Tag: Lawrence alumni

‘Tonight is perfection’: McKees’ outdoor rink is an Appleton oasis on ice

An aerial view of the ice rink in the McKees' yard.
The McKee ice rink measures more than 100 feet in length and hosts pickup hockey games three times a week.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Welcome to The Venue.

It’s a Tuesday evening in February, and the super snow moon — the biggest, brightest full moon of the year — is hanging over the outdoor ice rink in the Appleton yard of Chuck and Lesley McKee, shining like a beacon on a scene that screams, “This is how we all should embrace our Wisconsin winters.”

The rink, more than 100 feet long and 35 feet wide, is crafted with detail; the ice tended to with care, perfectly smooth on this 20-degree night. A dozen friends and acquaintances, pads on and hockey sticks in hand, ages ranging from 30s to 70s, skate across the rink in a game of pickup hockey, navigating around a large shagbark hickory adorned with lights while firing pucks into mini-sized goals.

“Tonight is perfection,” says Bill Carlson as he scans the scene that unfolds on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons — weather permitting — during the winter. He’s been coming to these makeshift hockey games at the McKee house along Green Bay Road — just a few blocks north of the Lawrence University campus — for 25 years.

“This is called The Venue, and this is the finest athletic facility in the state,” Carlson says with a wink and a smidge of exaggeration. He smiles and gives a nod to Chuck McKee ’68, the architect who has lovingly tended to this winter oasis for nearly three decades.

The McKees are alumni of Lawrence — both 1968 graduates — and are longtime friends and supporters of the school. Chuck, who retired three years ago after a long career as an Appleton physician, was a football star for the Vikings in the 1960s. He was a captain on the 1967 team that went undefeated and was inducted into the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago. Individually, he was a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 1996.

The McKees have stayed closely connected to Lawrence through the years, attending shows and games, serving on boards. Chuck once served as director of the wellness center on campus and assisted as a doctor for LU athletic teams. Lawrence hockey players will sometimes come to the McKee ice rink to play low-key pond hockey after their season ends.

In many ways, this house is an extension of Lawrence.

Lawrence alumni connections: Learn more here.

Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame: See Lawrence honorees here

A party on ice

It was the McKee daughters who first inspired an outdoor ice rink in the years after the McKees moved back to Appleton in the late 1970s. The rink was much smaller back then. But through trial and error, it would grow and become a more elaborate undertaking.

Others have taken notice.

In its January edition this year, Better Homes & Gardens magazine featured the McKees’ rink, showcasing an outdoor ice-skating party they threw last winter — it was dubbed Moon Over Ice and featured everything from homemade ice lanterns to an outdoor spread of food and drink. The elegant party was initially launched in the 1990s when the McKees thought it would be a good excuse to get friends and neighbors outdoors in the winter. It was halted after a couple of years, then revived again a few years ago.

“Everybody wore old-fashioned fancy clothes and I had a tux that I wore,” Chuck says. “It was really fun.”

If the weather cooperates, it can be a fabulous experience. If it’s too cold or windy or the ice doesn’t cooperate, then not as much.

The 2018 party fell into the fabulous category, a blessing considering the presence of the photographer working for Better Homes and Gardens. It was like a dinner party in a snow globe.

“That day it snowed all day,” Chuck says. “People were out setting up stuff from 10 o’clock in the morning, hanging lights and fashioning the snowbanks to put the tables on. We had a 30-foot-long table on the ice. It was really nice. The whole idea was to spend all that time outside, and everybody loved it.”

A player brings the puck up the ice during a Tuesday night game at the McKee outdoor rink.
Players range in age from their 30s to their 70s. “You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there,” says 72-year-old Chuck McKee ’68.

Then there’s the hockey

The activity on the ice the rest of the winter is a bit less sophisticated than a dinner party. It’s about hockey, but mostly it’s about camaraderie.

There are upwards of 25 guys who come for the hockey games on a semi-regular basis, usually 12 to 15 on any given Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday, skill levels varying from some to none. They’re not necessarily friends outside of the hockey get-togethers, but they come because they’re drawn to the casual nature of the hockey and the friendly banter that comes with it, not unlike pickup basketball games or weekly softball leagues that draw players well beyond their athletic prime who still revel in friendly competition. This just happens to be at somebody’s house, a side yard transformed into an elaborate ice rink and a basement turned into a makeshift locker room.

“I’m most taken by how these various people got here,” Chuck says. “The only thing we do together is play hockey. Otherwise, very few of us have any close relationship.

“Probably only half or a third of the people who try this actually stick with it. We’ve had a lot of people who have said, yea, I want to give it a try, and then said, nah. It’s hard to predict who is going to stick with it.”

Marty Thiel came to the group this year. He’s 62, has been playing hockey since high school but had put his skates mostly on the shelf while his kids were growing up. They’re out of the house now, and one day he was asking around about where he could play some “old guy hockey.”

A week later he got a call from Chuck and an invite to join the group.

“Now I’m here three times a week,” Thiel says. “It’s everything and more. I’ll be sad when the season ends because the setting here is just perfect.”

The group helps the McKees keep the rink in working order. They come together on a weekend in December to help set up the rink, and then tend to it during the winter as if it were their own.

“It’s a human labor of love,” Carlson says. “During intermissions, about 15 shovels come out and we shovel the ice. It’s like a Zamboni with shovels. And then at the end of the night, there are a few guys who use the hose and spray another layer so it’ll be ready for the next time.”

Getting the ice just right took years of starts and stops, Chuck says. He found silage film, typically used on farms, that he cuts to size and places on the ground before making the ice. He puts up 6-inch-wide boards around the rink, turning his yard into a massive bathtub. He replumbed a faucet in the basement to accommodate a 1-inch hose.

“So, we take that hose out of the window in the basement and I just let the hose run for 18 hours when I know it’s going to be sub-freezing for five days or so,” Chuck says.

Then it’s a matter of chasing falling leaves as the water freezes.

“Brown oaks are usually the last trees to drop their leaves,” Chuck says. “And these shagbark hickories, one of them didn’t drop its leaves this year until January.”

Aerial view of hockey players making their way across the ice on the McKee outdoor rink.
A rotating cast of players show up on a given weeknight or Sunday afternoon to play hockey on the rink in the McKees’ Appleton yard. They navigate around a shagbark hickory on the east end of the ice.

But now, on this Tuesday night in mid-February, the leaves are no longer an issue and the ice is gleaming, the super snow moon providing a glow.

“Now is the sweet time,” Chuck says.

When the hockey is done, the players return to the basement, remove their pads, drink some beer and hang out. It’s a ritual that’s been playing out over and over again, with an ever-changing cast of characters, for nearly 30 years.

“Here’s what I think,” says Chuck, who at age 72 takes a back seat to no one on the ice. “Who gets to do this at my age? Who gets to sit down in a locker room and drink beer and play darts? I suppose I should be reading AARP books instead. You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there.”

Chuck, who on this night was not playing because he had broken a rib on a freakish fall during a game a couple of weeks earlier, says the rink isn’t going anywhere, even when he eventually hangs up his skates. This ice thing is a hobby he can’t quit.

“Honestly, I’m going to make ice even if I’m not playing hockey,” he says. “It’s really fun. It’s like winter gardening.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence welcoming record-setting turnout for Reunion 2018

Alumni and guests returning to campus this weekend for Lawrence University’s annual Reunion celebration will be record-setters as part of the largest Reunion turnout in school history.

The welcome mats will be out out in abundance as an all-time high of some 1,100 alumni and guests from 41 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as six countries, Japan and Sri Lanka among them participate in four days of activities. Betty Dombrose Brown, a 1947 graduate of Milwaukee-Downer, holds the distinction of being a member of the oldest class represented this year.A group shot of alumni at Reunion celebration

Eight alumni will be honored for achievement and service Saturday, June 16 as part of Reunion festivities. Each will be recognized at the Reunion Convocation at 10:30 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition to the awards convocation, Reunion will feature an address Thursday evening by Appleton native Dr. Ann McKee, a member of Lawrence’s class of 1975.

The director of the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at Boston University and chief neuropathologist for the brain banks at VA Boston, McKee’s research has established herself as one of the country’s leading experts on brain trauma, concussions and their consequences.

A complete schedule of all Reunion activities can be found here.

As a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold and Porter, Bill Baer established himself as one of the country’s leading antitrust attorneys.

Among his notable victories was successfully defending GE against criminal charges of price fixing with DeBeers in the industrial diamonds business. Two separate stints in the Federal Trade Commission, where he led successful challenges to mergers involving Staples and Office Depot and four drug wholesalers, helped Baer earn an appointment to the U.S. Department of Justice by President Obama.

Bill Baer
bill Baer ’72

A 1972 Lawrence graduate, Baer will be presented the Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award at Saturday’s Reunion convocation. The award recognizes Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer graduates of more than 15 years for outstanding career achievement. The award honors the second president of Milwaukee-Downer College.

A resident of Bethesda, Md., Baer, who served as Lawrence’s visiting distinguished Scarff professor this spring, was the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division from 2013-2016 and acting associate attorney general — the number three position in the department — from 2016-17.

At Arnold & Porter, Baer oversaw 60 lawyers in the United States and Europe as the leader of the firm’s antitrust practice. His outstanding legal work earned him numerous awards, including being named one of “the decade’s most influential lawyers” by the National Law Journal. The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers twice (2006, 2007) named him the “leading competition lawyer in the world.”

Bear served on the Lawrence Board of Trustees from 2001-2012 and then rejoined the board in 2017.

This year’s other award winners include:

Peter Kolkay
Peter Kolkay ’98

Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award — Peter Kolkay, Class of 1998, Nashville, Tenn. The award recognizes Lawrence alumni of 15 years or less for significant contributions to, and achievements in, a career field.  The award honors Lawrence’s 10th and youngest president and an exemplary figure in higher education in the 20th century.

Hailed as “stunningly virtuosic” by The New York Times and “superb” by the Washington Post, Kolkay is the only bassoonist ever awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant and first prize at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition. He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and a member of the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tenn.

An associate professor of bassoon at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, Kolkay has performed numerous world premieres of both solo and chamber works. His 2011 debut solo CD “Bassoon Music” spotlights works by 21st-century American composers.

He was the recipient of the Carlos Surinach Prize by the BMI Foundation for outstanding service to American music by an emerging artist.

Francis Siekman de Romero
Frances Siekman de Romero ’74

George B. Walter Service to Society Award — Frances Siekman de Romero, Class of 1974, Guanajuato, Mexico. The award recognizes Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer College alumni who exemplify the ideals of a liberal education through socially useful service. The award honors Walter, a 1936 Lawrence graduate, faculty member and dean of men, whose work at the college and beyond promoted his conviction that every individual can and should make a positive difference in the world.

An Appleton native, de Romero has been deeply engaged with humanitarian work much of the past four decades, focusing on Mexico’s less fortunate. The former first lady of Guanajuato, she served six years (2000-06) as president of Guanajuato’s Department of Infants and Family (DIF). The state organization works to support people earning less than $1,000 per year.

She also has worked to provide adequate eye care for the poor through the organization Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity and implemented the program “Mi Casa Diferente” for Guanajuato families whose homes were built with inadequate materials. The program provides building materials to families who own the land and build the homes themselves.

A passionate advocate for animal welfare, de Romero created a 600-acre sanctuary for abused donkeys, horses and dogs.

de Romero has a long family association with Lawrence. Her father, William Siekman and mother Martha Boyd Siekman were 1941 and 1943 Lawrence graduates, respectively. Her brother, Charlie, graduated in 1972, while two of her children earned degrees from Lawrence, Francesca in 2011 and David in 2015.

Terry Franke
Terry Franke ’68

Tom Kayser
Tom Kayser ’68

The Presidential Award, Thomas Kayser, class of 1958, St. Paul, Minn., and J. Terrence Franke, class of 1968, Winnetka, Ill. The award honors an alumnus or alumna of Lawrence University or Milwaukee-Downer College whose exemplary leadership and notable actions have contributed to the betterment of the entire Lawrence University community.

Kayser served as a member of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2000-2012, when he was elected emeritus trustee. During his tenure, he has served as vice-chair of the Student Affairs Committee, Recruitment and Retention Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee. He is a past president of the Founders Club, served as a campaign working group member, regional club program committee member and college inauguration representative.

He and his wife, Marlene, are founding donors of Admission Possible, now known as College Possible, a nationally-growing nonprofit organization that works to make college admission and success possible for low-income students. Their support has helped Lawrence facilitate a high level of access to students in the program, coordinate a special college fair for Lawrence and other small colleges and funded an AmeriCorps staff person to serve as the direct liaison between the Lawrence admissions office and the program.

Franke has served as a member of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees for 19 years covering two different terms (1995-98; 2002-), including as four as chair of the board (2011–15).

He also has served on the leadership team for the Full Speed to Full Need scholarship campaign, been an admissions volunteer, a regional chair of the Founders Club committee, Legacy Circle National Council member, and an active participant in the Lawrence Scholars in Business program. Franke is currently a member of his 50th Reunion committee and serves on the leadership team for the class of 1968.

Christine Benedict
Christine Benedict ’99

Marshall Hulbert Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award, Christine Benedict, class of 1999, Stoughton. This award recognizes a Lawrence graduate celebrating his or her 15th cluster reunion or younger who has provided significant service to the college. It honors Marshall Brandt Hulbert, known as “Mr. Lawrence,” who made contributions to thousands of Lawrentian lives and served the college in various capacities for 54 years.

The vice president for enrollment management at Edgewood College, Benedict served on the Lawrence University Alumni Association (LUAA) board, including a term as board president.

Her service to her alma mater began as a student, when she served as a Star-Key Ambassador and volunteer for the admissions office. As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, she served as the Panhellenic president and was elected vice president of her senior class.

After graduation, she brought valuable insights to the LUAA Board of Directors and led countless volunteer efforts to foster an impactful educational experience for future Lawrentians.

Linda Laarman
Linda Laarman ’73

etty Domrose Brown
Betty Domrose Brown M-D ’47

Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award, Betty Domrose Brown, Milwaukee-Downer class of 1947, Green Bay, and Linda Laarman, class of 1973, Milwaukee. The award recognizes a Lawrence University or Milwaukee-Downer College graduate after his or her 20th cluster Reunion who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence University. It honors Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp, voted Milwaukee-Downer alumna of the year in 1964 for her long-standing service to the college as president of the alumnae association board, class secretary and public relations officer.

A loyal and long-time supporter of the university, Brown has served her classmates as a class secretary since 2004. She was a member of the LUAA Board of Directors from 1975–78, returning to the board for four more years in 1998 and has served as a reunion committee member.

Laarman, who served two years as president of the LUAA Board of Directors, has long had a special affinity for Björklunden. A frequent summer seminar attendee, she served as a docent for the Björklunden chapel, co-chaired the Björklunden Advisory Committee and helped create “This is Björklunden,” an all-day annual event that showcases all that Lawrence’s northern campus has to offer.

She also was instrumental in establishing the “Winifred Boynton Creative Spirit” award as a tribute to Mrs. Boynton and individuals who contribute significantly to life in Door County.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.