scholarships to special education students and benefit the UW Oshkosh Alumni Association, of which she was a board member from 1993 to 2000.