More than any natural disaster, it is dedication and commitment that defines a community.
This became evident after Platteville experienced the devastating power of two tornadoes June 16.
I am humbled by the actions of community members, faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to take care of those affected by the storm and clean up the pieces the tornado left behind. Recently, I have had the opportunity to acknowledge those in the community, both university and at large, for the important work they did responding to these tornadoes on June 16
I learned of the tornado while visiting China on school business, and I braced myself for the potential injuries that might be reported after the storm. Thankfully, we suffered minimal injuries on campus and most of the damage was structural. Unfortunately, several people in the community suffered serious injuries. It was heartening to see Carrie Gates at a recent community event and learn that she is on the road to recovery. Most important, it was affirmed that our commitment to disaster training was put to good use, and that staff exercised quick thinking and took responsibility for making sure that everyone got to safety.
On campus, I thank residence hall staff and instructors for getting their students out of harm’s way and to safety with the help of the campus police, physical plant personnel, and administrators. Thanks to the admissions officers who came in at 2 a.m. to contact new students and reschedule all 217 registration appointments set for the next two days. And I thank the Platteville community, local police, fire personnel and EMTs in responding to the campus during and directly after the storm.
In the days since the tornado, the university has formed an 80-day task force charged with rebuilding and restoring the campus. Many departments deserve to be recognized for doing their part to contribute to the 80-day effort, including but not limited to, the finance office, risk management, physical plant, computer services, dining and auxiliary services and faculty. We have also appreciated the kind help we have received from the Platteville community — the many volunteers who have helped with clean up and restoration. We have had a good response from our insurance company, contractors and local legislators, which has helped the restoration process progress smoothly.
There are resources available for those who need it. Right after the tornado, the Pioneer Relief Fund was created to assist the UW–Platteville campus community. The funds have been awarded to help support students, displaced faculty and staff negatively impacted by the storm and in need of food, water, temporary housing, clothing and other supplies and will be dispersed this month.
We will be ready by Aug. 15 to welcome students back to campus, and we will be prepared to provide the same kind of high quality education that has come to be expected from UW–Platteville. Because of our collaborative efforts, 2014 won’t be remembered for the tornado but for how we responded as a campus and a community. Thank you for helping us to make every day a great day to be a Pioneer!
The Community Corner is a column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.