Campus and Community


Golden Moments Revisited

One of the most prominent memories Jim Shilling '66 has of his graduation ceremony at University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point was the trumpet fanfare that announced the procession of graduates. "You look up at Old Main and see the long trumpets in each of the bell towers," he says of the former Commencement tradition. That moment sent shivers down his spine back then, and "still does when I think of that day."

During his second Commencement procession, as part of his first Golden Iris Reunion in 2016, music was still a factor, but Shilling was singing a different tune–literally. Upon their arrival on campus, he and his fellow Golden Iris alumni were asked to regale students and staff with a rendition of "Arf-Arf-Arf! Come on Pointers!"

"To the person, we agreed that it was a rather silly cheer," he recalls, "but it was still one of our memories of Point."

Enjoying and sharing fond memories of being a UWSP undergraduate is the main thrust of the university's Golden Iris Reunion program. Alumni celebrating 50 or more years since graduation are invited back to campus to participate in the event, which includes walking at Commencement with the new graduating class. But it is the catching up–with friends and classmates, as well as what's happening on campus–that is the real draw to this weekend-long event.

"The best part of getting together is reconnecting after such a long time," said Kathy Shilling '67, Jim's wife and 2017 Golden Iris celebrant.

Jim agrees. "Reminiscing with old friends that we had not connected with for 50 years brought back a flood of memories that had been tucked away in the far reaches of our minds," he says. "You know, it was like we just had conversations the day before, not 50 years ago. Friends are friends that time and distance cannot separate."

Special activities fill out the two-day Golden Iris Reunion schedule, which typically includes special group meals and experiences billed collectively as an "Alumni College." This year, participants were treated to a brunch with Chancellor Bernie Patterson, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Noel Fine Arts Center, a campus bus tour and a celebration luncheon following the Commencement ceremony.

So pleased were the Shillings with Jim's 2016 festivities that they practically jumped at the chance to serve as co-chairs of this year's reunion. Their recruitment efforts included contacting alumni, particularly those within their extended circle of friends, via phone and personalized notes. "Believe it or not," says Jim, "we started about 10 hours after we got home last year."

The philosophy behind their efforts to boost Golden Iris attendance is simple. "Past attendees need to personally share their experience of the weekend with graduates that they still keep in contact with," Kathy urges. "Share the good news!"

In addition to their work on the Golden Iris Reunion, Jim and Kathy have been faithful financial donors. They also donate their time by encouraging high school students to consider enrolling at the university. A former starting center for the school's football team, Jim is particularly proud of the part he has played in bringing promising athletes to the UWSP campus, including his and Kathy's daughter, Amanda, who ran track for the Pointers. The couple also have two sons, Christopher and Matthew.

Perhaps part of the reason the extended UWSP family is so important to the Shillings is that their own family would not have been possible had it not been for the university. In 1966, Massillon, Ohio-native Jim was working as a residence hall director during summer camps on campus. Kathy, who is originally from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, chose to enjoy her last summer before graduation by staying in Stevens Point with friends. She was working the front desk at Pray-Sims, where Jim was director.

"At a summer kick-off party for the staff before the campers arrived, this little co-ed and I fell in love," says Jim of his wife.

"Fate does play a part in all this because if I had gone home for the summer, I never would have met the man of my dreams," Kathy confirms. "A love story that only happens in movies or romance novels, and it happened to me!"

After Jim graduated in August, he moved to Hammond, Indiana, for a teaching job. That would mark the start of a long career in education. In Wisconsin, he has taught history at Hales Corners and Sparta high schools--the latter also employed him as assistant principal--and at UW-La Crosse. For the past 15 years he has been employed by Sparta-area high schools as a substitute teacher.

Kathy joined Jim in Indiana after she graduated in the spring of 1967. Having dreamt of becoming a medical technologist, she was able to put her biology degree to good use by joining a cancer research team. She also has held positions as a hospital health unit coordinator, and dedicated twenty years to working as the human resources coordinator for the Mayo system in Sparta. She is now retired.

No matter where the Shillings have lived or worked, it is safe to say that Stevens Point has always held a special place in their hearts. "University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is part of my family," declares Jim. Hence, their involvement in the Golden Iris Reunion program is a labor of love.

"We both have wonderful memories of our time at the university," Kathy says.  "Many times over the past 50-plus years, we still share stories, talk about dear friends we knew at Point and shed a tear when a former classmate passes on. We’ll never forget those years."

And then she adds the definitive last word on the subject: "ARF-ARF! Come on Pointers!"

Reunions of all types revolve around memories. Jim and Kathy Shilling were asked to share a few of their fondest memories of being students at UWSP. Their responses are encapsulated here:


"A real joy for me was playing football for the Pointers as starting center. I did enjoy the camaraderie of the brothers of Sigma Tau Gamma (Alpha Beta Rho)." 

"In 1965, I was surprised by being awarded the Outstanding Student Government Award.  Also, organizing the 1965 Homecoming.  (Tough during football season).

"Appreciation of the Theater class, along with all my history classes, were top memories. A few of the outstanding professors in history were Dr. Morrison, Dr. Crow, Dr. Soroka, Dr. Kremple, Dr. Isaacson, Mr. Burns, Mr. Counsell and, most of all, Dr. James Albertson. Simply, all I can say is that Stevens Point was a family."


"I look back on my college years as four years of many firsts: the first time living away from home; rooming with a person I wasn’t related to; Union food that didn’t taste like mom’s; drinking beer for the first time because it only cost a nickel (on Sunday afternoons) and soda cost more; juggling a heavy class schedule loaded with the hardest science courses I had ever seen; not getting all A’s, ever; being on probation after my first semester; instigating a  ham loaf protest in the union; being a dorm assistant responsible for an entire floor of students that didn’t always follow the rules, etc., etc. 

"But all of these situations made us, the students, stronger in our desire to achieve that one goal we all had on the first day as a freshman–study hard, have fun and graduate in four years; I achieved that.

"Although I’m not the medical technologist I came to Point to be, my life has been one of accomplishments, both in my career and family life. UW-Stevens Point gave me the strong base to build a good life and to know that one can achieve anything if you work hard and have a giving heart."