Tag: Mielke Family Foundation

Dr. John Mielke’s legacy, commitment to education celebrated at Lawrence

Dr. John and Sally Mielke have long been champions for education, including supporting the teacher education program at Lawrence. John Mielke passed away on Nov. 4.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is mourning the loss of Dr. John Mielke, an iconic leader and philanthropist in the Fox Valley whose passion for education and health care has left a lasting impact on the community.

Mielke died Nov. 4 at the age of 87.

The cardiologist’s incredible life included improving health care across the region, serving on the Appleton Area School District Board of Education for 26 years, and, with his wife, Sally, partnering on multiple health and education initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field for all residents. A number of those partnerships, via the Mielke Family Foundation, involved Lawrence, including establishing two endowed professorships, launching the Mielke Summer Institute in the Liberal Arts at Bjorklunden, and, in 2014, providing a multi-million-dollar gift that broadened opportunities for education students interested in teaching in elementary schools.

“The hundreds of Lawrence graduates both past and future who become educational leaders are a testament to John’s passion for learning, community, and educational access for all,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “I will deeply miss John’s counsel and friendship.”

The Mielke Family Foundation, which was started in 1963 by Mielke’s parents and has been supported by the family through three generations, put much focus over the past decade on early childhood education. That led to a $2.5 million gift to Lawrence in 2014 that expanded the teacher education program and allowed students to earn certification for teaching in elementary grades.

That was a game-changer for the program, said Stewart Purkey, director of teacher education at Lawrence and holder of the Bee Connell Mielke Professorship of Education, established 25 years ago. But it was just one piece of Mielke’s work to improve education at all levels, most pointedly for the youngest of students.

Purkey referenced Mielke’s work with the Building for Kids Children’s Museum, the Early Childhood Learning Center, and the development of Pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“John was prescient in his commitment to working with early childhood education and recognizing the incredible importance of helping young children learn and grow,” Purkey said. “He pushed over and over again for us to focus as much as we could on the education of the youngest children so they had that really strong foundation. Now, that’s sort of accepted and it’s a given that we have to work with pre-K 3 and pre-K 4-aged children. John was championing that years and years before it reached mainstream thinking.”

Purkey said that while he is saddened by the loss of a friend and mentor, he is buoyed that Sally Mielke will continue the work that she and John have been so devoted to through the years.

“It’s important to note, when we think about John, it was always John and Sally together, and, of course, Sally is still with us,” Purkey said. “I know she will continue John’s good work in the community, including how she’s involved with the teacher ed program here at Lawrence.”

Jenna Stone, Lawrence’s associate vice president of finance, has worked often with the Mielkes and called the loss of John Mielke monumental for the Fox Cities.

“John and Sally Mielke have been an extraordinary force for compassion, caring, health, and education in our community,” Stone said.

Until his death, John Mielke served on the board of the Mielke Family Foundation, one of the most active philanthropic foundations in northeast Wisconsin. It serves residents in both the Appleton and Shawano areas.

In 2010, the foundation was the recipient of Lawrence’s first Collaboration in Action award. It spoke to the long relationship between the university and the foundation, dating back to 1982 when the foundation established the Edward F. Mielke Professorship in Medicine, Health, and Society, currently held by Brenda Jenike.

In 1996, the foundation established the Bee Connell Mielke Professorship in Education. In conjunction, the foundation established a community outreach program called the Mielke Summer Institute in the Liberal Arts, which provides local educators with an opportunity to examine a specific theme of cultural or social significance from a multidisciplinary perspective, held at Bjorklunden, Lawrence’s northern campus in Door County. Purkey said more than 1,200 educators have since gone through the institute.

In recognition of the Mielke family’s decades of support, Lawrence’s education department is named for them, the Mielke Family Department of Education.

“John’s passing will be mourned by so many, but he leaves a remarkable legacy in the people and organizations he touched and made better,” Stone said. “He was relentless in chasing problems upstream to find root causes.”

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

Mielke Family Foundation Honored with First Lawrence University “Collaboration in Action” Award

The Mielke Family Foundation, one of northeast Wisconsin’s most active philanthropic foundations, was recognized Tuesday, Sept. 21 with Lawrence University’s first “Collaboration in Action” award during the college’s second annual Report to the Community. Oscar Boldt, chairman of The Boldt Group, served as emcee of the event, while Dave Vander Zanden, CEO of School Specialty, was the featured speaker at the program, which attracted an audience of nearly 150 community leaders.

The Collaboration in Action award honors an individual or organization, who, in partnership with Lawrence, has provided exemplary service to the Fox Cities community. Richard Calder, president of its board of directors, and Dr. John Mielke, a member of the board, accepted the award on the foundation’s behalf from Lawrence University President Jill Beck.

For nearly 30 years, the generous support of the Mielke Family Foundation has enabled Lawrence to enhance its work on campus and build bridges into the community.

In 1982, the foundation established the Edward F. Mielke Professor of Ethics in Medicine, Science and Society, currently held by Associate Professor of Philosophy Patrick Boleyn-Fitzgerald.

As holder of the professorship, Boleyn-Fitzgerald annually organizes the Edward F. Mielke Lecture Series in Biomedical Ethics that brings speakers to campus for community discussions on topics related to topical ethical issues.

In 1996, the foundation established the Bee Connell Mielke Professor of Education, currently held by Associate Professor of Education Stewart Purkey. It was the education department’s first endowed professorship.

In conjunction with the Bee Connell Mielke professorship, the foundation also established a community outreach program — the Mielke Summer Institute in the Liberal Arts. Directed each summer by Purkey, the program provides approximately 25 educators from Appleton and Shawano a week-long opportunity to examine a specific theme of cultural or social significance from a multidisciplinary perspective at Bjorklunden, Lawrence’s northern campus in Door County.

In discussing Lawrence collaborations in the Fox Valley, Beck highlighted the ArtsBridge program in which eight student-scholars and other Lawrentians worked with 132 area elementary school students to prepare ethnic dances, social studies projects and folk songs for World Arts Day; the Lawrence Scholars Programs, which brings alumni from around the world to campus to share their expertise with students, participate on panels, speak with classes and network with those who might be interested in internships and future career opportunities; and the college’s emerging innovation and entrepreneurship program, including a recent student-driven initiative to open temporary art gallery spaces in empty downtown Appleton storefronts.

“A great college-community relationship, like any successful partnership, is a constant act of collaboration, a commitment to one another’s welfare that is renewed every day,” said Jill Beck. “I am very proud of this partnership and the good work that we have done together.”

Lawrence’s community engagement efforts in the past year included more the 300 student volunteers who participated in the AmeriCorps M3C Fellows program, serving at local schools and nonprofit organizations; the establishment of the Young Band Project, a partnership between the Lawrence Academy of Music and the Appleton Area School district to provide twice- a-week band instruction to fifth-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School; and an outreach program supported by a federal grant to provide training and education to lower suicide risk. More than 120 educators, clinicians and nonprofit staff members from 13 area schools and 24 youth-serving organizations attended a day-long training session at Lawrence in March.

During the 2009-10 academic year, Lawrence faculty and staff members supported more than 150 Fox Cities’ churches, schools and organizations through volunteering and charitable gifts, including serving on boards and committees of nearly 40 local nonprofits.