University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Viessmann Group leaders jointly announced a major gift to the University to fund an endowment propelling one of the institution’s newest and most innovative academic initiatives.
Renewable-energy and academic partners with UW Oshkosh, Viessmann Group CEO Martin Viessmann, Ph.D., and his wife Annette have pledged a generous gift to the UW Oshkosh Foundation to create the university’s first endowed chair, which will support UW Oshkosh’s new Sustainable Technology program. The “Viessmann Endowed Chair in Sustainable Technology” will, for decades, allow UW Oshkosh to play a visionary and international academic leadership role in renewable energy technologies.
“The Viessmanns’ landmark gift symbolizes tremendous confidence in and respect for our colleagues, our educational mission and our campus community’s ongoing commitment to sustainability,” UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells said.
“This remarkable gift builds on a multi-year relationship between Wisconsin’s third largest institution of higher education and a highly-respected, global corporation. We are connected by our shared passion for sustainability and education. It is a story of mutual collaboration and respect, between the public and the private sectors, and it is only the beginning.”
While developing and participating in academic, research and outreach programs at UW Oshkosh, the scholar who holds the Viessmann chair will maintain a strong relationship with the $2.5 billion, family-owned Viessmann Group, based in Allendorf, Germany.
“The collaboration represented by the Viessmann chair will offer unparalleled opportunities for scientific and technological research, teaching, and learning among UW Oshkosh faculty, staff, and students,” said UW Oshkosh Provost Lane Earns. “The establishment of this position and the unique cooperation between UW Oshkosh and the Viessmann Group will also expand the international scope of our educational mission by facilitating wide-ranging collaboration and innovation in the areas of sustainable technologies and renewable energies.”
The Viessmann Chair in Sustainable Technology will support current academic programming in the College of Letters and Science, the Renewable Energy Institute (REI), and developing programs in engineering technology and renewable energy. The scholar holding the post will take the lead in developing new international projects, including exchange programs, collaborative research and curriculum development.
At UW Oshkosh and abroad, the professor holding the Viessmann chair will:
- Teach three courses per year in the Environmental Engineering Technology program and/or related programs.
- Create opportunities for UW Oshkosh to work with local and global partners on engineering technology and renewable energy development and design.
- Lead a vigorous and externally-funded research program.
- Serve as liaison to The Viessmann Group and German academic partners.
Bridging the traditional contradiction between technical building equipment and creative, energy-related solutions, the goal of the Viessmann chair will be to combine theory, design, practice and technology into integrated, sustainable solutions. The professor holding the position will also anchor the newly-developed Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA) Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering Technology at UW Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay.
UW Oshkosh College of Letters and Science Dean John Koker said the Viessmann endowment will help develop and provide additional high-impact learning experiences, both on and off campus.
“Our partnership with the Viessmann Group will allow us to deepen our student and faculty research related to UW Oshkosh’s Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) and the Biodigester power plants,” Koker said.
UW Oshkosh College of Business Dean William Tallon said the new and one-of-a-kind learning opportunities will be equally influential on his students.
“Our business students will benefit from executive training and development opportunities here and abroad under the Viessmann Group’s leadership,” Tallon said. “That kind of immersive, international academic experience and professional mentorship is invaluable to modern business undergraduate and graduate students. It will provide one more point of distinction for UW Oshkosh’s College of Business.”
UW Oshkosh Foundation President Arthur Rathjen said the Viessmanns’ gift to the institution is an incredible endorsement of its academic and community-based dedication to sustainability and renewable energy innovation in Wisconsin.
“We pledge to manage the endowment within our Foundation to ensure tremendous return-on-investment for decades to come,” Rathjen said. “This gift, and those that follow from other University donors and partners, are critical components and drivers of our work to design, enhance and sustain the highest-quality education for our students and the workforce they will energize.”
The Viessmann Group’s dedication to renewable energy and training within the industry has helped dramatically advance Germany’s goals of carbon neutrality. UW Oshkosh Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Tom Sonnleitner said the company’s commitment and vision have already brought enormous benefit to UW Oshkosh, too, helping the institution stretch toward its environmental and renewable energy goals.
“The Viessmann Group and its Wisconsin-based subsidiary, BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, have worked just as diligently with educational partners such as UW Oshkosh, sharing expertise and state-of-the-art technology to develop environmentally sound biogas energy facilities,” Sonnleitner said. “We continue to accelerate UW Oshkosh significantly on its own carbon-neutrality timeline—a goal currently targeted for 2025 in its Climate Action Plan but rapidly advancing with Viessmann’s partnership.”
UW Oshkosh’s innovative energy facilities include the University’s dry fermentation anaerobic Biodigester — the first in the western hemisphere. The power plant and research center composts food refuse, agricultural plant waste and grass clippings, harvesting the resultant methane for electricity and heat production. Students and faculty collaborate in the operation of the plant and its learning laboratory, and study how best to maximize its methane production at UW Oshkosh’s Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC). A planned biogas research facility and public education center at the 9,000-cow Rosendale Dairy in Pickett, as well as a smaller “Titan 55” unit now installed at the 150-head, family-owned Allen Farm, have extended the UW Oshkosh-Viessmann partnership off campus.
In May, Dr. Martin Viessmann was recipient of an honorary doctorate from UW Oshkosh during the institution’s Spring Commencement ceremony. As an acknowledgement of his work through Viessmann to establish and strengthen University initiatives and facilities, Chancellor Wells will award Viessmann Group chief financial officer and biogas sector leader, Joachim Janssen, the Chancellor’s Medallion during UW Oshkosh’s Saturday, Dec. 15 Midyear Commencement. Janssen will be honored as UW Oshkosh confers nearly 1,100 degrees to students in Kolf Sports Center before an audience of 7,000 guests during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony.
Janssen is also leading a 2:30 p.m., Dec. 14 lecture and panel discussion in UW Oshkosh’s Sage Hall, Room 1216.