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Thanks for the Memories

If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life, or so the saying goes. And with a combined tenure of 327 years, it’s safe to say this year’s group of retirees have enjoyed working at University School of Milwaukee. Their presence has been a source of stability for colleagues, students, and parents amongst life’s inevitable changes. Whether supporting new colleagues, tweaking or overhauling lesson plans, implementing technology in their curriculum, or even teaching in the midst of a global pandemic, these individuals have seen it all and led the way.

We are forever indebted to their leadership and grateful for their commitment to USM, and especially to our students. And while we are sad to see them go, we are happy that they now have more time to travel, visit family, and pursue other interests.

Holly Morse | 37 years

Holly Morse

Holly Morse has come a long way from her days as a Lower School Spanish teacher, when she didn’t have a dedicated classroom and instead taught from a portable cart. And although it’s been 37 years since she started here, she has not forgotten those early days. “Every time I see Lauro [Robles, custodial supervisor], he reminds me about the cart I used to push around,” said Morse. “I love that he still remembers it!”

Over her remarkable career, Morse held many different roles at USM and achieved numerous accolades, including being selected as a U.S. Presidential Scholars Distinguished Teacher in 2021. But she would tell you that her greatest accomplishment has been her 37-year tenure at USM. More than any award, it is the greatest indicator of her passion for teaching, her love for her students, and her commitment to USM. “There really is no place that I have ever-known like USM,” she said. “This is a special place full of incredibly talented people who are passionate about the students. The best way I know to express my gratitude is, ¡Mil gracias, mi querido USM! (A thousand thanks, my beloved USM!)”

Morse is looking forward to reading for pleasure, traveling, and visiting her children and grandchildren in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. “USM has been a lifeline for me and I will miss it terribly, but I want to go out while I am still healthy and having fun!”

In celebration of her retirement, Morse and her family established the Señora Morse “El Puente” Scholarship Fund, which will provide tuition assistance to qualifying students committed to building bridges between USM and Milwaukee through service. If you wish to honor Morse with a contribution, please contact Maria Stone in the Advancement office at mstone@usm.org or 414.540.3331.

Jane Keily | 35 years

Jane Keily

As a Preschool and Lower School physical education teacher, Jane Keily was gifted at channeling the limitless energy of USM’s youngest learners into fun, dynamic, and challenging physical activities. Keily earned numerous awards and accolades, including the Wright Family Distinguished Faculty Award and the Wright Technology and Innovation Award. She held many roles at the school, including Physical Education department chair, Middle School director of athletics, Middle School field hockey coach, and Jump Rope for Heart coordinator, in which she helped USM students collectively raise over $70,000. “Throughout my career I have enjoyed the ability to create and deliver curriculum that was fun and engaging for my students,” she said, “as well as the opportunities to grow professionally—which made this a career and not just a job.” Keily is excited to travel, volunteer, declutter her house, and, of course, exercise! Hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and skiing are at the top of her list.

Paul Salerno | 34 years

Paul Salerno conducts a scarf juggling mindfulness exercise with Lower School students.

Small children can have big emotions, and nobody knows that better than Paul Salerno. He retired in June from his role as Lower School counselor, although he worked with children in all three divisions during his 34 years at USM. He is a familiar presence in Lower School classrooms, teaching children how to manage their emotions, handle upsets, build empathy, and find joy in life. He was well-known for teaching juggling to students as a way to improve concentration. Salerno is a licensed clinical social worker and plans to continue his work in private practice. He is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family, learning Italian, exploring his family ancestry, and traveling. “I will miss all the wonderful students, parents, faculty, administrators, and staff that I have had the joy of getting to know and journey with over these past 34 years,” he said.

Luis Morales | 33 years & Virginia Kneuppel | 8 years

Luis Morales and Virginia Kneuppel

Although they often operated behind the scenes as part of USM’s custodial team, Luis’ and Virginia’s work consistently took center stage at the school. Countless swept floors, emptied trash containers, wiped counters, and streak-free mirrors were the result of their hard work and eye for detail. “Luis is a man of few words, but I got to know him well in the 28 of his 33 years that I worked with him,” said Lauro Robles, custodial supervisor. “He never said ‘no’ to anything I asked of him, including early mornings, late nights, and difficult jobs—it was always yes. His work ethic was unmatched.” Virginia, meanwhile, was known and admired for her ability to teach and train new employees, helping to cover shifts for absent team members, and for being direct. “Virginia was detail-oriented and never missed a chance to make the areas she was responsible for better than she found them,” said Robles. Morales and Kneuppel retired this past December, and relocated together to Mexico.

Francine Eppelsheimer | 31 years

Francine Eppelsheimer reads a book to students in the library.

“I always thought I had the best job in the world,” said Francine Eppelsheimer, Middle School librarian. And after 31 years in the role, she learned the ins and outs of USM, and especially the Middle School, better than most. She served as the Library department chair and 8th grade coordinator for many years, as well as a Washington, D.C. trip coordinator, and mentor for new teachers. She held the Wright Family Distinguished Faculty Award in 2012 and 2013, and the Wright Technology and Innovation Award in 2011. But her favorite part about working at USM? “The ability to be innovative in my job and to try new things,” she said. “The Middle School administration has always been supportive of creating new methods to build a better program.” She’s excited to explore the U.S. and world as soon as it is safe to do so, and to visit with family and friends.

Sue Jeffers | 28 years

Sue Jeffers reads to her class of preschool students.

Sue Jeffers’ passion for teaching once took her thousands of miles to a small town in northern Italy, to learn from the world’s experts in the Reggio Emilia preschool educational philosophy. The lessons she and her USM colleagues brought back have been transformational for USM students, and include guiding lessons based on student interests, understanding that children have many ways of learning, and using the environment as a teacher. “Going to Italy with my Preschool teammates in 2014 was the highlight of my career at USM,” she said. “We’ve studied the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy for so long; it was a dream come true to see these world-renowned preschools in person.” And while she will miss her work with young children, she’s excited to spend more time with her family. “After so many years of teaching, I think it will be fun to learn something new, like painting or maybe starting that children’s book I always said I would write.”

Barb Koerner | 27 years

Barb Koerner

After a remarkable 27 years at USM, Barb Koerner has stepped down from her role as office manager in the Enrollment Management office. Koerner, who was often the first school representative that new families spoke with, will be remembered for her friendly and welcoming demeanor. She will be missed by many people at USM, but perhaps most by our youngest friends in the school’s daycare. They never missed the chance to visit her while out on their daily walk, and she never missed the chance to give them a few Goldfish crackers or even an Oreo cookie. Koerner is looking forward to spending more time with her family, but will miss the camaraderie of her colleagues in the administrative wing. “I will miss the kids, especially the little ones,” she said. “I will also miss this beautiful campus and all of the wonderful people who make this community great.”

Janell Schmidt | 18 years

Janell Schmidt

As the school’s director of finance, Janell Schmidt saw USM through significant growth, facility enhancements, expansion of the faculty, staff, and student bodies, and investment in the endowment and annual fund—while weathering both a global recession and a global pandemic. Thanks to her leadership, the school continues to operate debt-free, one of only a handful of independent schools in the country to do so. As a result, USM’s tuition levels have remained conservative compared to its peer institutions. “Janell shepherded the school through many budgets, and each one was formed with care and an incredible knowledge of the school,” said Head of School Steve Hancock. “She left USM in a stronger and better place.” Schmidt and her husband, Al, are relocating to North Carolina, where they are excited to be closer to their grandchildren and far away from Wisconsin winters.

Bonnie Seidel | 18 years

Bonnie Seidel

During her 18 years at USM, Bonnie Seidel developed a unique insight for capturing and holding the attention of 3rd grade students. From outdoor explorations of USM’s campus and field trips throughout Wisconsin, to implementing new technology, Seidel made countless memories for her students. She earned the Wright Technology and Innovation Award in 2002 and the Wright Family Distinguished Faculty Award in 2012 and 2013. Some of her favorite things about working at USM include the beautiful campus, her dedicated colleagues, and the Parents’ Association. “The PA treats teachers at USM with a high level of respect and professionalism. Their endless support and generosity touch each student and teacher.” She is looking forward to spending more time with her mom, traveling to see family, and taking long bike rides.

Perry Robinson | 6 years

Perry Robinson

Although his tenure at USM was not at long as others in this group, the USM community benefitted greatly from Robinson’s distinguished 35-year career in college admissions, both at Ripon College and Denison University, prior to his arrival at USM in 2015. His extensive knowledge, principled philosophy, and student-centered approach guided students, parents, and colleagues through difficult decisions and sometimes fraught emotions. “It’s been a privilege to be part of the best secondary school in the state,” he said. “I have worked with highly competent people in their respective fields—especially my colleagues in College Guidance.” He will miss the USM community the most—students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni. Robinson will be exploring many ideas in retirement, including learning to play acoustic guitar, volunteering, gardening, and, thankfully for us, staying connected to the USM community.

After 33 years at USM, 1st grade teacher Jill Oemichen announced her retirement in June. Her legacy will be celebrated in our Fall/Winter 2021–22 issue. In addition, Doug Coleman and Tom Geilfuss ’70 have retired from their work with our Athletics department. Read more about their contributions to USM.

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