Five Top Leaders Honored For Making History
The Wisconsin Historical Society honored the lifetime achievements of five top leaders with ties to the state on Wednesday evening, May 14, during its Third Annual Wisconsin History Makers Gala at Milwaukee's historic Pfister Hotel. The 2008 History Makers included: retired Green Bay Packers President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Harlan of Green Bay; philanthropists Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern of Waukesha; founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Paul H. Poberezny of Oshkosh; and renowned cardiovascular and thoracic transplant surgeon, Dr. Alfred J. Tector of Milwaukee. The diverse group of dignitaries was recognized for their historic and continued contributions to society, and each received an award named after a famed Wisconsinite in their area of expertise. Presenters of the awards included family, close friends and business associates.
Ellsworth Brown, The Ruth and Hartley Barker Director of the Society, began the evening's program by welcoming approximately 350 supporters and thanking the co-chairs of the event, Mary Buestrin of Mequon and Murph Burke of Fox Point. He also recognized past award recipients in attendance, Ada Deer, John Koss and Vel Phillips. Emmy-winning television veteran, Jim Peck, host of Milwaukee Public Television's "I Remember," was the emcee for the awards ceremony.
Paul H. Poberezny, the evening's first honoree, was saluted by the Wisconsin Historical Society with the Seymour Cray Award for Distinction in Technology. Poberezny is one of the most decorated men in the international aviation community, having received literally hundreds of trophies, awards and honors for his countless contributions to the world of flight. He is a 1999 inductee to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, America's place of honor for its most legendary aviators. In 2002 he also received the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association. Poberezny is best known, however, as founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has often been described as the world's most dynamic aviation organization. Each year, EAA's International Fly-In Convention, now named "EAA AirVenture," draws more than 500,000 people and 10,000 airplanes to Oshkosh for one of the world's premier aviation events. In accepting the award, Poberezny told the audience that his passion for aviation hasn't been so much about airplanes, but rather to help others fulfill their hopes and dreams, and to realize their full potential as they reached toward the sky. "I've enjoyed flying so much that I like to see others enjoy this wonderful untapped ocean of air above us."
Waukesha based business leaders and philanthropists
Robert and Patricia Kern received the Jane Bradley Pettit Award for Distinction in Philanthropy. In 1959 Robert and Patricia Kern founded a new business in their garage, which eventually grew to become Generac Power Systems, one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of complete engine-driven generator systems for industrial, commercial, residential, recreational vehicle and communications applications. When Generac Power Systems sold a division of the company in 1998, a portion of the proceeds went to establish The Kern Family Foundation. The foundation promotes strong pastoral leadership, educational excellence and high-quality, innovative engineering talent. The Kerns are also longtime, generous supporters of Old World Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Historical Society's largest historic site in Eagle. Mrs. Kern said, "It's very valuable to have, I'm proud of it."
Dr. Alfred (Cy) J. Tector was presented with the Rosa Minoka Hill Award for Distinction in Medicine. Now one of the nation's leading cardiovascular and thoracic transplant surgeons, Dr. Tector has been involved in over half of the more than 600 heart transplant cases at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center and is at the forefront in employing devices that assist the sickest heart patients. His innovative approaches to thoracic surgery gained national attention for their success rates. Dr. Tector has been on staff at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center for more than 37 years. In 1986 he performed the state's first implant of a total artificial heart. Under his leadership, St. Luke's was named one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for volume of adult heart transplants and best one-year survival rates. In his own remarks, Dr. Tector reflected on his life and the importance of having a good team at the hospital and at home, saying, "There are a lot of people who have strongly supported me through all this and without those people, there is no way that I could have done what we ended up doing."
Bob Harlan, recently retired CEO and president of the Green Bay Packers, was appropriately bestowed the Vince Lombardi Award for Distinction in Sports. Now the Packers' chairman emeritus, Bob Harlan served 37 years with the organization, including 19 seasons as its principal executive. After formally retiring on January 28, 2008, he currently serves as a consultant to the organization. His daring vision and inspired leadership of the franchise set a lofty standard within the world of professional sports. The organization enjoyed tremendous success under his stewardship and is positioned to succeed well into the future. Off the field, the crowning achievement of Harlan's tenure — the $295 million redevelopment of historic Lambeau Field — was ushered in at the beginning of 2003 and now stands as the chief component for assuring the team's financial survival for the next three decades. On the field, the Packers enjoyed a resurgence under Harlan's guidance, sharing the league's best overall record from 1993 to 2006, and returning the Lombardi Trophy to Green Bay with a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. During his acceptance speech, Harlan recounted how, as a kid, he and his friends would sneak under the left field fence of County Stadium in Milwaukee to see the Packers play. He joked, "Perhaps my greatest claim to fame is that I've yet to pay for a ticket to a Packers game."