Campus and Community


A Family Affair

Reunion program offers alums a “Golden” opportunity for a double celebration

When Barbara Farner Laedtke first crossed the stage to receive her diploma from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1981, her husband, Stephen Laedtke ’68, was right there, cheering her on from the audience. This past May, when Barbara walked once more after completing her master’s in English education from UWSP, Steve was able to help celebrate her accomplishment from a slightly more favorable vantage point. He processed in with his wife and her fellow graduates as a Golden Iris Reunion  participant.

Each year, alumni celebrating 50-plus years since their graduation from UWSP, highlighting the class celebrating 50 years spot-on, are invited back to campus to participate in the event. Golden Iris members are treated to a slate of activities, including a Champagne brunch, campus tours and “Alumni College” classes. The capstone of the experience is the chance to process in with the current graduating class during the commencement ceremony.

Sometimes the intersection of celebrations by alumni and graduates encompasses more than mere geography and fond memories. The Laedtkes are a case in point. In a way, the weekend became something of a family reunion. On the graduate side, Barbara was joined by her son John—also getting his master’s in English Education—who unfortunately was not able to attend the commencement ceremony because he was fulfilling his student teaching requirement in Spain. (“That was disappointing for me,” says Barbara.) In addition to Steve, Golden Iris attendees that weekend included his sisters, Carla Webster ’64 and Louise
Van Der Horst ’64, and a cousin, Bonnie Bach ’65.

“When I found out that my husband was invited to be a part of the Iris celebration, I was initially taken aback,” Barbara admits. “No one else in my family was going to be there, so I was sad that Steve wasn’t going to be my audience.”

She says she quickly changed her mind when she realized how much Golden Iris participants processing in with students enhances the graduation experience. It also didn’t hurt that Steve was perfectly willing to downplay his Golden Iris involvement in favor of acknowledging Barbara’s big day.

“Like a good husband, I made sure the graduation festivities were all about her,” he says. “I can attest to how hard she worked for her master’s degree and am very proud of her achievement.”

Coincidentally, another familial situation occurred as part of the Silver Iris Reunion, an event instituted this year that celebrates alumni graduating anywhere from 25 to 49 years prior. David Falkosky Sr. ’93, who was in the 25-year-reunion class, processed in with his son David Jr. ’18. Both men are now the proud recipients of bachelor’s degrees in accounting from UWSP.

The Laedtkes seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the Commencement-Golden Iris combo weekend. Barbara says the brunch and luncheon with Chancellor Bernie Patterson were excellent, and that the couple enjoyed attending the Albertson Award dinner honoring the top achievers from the graduating class, held on Friday. She especially enjoyed taking part in her second UWSP Commencement ceremony.

“The graduation was beautiful,” she remarks. “In 1981, I remember that all the bright gymnasium lights were on and no attention had been paid to the theatrical elements that we now see in graduation ceremonies. The stage, the lighting, and the decorations were magnificent, as well as the carved wooden cupola that we all touched.”

All in all, the weekend was enjoyable and memorable for the Laedtkes, a fitting way for them, as both graduates and alumni, to reconnect with a place that means so much to them.

“I owe my marriage, my career, and all the advantages I have had in my life to my experiences at UWSP,” says Barbara.