One summer day many years ago, my father, Homer, asked if I'd like to accompany him on a tour of Lakeland College.
While I had spent all of my young life in Sheboygan, I'd never been to Lakeland and decided to go.
The tour was led by Lucius Chase, a well-known local attorney and college trustee. He also was a good friend of my father's. We spent a pleasant hour or two touring the campus, meeting with students and faculty along the way. After our visit, we headed for Pine Hills to play a round of golf.
On the course, Mr. Chase and my father continued their discussion about Lakeland. Later that evening, I asked dad about their conversation. He sat me down and explained that Lakeland was experiencing some financial difficulties and that Mr. Chase was soliciting funds to solve the crisis. Dad told me he had agreed to make a generous contribution. This puzzled me because he hadn't attended Lakeland nor had any direct involvement with the college.
In explaining his decision he said, "Hugh, Lakeland is a unique and treasured asset to the greater Sheboygan community. The college has remained true to its Christian roots and provides an outstanding education to many young women and men. We cannot afford to lose an asset of this importance, and it's imperative that the leaders of our city step up and help the college return to prosperity."
Thanks to the efforts of leaders like Lu Chase, John De Master, John Esch, Lucille Fessler, Ed Knauf, Robert Leverenz and many others, Lakeland survived that crisis and has continued to play a crucial role in the continued growth and prosperity of Sheboygan County. Since my father passed away in 1988, my wife and I have been honored to continue the support of the Denison family and we have made provisions for a substantial gift to the college in our estate plans. The college exists today because of the generosity of our forefathers. Now, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we build on their dreams and see to it that Lakeland continues to serve generations for years to come.
Hugh F. Denison is a native of Sheboygan, Wis., and a senior vice president with Heartland Advisors in Milwaukee.