Ten successful University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduates have been chosen to receive top honors for 2022 by the Alumni Association Board of Trustees. Over the summer, we will introduce you to these exceptional graduates.
Student involvement on campus led two UWO graduates to become passionate about community, leadership, and sustainability.
Thomas Kenote ’16, of Keshena, won the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from UW Oshkosh; and Jim Rath ’76, of Naples, Fla., won the UWO Outstanding Service Award.
Kenote driven by his commitment to protecting tribal natural resources
Kenote, who earned a degree in environmental studies and later earned a master’s degree in natural resource science management – forest ecology from the University of Minnesota in 2020, is currently director of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) at the College. of Menominee Nation, after two almost two years as Geoscience Project Manager.
His time at UWO allowed him to infuse his interests in environmental and indigenous studies, paving the way for his future.
“As a student at UW Oshkosh, Thomas was a model citizen, scholar, activist, and leader and he continued on that path,” said Jim Feldman, director of the environmental studies program.
While studying at UWO, Kenote participated in the Center for Multicultural Education, the Inter-Tribal Student Coalition, the Office of Sustainability, and the McNair Scholars Program. He presented his McNair research “The Mamaceqtaw and the Education System: A Qualitative Case Study of the Educational Experiences of Menominee Indian Students” at Harvard University and won the Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in 2015.
In the years since graduation, Kenote has become a leader in the field of sustainability and educational awareness.
“Thomas has built a reputation as a researcher, teacher, listener and collaborator driven by his commitment to the protection of tribal natural resources, the sustainable management of tribal forestry and the elevation of indigenous ways of knowing” , said Cordelia Bowlus, outreach manager. program manager for McNair at UWO. “He believes that to address, mitigate and adapt to climate change, the Menominee Nation must build on the Indigenous nation’s long history of sustainable development.”
At SDI, Kenote and his staff promote the indigenous sustainable model through education and internships/clerkships while fostering collaborations with the College of Menominee Nation, the tribal community, and many external entities, such as schools in the UW system, the Midwest Climate Adaption Science Center and the Nature Conservatory.
Kenote is also a mentor who helps recruit and retain Indigenous students in higher education, knowing how important Native American faculty and staff are to student success.
“SDI’s role in research and student organization has transformed the lives of many people and has been a tremendous success over the years,” said Michael Dockry, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.
“Thomas, a member of the Menominee Tribe, built on this legacy by connecting with College of Menominee Nation students, supporting them on their educational journey, and helping them find ways to incorporate their own cultural insights into their studies. . He is a positive role model for the entire Native American community in northeast Wisconsin and beyond.
Student involvement at UWO played a role in Rath’s contribution
Jim Rath, a political science graduate, began his career in government as a zoning and code administrator for Manitowoc County before joining the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation as a longtime account executive. He retired after serving as Sherwood Village President from 2013 to 2017.
Prior to his long career, he was an active student leader at UW Oshkosh. Rath was part of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, a member of the Oshkosh Student Association (OSA), Reeve Union Board (RUB), and Newman Center. For him, everyone played a role in the development of his servant leadership.
“I was fortunate to work with Dr. Zillar Khan and Dean Moede on the Reeve Union Board,” Rath said. “They each modeled what servant leadership is by volunteering their time and developing leadership skills in all of us.”
With the encouragement of his fraternity brothers, Rath went on to serve as president of Delta Sigma Phi and later chairman of the inter-fraternity council, regional commissioner, and district governor. He has mentored undergraduate students and was the recipient of the Harvey H. Hebert Memorial Award for Distinguished Service.
“All of these experiences have fueled my desire to be involved in service opportunities throughout my adult life,” he said.
Rath often gives back, including to his hometown of Two Rivers. Rath and his wife Sharon donated to the Educational Horizons Foundation Inc., of Two Rivers High School, was a sponsor of the Two Rivers Community House during its renovation and a sponsor when Two Rivers created a pavilion at the Neshotah Park beach. They are also sponsoring a small portion of the current Two Rivers project known as Central Park 365.
Rath has also been a longtime contributor to the UWO Foundation and has donated to a number of initiatives over the years, but his main supporter has been the Rath Family Scholarship Endowment he created. along with his siblings, the Delta Sigma Phi Scholarship Fund, UWO Athletics, and the Culver Family Welcome Center.
It is also important for Rath to have volunteered. He volunteered for 25 years with the Special Olympics Wisconsin Sports Management Committee for Basketball. His role included securing officials from across Wisconsin to volunteer as umpires at UW Oshkosh, which hosted the state championships. He also provided camp officials for the UWO men’s basketball team from 2013 to 2019 and served as a stopwatch and game clock operator at Titan football games from 2015 to 2019.
“Jim has made countless contributions to the betterment of the University,” said former Titan men’s basketball coach Pat Juckem, now head coach at Washington University in St. Louis. “What separates him is that he expects nothing in return. His selflessness and deep commitment to the UWO is remarkable.
Rath also served on the UWO Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1998 to 2016. During that time, he served as Treasurer from 2000-09 and President from 2013-15. He is still active in the Alumni Relations office, currently helping coordinate UWO alumni events in Naples, Florida.
“The varied nature of Jim’s service sets him apart,” Juckem said. “From his ongoing involvement at his UWO fraternity, manning the alumni tent at Oshkosh duties, to running the scoreboard at Titan football games, Jim’s breadth of service is unparalleled. The most impressive thing is his characteristic smile and his always good humor. You can’t help but be impressed by Jim’s commitment to his university.