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Halada to retire after 33 years at UW-River Falls

September 18, 2008

After 33 years of employment at UW-River Falls, Mary Halada, the vice chancellor of administration and finance, will be retiring this fall.

When asked about the reason for retiring, Halada said, with a little flair in her eyes and mischief in her voice, “Because I can!” She laughed, but went on, more serious this time, “my husband and I are both retiring. I’ve worked here for 33 years. I’ve had a great career here… but it’s time to start a new chapter.”

Replacing her will be Lisa Wheeler, the University’s current chief information officer for IT Services. Former UWRF Chancellor Don Betz, who was made aware of Halada’s decision to retire shortly before he resigned, asked Wheeler to fill the vice chancellor position on an interim basis for one or two years.

“Betz was thinking [UWRF] won’t want to go through hiring [a new Chancellor] without some stability in the vice chancellor position,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler brings to the temporary role a master’s in information and management services as well as her doctorate in educational leadership.

“Lisa has proven herself a very competent leader,” Halada said. “She understands the culture and organization. She is very involved in strategic planning and can move this University forward leaps and bounds.”

Wheeler said she is excited, but still a little nervous.

“I have a combination of being really excited and being properly in awe,” Wheeler said. “I have some generic leadership skills you can apply anywhere, which I will use, but I still have a lot to learn.”

To prepare for her new position, Wheeler has had weekly meetings with Halada to acclimate herself with the position and the responsibilities.

“Lisa has been sitting in on a lot of meetings… so she is in the know,” Halada said. “We’re in a unique position to be able to train her right in [to the position].”

Halada describes the duties of the post as ‘varied.’

“The University is separated into two halves underneath the chancellor: the academic side and the non-academic side,” Halada said. “The vice chancellor of administration and finance is responsible for the non-academic side.”

Halada is training Wheeler to oversee student affairs, campus finances, facilities, IT services and business operations.

But Wheeler has no intentions of simply following in Halada’s footsteps—she has a goal of streamlining several processes across campus during her interim.

“We’ve got lots of things we do that take too much time and frustrate people,” Wheeler said. “We’ve had consultants on board all summer teaching us ‘lean process design.’”

Lean process design streamlines internal processes to eliminate waste and save time.

“A university’s largest resource is people… when we waste their time we’re wasting resources,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler will assume the role of interim vice chancellor as soon as Halada officially retires. Halada will not leave, however, until a new CIO is found to replace Wheeler in IT Services. A search and screen committee has been in place and actively scouting since early summer. The team has found three suitable candidates, all of whom will hopefully interview on campus within the next month, according to Halada.

Although firm plans are in place that will make this transition run smoothly, there are still those who are sad to see Halada go. Alice Cernohous has been Halada’s assistant since Jan. 2004. 

“Mary is a terrific boss,” Cernohous said in an e-mail interview. “It has been a joy to work for someone with her work ethic. Mary has always looked at the ‘big picture’ for the University when making decisions.” 

Halada was hired by the University in the summer of 1975 as the assistant to the director of auxiliary services. She came on holding a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in management from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

When the position of director of auxiliary services was dissolved, Halada stepped up and took on some of the responsibilities of the defunct position. The former Office of Auxiliary Services went through a reorganization, Halada said. During that transitional period, Halada was asked by the vice chancellor at the time to take on budgetary responsibilities. As the restructuring continued, Halada eventually wound up assuming the role of assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Virgil Nylander.

In Jan. 2004, Nylander retired and Halada rose up as the new vice chancellor.

Halada said she will miss the people here at UWRF the most.

According to Cernohous, Halada has made “life-long relationships” with former students and staff.

Although Halada is excited to start a new chapter in her life, she said leaving behind UWRF will be difficult.

“So much of my world has been this campus, it’s hard to imagine I won’t be as closely involved,” said Halada. “I’ll still live in the community… but that day-to-day interaction will be gone.”

Halada said she plans to spend her retirement traveling with her husband.