Written by Dave Fidlin | Photos by Craig Schreiner and submitted
When Therese Kennedy first arrived on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus more than three decades ago, she initially anticipated it being a brief stint as she forged ahead in her career in sports and recreation.
But that thinking quickly changed as Kennedy settled in and assumed a series of roles with UW-Whitewater’s Office of Recreation Sports and Facilities, where she has served as director since August 2020 after roles as associate director and, early in her career, coordinator of intramural sports.
Kennedy’s contributions to UW-Whitewater, and the broader community, have extended far beyond her main duties. She gives of her time and financial resources in a variety of ways, and, for this, she has been named the recipient of the 2023 S.A. White Award, which is presented to non-alumni for significant philanthropic contributions to the university.
“When I was first hired here, I said I would stay two — maybe three — years, but here I am, in my 32nd year with the university,” Kennedy said. “It is a great place that has wonderful staff. I think we truly are a Warhawk family.”
Kennedy’s indelible imprint on Whitewater is evident in numerous ways, including her role as co-president of the Whitewater Community Foundation, a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame Board, and a board member of the Tip Off Club and Quarterback Club.
Throughout her career on campus, Kennedy has mentored and advised hundreds of students over the years through the Alpha Sigma Sorority and the Spirit Program.
The desire to give back began early in Kennedy’s collegiate life at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in 1989 and a Master of Science in sports studies in 1991.
As a resident assistant and undergraduate assistant in Miami University’s Office of Residence Life, Kennedy said she discovered she genuinely enjoyed helping people, which has been part of the bedrock of her approach to working on the UW-Whitewater campus.
“I’ve always enjoyed interacting with students,” Kennedy said. “You see the freshmen come in, and they’re unsure of themselves — they’re timid. To see them in their senior year, with the desire to do the championship game and the confidence that they’ve built, I think is something that’s pretty cool.”
Through payroll deductions, Kennedy gives to numerous athletic teams and funds, along with other donations throughout the year. She also gives of her time, including her work on behalf of Wally and Rod’s Warhawk Raffle, which is in its 27th year.
“The raffle has benefited Warhawk football, basketball and baseball over the years,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a great thing for the community, and it really is pretty notable when you think about the size of Whitewater.”
Kennedy said the Warhawk Raffle is evidence of the community-driven focus within the UW-Whitewater campus, though her colleagues have pointed to her enthusiasm as part of the venerable program’s endurance.
“Therese has been — and continues to be — an integral part of the annual Warhawk Raffle Auction, which has helped raise more than $1 million in funds for football, men's basketball and baseball,” Pat Miller, head men’s basketball coach, said. “You couldn't ask for a better advocate in terms of support and enthusiasm.”
Throughout the campus, people who have worked with Kennedy over the years point to her skill and expertise for the betterment of sports and recreation programs.
“Therese works directly with our coaches and our campus to schedule our multi-use athletic facilities for practices, competitions and numerous other events,” Ryan Callahan, director of athletics, said.
“Her 30 years of experience and outstanding organizational and communication skills are what make her invaluable to Warhawk Athletics. In addition to taking on that task, Therese is one of the biggest supporters of our athletic programs, volunteering her time often for the betterment of our coaches and student-athletes.”
Through her different roles on campus, Miller offered similar sentiments, saying, “Therese has been amazing in her support of our athletic department for a very long time. She's had her hand in a lot of different elements of the athletic department.”
Kennedy said she has always appreciated the opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities, formally and informally, which has been possible at UW-Whitewater.
“Even though I have been here a while, my job has changed, and I have taken on different tasks,” she said. “It makes it exciting and makes me feel a part of the community. It’s great to feel like I am contributing and not just doing my day-to-day job.”
Year after year, Kennedy said she has been proud to be an indelible part of campus.
“There’s a lot of great things here,” she said. “The community has been supportive, and the administration is supportive as well. It’s great to be part of the Warhawk family.”