Dr. Cliff Feldmann remembers vividly the care and support he received as a Lakeland student from many of his teachers, most notably, longtime chemistry professor and division chair David Rath.
Now, more than 45 years after graduating with a bachelor's degree, Feldmann is giving the institution a significant gift that will allow the continued transformation of the programs in Lakeland's natural sciences division.
Feldmann, president of Sheboygan Falls-based Feldmann Engineering & Mfg. Co. Inc. and a resident of Florida, recently made a gift of $840,000 to Lakeland's natural sciences division.
The money will set in motion significant expansion of the Lakeland Undergraduate Research Experience (LURE), fund cutting-edge equipment that will provide new student research opportunities and create significant new scholarships designed to attract top-tier, high-achieving students from throughout the Midwest.
Prior to earning a chemistry degree at Lakeland in 1969, Feldmann had to withdraw from classes for several months due to family challenges. Feldmann credits Rath for stepping in to make sure he stayed on track to graduate.
"Dr. Rath provided me with an opportunity to continue my education," said Feldmann, who later earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked a number of years for Hewlett-Packard. "He provided me extra time and a facility on campus at which I could study. That made it easier for me to transition through a difficult time.
"I had a very positive experience there while doing my undergraduate work and now I'm at a point in my career where I want to give back in the hopes of making a difference for this generation of faculty and students. I want to fund programs where students can access their professors with an opportunity to develop close, mentoring relationships."
Lakeland President Dan Eck said the institution is excited to work with Feldmann to see how his generous gift will transform the natural sciences programs.
"Lakeland is grateful to have loyal alumni who are willing to share their hard work and good fortune in support of the institution's mission," Eck said. "We have a very talented faculty, and we are all looking forward to seeing the positive impact on our academic programs and the increased opportunities for students that will come with this incredible gift."
Feldmann's gift will benefit a program that has been experiencing significant growth in the last several years.
Paul Pickhardt, chair of the natural sciences division and associate professor of biology, said some of the funds will strengthen LURE, the institution's 10-week summer program that allows undergraduate students to work alongside faculty members to design and conduct research which is later presented at regional or national conferences.
"Our faculty are enthusiastic to provide hands-on learning opportunities to our students, and the planned equipment acquisitions from this initial gift will allow us to do that," Pickhardt said. "Currently our students are somewhat limited on the types of research questions they can explore in the laboratory, and these purchases will greatly expand their opportunities within coursework and independent research projects. Research equipment investments that can lay the foundations for strong programs yet also strengthen interdisciplinary ties across traditional disciplines will be emphasized."
Additionally, Pickhardt said Feldmann's gift will put Lakeland's programs in a stronger position to enhance current relationships create new ones with community and industry partners. The gift will also help the growth of the institution's exercise science program.
Feldmann said he's been impressed with Lakeland's commitment to the sciences and the focus on the same kind of faculty-student interaction that benefitted him more than four decades earlier.
"Lakeland is a great setting for getting a good, private, liberal arts education in a small environment. This is getting more difficult today, particularly for students with limited means, to achieve their educational goals," Feldmann said. "That is a particular area I would like to support.
"The important thing is the student relationship with faculty focused on teaching in a smaller environment where they can work more intimately. That's the experience I had many years ago."
Feldmann Engineering & Mfg. Co. Inc. started in 1947 in a cheese factory building near Plymouth by Feldmann's parents, Marvin and Myrtle Feldmann. It has evolved over the decades, and today the company has become the world leader in the manufacture and sale of its Jiffy Ice Drills. Other popular products include lawn aerators, portable fencing, shrub and tree planting augers and specialty products.