The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Office of International Education will now and forever be synonymous with a man who made the strengthening and expansion of international education a personal and institutional mission.
On Nov. 4, about 150 to 200 faculty, staff, students and alumni of UW Oshkosh gathered with area community leaders and other family and friends in Reeve Memorial Union to remember and celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. John E. Kerrigan, Ninth Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
A special luncheon and program honored Kerrigan’s service to the institution from 1990 to 2000. The program also highlighted his deep commitment to the Oshkosh community and to establishing and growing academic communities in the United States and abroad. Kerrigan, who died Nov. 5, 2012, left an incredible legacy at what, with his vision and leadership, would grow to become Wisconsin’s third-largest university.
In honor of Kerrigan’s commitment to international education and global citizenship, UW Oshkosh officially announced its renaming of the Office of International Education as the “John E. Kerrigan Office of International Education.”
“Mom and dad were both born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, so coming to Oshkosh was a return for them to their home state,” said Mike Kerrigan, son of John Kerrigan, who noted his family’s stints and service in both the United States and overseas. “Coming to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was special to them for many reasons. When dad got here, he jumped in with both feet, and in over the course of the 10 years, I don’t think his feet ever touched the ground.”
UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lane Earns, UW Oshkosh alumna, attorney and former State Senator Jessica King and Oshkosh Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Casper joined sons Mike and Brian Kerrigan to share a few reflections on John Kerrigan’s impact.
“John’s love of international education – travel and partnerships – is a living tribute,” Earns said. “Thanks to John’s work, our campus continues to expand and diversify the breadth of our reach through our Office of International Education. The partnership that John established with individuals from the University of Nizwa in Oman, for example, brings students to our campus and allows us to have a continuing role in helping to shape the future health of that institution.”
Wells, who assumed UW Oshkosh’s chancellorship from Kerrigan in 2000, honored his predecessor’s work to help establish the University of Nizwa, a thriving, growing Omani institution that has recently seen the number of women attending eclipse 80 percent of the student body.
For years, Kerrigan served as an educational consultant in Oman as the relationships and foundations for the embryonic University of Nizwa were developed. The bond between it and UW Oshkosh continues to flourish, as student and faculty academic program exchanges strengthen and grow annually.
And Nizwa’s story is not unlike UW Oshkosh’s, Wells emphasized. UW Oshkosh began more than a century ago as a teacher-training school, and, as history has shown, played an instrumental and pioneering role in providing educational opportunities for women in the region and state.
“What a tremendous legacy,” Wells said, applauding Kerrigan’s vision and service to two campuses half a world apart. “I’m just very pleased we were able to name our international programs after Chancellor Emeritus Kerrigan. It really epitomizes what makes America unique and distinctive – to always be committed to being inclusive and giving people an opportunity and chance while building an academic community to continue to build a stronger democracy.”
See a special video tribute honoring John E. Kerrigan:
Casper praised Kerrigan’s and his wife Pat’s decision to no longer live in the long-standing UW Oshkosh on-campus chancellor’s residence, the Oviatt House, now home to the UW Oshkosh Foundation, when they first arrived. Instead, the Kerrigan’s made the deliberate decision to buy a home off campus, in the city of Oshkosh.
“He did this to make a point,” Casper said. “He wanted to demonstrate and become part of the broader community.”
King recalled Kerrigan’s dedication in the 1990s to helping students within Generation-X embrace their emergent roles as civic and global contributors and leaders. She also praised Kerrigan’s confidence in students who were committed to experiencing some of UW Oshkosh’s, at that time, most distant and immersive study-abroad trips. They included a mid-1990s venture to Bangladesh that proved to be as enlightening as it was groundbreaking for the students participating.
“There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that fits my experience as one of Kerrigan’s students perfectly. ‘I see, I forget. I hear, I forget. I do, I remember,’” King said.
“Chancellor Kerrigan understood that each person should be respected for their contribution to the whole,” she said.