Robert Richardson was “born and raised” in the Chicago area. He graduated with a master’s degree and taught middle-school students for 12 years. Later Robert received his doctorate from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. He and his wife, Silvana, moved to the New England region, but Robert admitted they felt “like fish out of water.” So, in 1990, Robert accepted a teaching position in education at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse (UWL) and the coulee region eventually became their home.
Robert shared that in the 20 years he taught at the local university, he was proud to say that he never received below a 4.8 out of a five-point scale in student evaluations. In 2009, Robert said he felt it was time for him to “step aside” from teaching at UWL. “No regrets,” Robert shared. “I had a wonderful career.”
After retiring from UWL, Robert shared he came across a classified ad in the newspaper that “spoke” to him. The ad was worded, “We offer talented and motivated people the opportunity to do the best work of their lives.” The position was the Director of First Impressions – La Crosse at Marine Credit Union. “I’m in the middle of my 12th year at MCU and love it,” Robert said with a dashing smile.
“It’s been a wonderful job,” Robert shared. He has served not only in his position at MCU but also as the Project Coordinator for the MCU Scholarship program and secretary of the Charitable Giving Committee (now known as the MCU Foundation). He said his work at MCU has been an “excellent fit” for him. “I have been mentally engaged and spiritually connected to this job, doing things that mean a lot to me,” he said. “It’s been perfect. Just perfect.”
It seems Robert is in perfect alignment with MCU’s values as well:
Compassion: “I’m a listener,” he professed and said he has an ability to compassionately “process what people are saying and respond with questions that are not evasive.” Robert says he credits that with working with middle school students for those years.
Collaboration: “Everything I do is a function of collaboration with someone else in the building.”
Courage: Robert says he tries to live every day with courage. “I’m going to make this a good day,” he said and added “I do and say what’s right … to the best of my knowledge.”
When asked at the beginning of the interview where Robert comes from, he jokingly said, “my mother.” Later in the interview Robert shared that who he is really does come from his mother. “My dad did a lot of things that weren’t necessarily right or good,” Robert shared solemnly. “He wouldn’t let my mom do anything on her own, but he would take us to church every Sunday.” Robert said his mother taught him to see the positive side of things. “She always saw the good side,” he added. Seeing the good in life, Robert said, “truly came from my mom.”
Robert’s position at MCU started at 50 percent, which Robert said was fine with him as he always wanted to increase his time being involved in the community and he thought, “now I had time.”
Running his third Oktoberfest marathon in 1990, a fellow professor yelled at Robert from the sidelines and introduced Robert into the Oktoberfest core-group, the Grenadier Corps, which he has been actively involved in since 1992.
Robert has also been involved in Stepping out in Pink, Habitat for Humanity and Rotary Lights.
In addition to his love of community, Robert shared he has a “love of winter sports.” Along with the single-sled luge, Robert found he has a passion for curling. So much so, that in 1995 Robert and Silvana applied to be on staff for the sport at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. They were accepted and both took sabbatical from their jobs to participate. The La Crosse Tribune covered them in a series of stories about their adventures with the winter games, the games which almost didn’t happen due to 911 that year. But the games did proceed and a highlight for Robert was having the honor of being selected to carry the Olympic torch for curling that year.
Next May, Robert and his curling team, under sponsorship by MCU will be competing in the National Championships. Robert is a member of the La Crosse Curling Club. Robert shared he and Silvana have three sons and now 11 great-grandchildren. He and Silvana will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
You are truly a gem, Robert!