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2016 UW-Richland Outstanding Alumni

Five individuals have been selected as recipients of the 2016 UW-Richland Outstanding Alumni Award.

This year's honorees representing the era of the Richland County Teachers College include two members of the Class of 1964: Ronald E. Benish of Highland, and Patricia Greeley of Richland Center. Representing the era of the current UW-Richland campus are: John Sumwalt of Cazenovia from the Class of 1974; Richland Center's Mark Jelinek from the Class of 2001; and Natalia Sokolova of London, England from the Class of 2001.

Ron Benish taught for 37 years in the Highland School District during which time he received many awards, including the Southwest Wisconsin Education Association’s “Crystal Apple Award.” He also coached athletics at both the elementary and high school levels, and current serves on the Iowa County Board of Supervisors. Ron and his wife Mary ran the Pine Lawn Group Home in Highland for 47 years, retiring in 2012.

Following her graduation from the Richland County Teachers College, Patricia Greeley taught in both Spring Green and Richland Center. She later held a position in the Miller Memorial Library on campus and also worked for 25 years with the USDA's Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service as well as her family business, Greeley Signs & Awnings. Pat Greeley is also involved in the community. Among her many endeavors, she was heavily involved in the development of the Richland County Military Honor Roll project.

John Sumwalt was already serving as a lay pastor in the United Methodist Church while he was a student at UW Richland. Following his graduation from the campus, her served as a student pastor at United Methodist Churches in Mineral Point, Rewey, and Arthur before being appointed to the Blue River parish after his graduation from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Following his service in Blue River, John would go on to serve congregations in Montello, Janesville, Wauwatosa, and New Berlin; and later received his Master of Divinity Degree from the University of Dubuque in 1978.

Mark Jelinek is a funeral director and owner of The Pratt Funeral & Cremation Service. He is an active member of the Richland County community where he has achieved a high level of success working with the Knights of Columbus, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Knights of Columbus Charities. Mark was also involved with establishing the KC's Four Seasons of Fun, which include the Churning Dirt Nationals. He currently serves on the Agrace Hospice Steering Committee in Richland County.

Natalia Sokolova was a participant in the Youth for Understanding exchange program during the 1999-2001 school years and was a very engaged member of the campus community, serving as Student Senate president in the 2000-01 academic year. Upon completion of her UW-Richland studies, she graduated first in her class of 2003 at Viterbo University, and again first in her class at Marquette University Law School in 2006. After practicing law in Milwaukee and Chicago from 2006 to 2013, she took a law position in Russia, and presently is council in banking for Linklaters LLP in London, England.

All UW-Richland Outstanding Alumni will be honored on October 1st during Fall Alumni Day and Brunch. Reservation information for the event will be available in early August.