When alumni Don and Donna Landsverk decided to create a scholarship at University of Wisconsin-Stout, they considered how they could make the world a little better place for the generations to come and help students.
Through Stout University Foundation, they created the Landsverk Endowed Family Scholarship, which will go annually to a computer networking and information technology major who is pursuing a certification or concentration in cybersecurity.
The octogenarians focused on the digital age, which was about 40 years into the future when they graduated from Stout Institute in 1952.
“Cybersecurity is going to be a growing field,” Don said. “We’re trying to push to see that qualified people have the wherewithal to work on cybersecurity.”
The Landsverks, of White Bear Lake, Minn., became more acutely aware of the importance of cybersecurity through a friend who was one of Don’s co-workers. The friend, a colonel, has a son who serves in intelligence and security in the military and most recently was promoted to four-star general.
“We’d like to put hackers out of business,” Don said. “We saw that, with my military background and my association with these people, there needs to be some scholarships in that area.”
Don served in the Korean War and remained in the Army Reserves until 1983, a total of 31 years.
UW-Stout has the programs to support the Landsverks’ goal. In 2017 the university was named a Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense, the first in the UW System. The designation helps higher education institutions with computer-related programs prepare the U.S. against cybersecurity threats.
Students at U.S. Center of Academic Excellence institutions like UW-Stout can receive a national cybersecurity certification by taking 13 required courses as part of their undergraduate program.
The first Landsverk scholarship for $1,000 was awarded last fall to Chase Heim, of Rockford, Ill., a CNIT major who will be a junior this fall. The recipient this year will receive $1,300.
The award was presented as part an annual scholarship event hosted by the Foundation at which 418 students received $812,000 in scholarships. The Landsverks attended the event and spent much of the evening getting to know Heim.
“The award was definitely a help to Chase and his family,” Donna said. “It’s rewarding for Don and me to know that the endowment is going to help people go through Stout and come out cybersecurity qualified.”
The Landsverks, married for 68 years, are thankful for the education they received at UW-Stout and their life that has followed.
“I think it’s really a neat way to give back after you’ve had a good life,” Donna said. “If you’ve been given many opportunities and many things through your life, you should also give back to other people so they can enjoy the same things. The scholarship is one of the areas we can help.”
Met in psychology class
Donna was raised in Cloquet, Minn., and Don in the village of Nelson, south of Menomonie. They met their first year on campus in a psychology class.
“She was in the row right in front of me. I had passing thoughts that we’d get married someday,” Don said.
That day came Jan. 12, 1952, a few months before they graduated, Donna in home economics education and Don in industrial arts education. They were married at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Menomonie two days before semester final exams.
When Don was drafted into the service in 1952, Donna taught in Hinckley, Minn. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., and she followed and taught home economics in Yelm, Wash. Don taught in Pepin one year and then returned to UW-Stout to work on his master’s degree, before he went to work for 3M in 1956 in St. Paul as a packaging engineer.
He was at 3M for 34 years and earned his master’s in industrial arts from UW-Stout in 1960.
Don and Donna have three children, Kathryn, Karen and David, along with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. David earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from UW-Stout. Donna had two uncles, a sister and brother-in-law who also graduated from UW-Stout.
Around 1950 UW-Stout had roughly 900 students and four main buildings. The Landsverks’ class of 1952 helped lay the cornerstone for the school’s first stand-alone library, now the north portion of the Vocational Rehabilitation Building.
“You really got to know the instructors because you had labs with them for two hours at a time. They influenced you too. A lot of our instructors had buildings named after them,” Don said. “The school had a family atmosphere, and there was a lot of social life on the weekends.”
Female students had a 10 or 10:30 p.m. curfew, they recalled. “You didn’t have to have a curfew for men because the school knew that if the women were back in the dorms the men would be too,” Donna said.
The Landsverks remain proud Stout graduates and are pleased to be able to give back to the school where they have many great memories and that helped them start their life’s journey on the right foot.
“It was a good environment. We can’t say enough for the school. If we had to do it all over again, we would,” Don said.
Don and Donna Landsverk, of White Bear Lake, Minn., met at UW-Stout and were married in 1952, the year they graduated. They have been married for 68 years.
The first UW-Stout Landsverk Endowed Family Scholarship was awarded in fall 2019 to student Chase Heim, center. Don Landsverk, right, and his wife, Donna, started the scholarship with their family, including son David, left, a UW-Stout alumnus.
Don and Donna Landsverk, who were married a few months earlier, were proud UW-Stout graduates in the spring of 1952.