2015 Alumni Award winners
Caitlin Brotz-McNitt '05 – Outstanding Recent Alumni
Caitlin is the founder and owner of Olivü 426, a critically acclaimed manufacturer and world-wide distributor of natural cosmetics and health and beauty products based in Sheboygan, Wis.
She received the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award in 2010 and the Retailer of the Year Award in 2014, and is active in a number of community organizations. Her products, such as the signature anti-aging/moisturizing serum and lip balm, have been featured in the Huffington Post and handed out in "swag bags" at the Golden Globe Awards, the Emmys and the MTV Music Awards.
As her business continues to grow and gain popularity, Caitlin often credits her Lakeland College education and says her business administration degree helps her run all facets of Olivü 426.
"Oh my goodness, Lakeland has played a huge role in my life," she says. "All of the classes I took there help me make the important decisions I make every day."
Michael Brunmeier '73 – Service to the College
Michael is president and general manager of Petro-Chemical Systems, a specialty general contractor that focuses on the design, installation and service of flammable or combustible liquid storage or dispensing systems and their support facilities. Areas of expertise also include vehicle fueling, aircraft fueling and emergency generator back-up fuel systems.
Before founding Petro-Chemical Systems in Fond du Lac, Wis., more than two decades ago, Michael served as president of Petroleum Installations Inc. and was associated with that company for more than 18 years.
Michael has remained connected to Lakeland through several planning committees and active engagement in the college's 1862 Society. He served on the Sesquicentennial planning committee, the John Thome memorial campaign planning committee and the college's name change committee.
Michael and his wife, Debbie, were foster parents to Malawi students who attended Lakeland. In March 2015 Michael accompanied a Lakeland College delegation to Malawi, where they dedicated a library and computer lab building Michael built as a memorial to his late wife Debbie. These buildings, along with a fresh water well system Michael also built, are in the home village of one of Michael's and Debbie's sponsor students. The well system, complete with electric pump and water storage tanks, makes it possible for hundreds of Malawi villagers to obtain fresh water without making long commutes by foot to far-off water sources. These facilities were dedicated with plaques in Debbie's and Lakeland College's name.
Originally from Green Bay, Wis., Michael came to Lakeland to play football. A quarterback, he thrived as a Muskie, in the classroom and on the field. He graduated with a degree in sociology in three-and-a-half years, then returned to Lakeland's adult program nearly a decade later to earn his business administration degree.
"I think the professors at Lakeland are always keyed in on the individual student," he says. "It's one on one, and the professors know your strong points and what needs working on. They work hard to bring out those good individual values and suppress the less desirable things. I was a little wild in my early years, and they got me to think outside my box. I was as perfect a fit with Lakeland as it was with me."
Christine Krause '91 Milwaukee Center – Professional Achievement
In 1993, two years after graduating magna cum laude from Lakeland's Milwaukee Center with degrees in business administration and accounting, Christine and her business partner launched an entrepreneurial venture that would quickly become one of Wisconsin's most successful small businesses.
Fast-growing Fi-Med Management Inc., with clients and staff throughout the U.S., has won numerous awards and accolades. Fi-Med brings business intelligence to the healthcare community, improving companies' revenue and reducing their compliance risk. In 2007, Christine, the vice president and chief operating officer, earned Wisconsin's Small Business Administration's Small Business Person of the Year award.
Christine, a Manitowoc native, transferred to Lakeland's Milwaukee Center after two years at Milwaukee Area Technical College, took classes at night and on weekends while working at an investment firm, then at Associated Bank where she shined in different roles before and after earning her degree.
"I have always loved to learn, and without my Lakeland degree, I was in a position where I couldn't be as creative as I wanted to be and couldn't improve processes the way I thought they could be improved. I knew I had to go to college to be the leader I wanted to be, rather than the proverbial follower."
About her Lakeland experience, she says, "Obviously my accounting degree and business degree help me every day, but it was my classes outside of business such as literature and science that really helped me understand the world around me and how things fit together. The liberal arts education at Lakeland truly creates a well-rounded self."
Ralph & Diane Mueller '58 '57 – Richard Preuhs Award
When Ralph took a job in admissions with the college after graduating, it was the beginning of a 17-year stay that saw Ralph and Diane support numerous causes in the area – and create some of their own.
While Ralph was in various roles at the college, his wife Diane taught biology for several years. The couple lived on Lakeland's Prof Row, and Ralph had jobs leading Lakeland's admissions, public relations, alumni and development offices and served as assistant to the president before leaving to create a development department at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Michigan in 1974. Following 10 years in Michigan, Ralph was recruited to head the development department at Marshfield Clinic at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin, retiring after 18 years there.
Since leaving the college campus, Diane and Ralph have never left the Lakeland family. They have remained active members of the alumni association, hosting the annual Arizona alumni gathering, serving on the Sesquicentennial planning committee as co-chairs of the fundraising cabinet and joining the college's two leadership giving societies – the 1862 Society and Founders' Society. They are regulars at the annual Blasters golf tournament and Movers & Shakers Gala and continue to attend various alumni gatherings throughout the year.
Ralph and Diane say they treasured the two decades they spent on the campus, first as students and then as members of the staff. During that time, they say, they got to know hundreds of students, and every chance they have to return to campus gives them the opportunity to renew their many Lakeland Family friendships. They hope to see many of those friends at 2015 Homecoming.