Trailblazing UW-Whitewater theater professor Fannie Hicklin dies at 101

Fannie Hicklin, the fierce and beloved theater professor who became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s first African American faculty member and who left a creative legacy that both transformed and transcended campus, has died at the age of 101.

She passed away Friday at her home in Madison, Wisconsin, according to her daughter, Ariel Ford. A memorial service will be held in the spring.

During her tenure at UW-Whitewater, Dr. Hicklin taught speech and theater courses, directed more than 50 productions, and earned the respect of students and colleagues alike for her passion for the arts and dedication to teaching.

“It’s difficult for any of us to imagine a world without Fannie Hicklin,” said Chancellor Emeritus Richard Telfer. “She was clearly devoted to UW-Whitewater, not just in her time on the faculty, but even in retirement. From her attendance at theater productions, to participating in scholarship fundraisers, to helping guide the College of Arts and Communication forward as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board — she gave of herself in countless ways.”

Born in Alabama in 1918 on the campus of Talladega College, where her father taught, Hicklin grew up in the racially segregated south. She taught at public schools and universities throughout the region and eventually made her way to Wisconsin, where she earned her Ph.D. at UW-Madison.

Hicklin arrived at UW-Whitewater in 1964, the same year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. In a recent interview, she spoke proudly of the welcoming and supportive culture on campus.

“Not once did I feel any type of discrimination by faculty, staff or students’ parents. I never thought about being the first black professor there because I was treated like anybody else.” The hiring committee “cared a lot about the teachers, and really looked at people for their qualifications. They weren’t concerned with your race,” she said.

“There’s often a great burden placed on people who are blazing a trail,” said Eileen M. Hayes, dean of the College of Arts and Communication.

Hicklin embraced the responsibility with courage, heart and intellectual gusto — providing a diverse intellectual perspective.

“The fact that she was the first African American faculty member means a great deal to successive faculty of color,” said Hayes. “It’s a great reassurance when members of your group have gone before you so that you aren’t ‘the first.’”

Whether in the classroom or on the stage, students deeply respected Hicklin and the professional discipline she tried to instill in them.

“She was firm, but always caring,” said alumna Leslie LaMuro, who earned a B.A. in theatre. “I remember she had superb diction and wanted the same for her students. Breathing exercises and keeping the body in shape were part of our training. She encouraged us to be good listeners — to be in the moment.”

In addition to teaching speech and theatre, Hicklin served as the associate dean of faculties, director of affirmative action, and chair of the Department of Theatre/Dance. She established a summer theater program and a touring children’s theater program.

Hicklin loved UW-Whitewater and quickly would let people know it, her daughter said.

“Despite efforts of other colleges and universities to recruit her, she remained dedicated and committed to the university,” she said.

Hicklin’s service extended beyond the boundaries of the UW-Whitewater campus. She served on a number of volunteer boards, including the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Board of Curators, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, WHA Madison Public Radio, and Fairhaven Retirement Community.

In 1970, she received UW-Whitewater’s highest teaching honor — the W.P. Roseman Excellence in Teaching award. The Hicklin Studio Theatre in the Greenhill Center of the Arts was dedicated and renamed to honor Hicklin on Founders Day, April 21, 1996.

In 2016, Hicklin — clad in a purple hat and gloves — served as the grand marshal of the Homecoming parade, smiling and waving vigorously to people along Main Street. A year and a half later, she donned purple once again to ring in UW-Whitewater’s 150th anniversary at the Purple and White Gala, held at the University Center. At the event, everyone in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” to her in honor of her 100th birthday.

Her legacy also lives on through the Fannie Hicklin Theatre Education Scholarship,given to a junior or senior majoring in theatre who is well-rounded in both technical and performance areas. Memorial contributions can be made through the UW-Whitewater Foundation, Inc.

At last year’s scholarship celebration, Hicklin reflected on her love for campus.

“Whitewater is very dear to me. I am so proud to tell people about it.”

Click here for the obituary from Cress Funeral Home:

Kay L. Gustafson, 71, of Whitewater passed away on Sunday, October 20, 2019.

Kay L. Gustafson, 71, of Whitewater passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, October 20, 2019.
Kay was born on July 21, 1948 in Milwaukee WI, the daughter of Forest and Esther (Jacobson) Eagleburger. She worked as a mail clerk for Northwestern Mutual Company for the majority of her working career. Kay was a kind lady with a big heart. She had a special connection to cats and she spent much of her time volunteering at Touched by a Paw Cat Shelter in Whitewater. For leisure, she liked to walk and also enjoyed getting lost in a good book. She will be dearly missed by her family and friends.

Kay is survived by: her brother, John (Barb) Eagleburger of Akron, OH; her sister, Barb (Tom) Lloyd of Palmyra, WI; and her special cat companions, Hector and Daisy. She is also survived by a number of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. She is preceded in death by her parents and a sister in infancy.

Those wishing to express sympathy may consider a donation in Kay’s honor to Touched by a Paw Cat Shelter (182 W Main St. Whitewater, WI 53190).

Kay will be laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Eagle, WI during a private family service at a later date.
Gibson Family Funeral Homes of Palmyra & Eagle, WI is serving the family. To place an online condolence please visit

Mary Shea Peters, 72, passed away on October 16, 2019.

Mary Shea Peters

Mary Shea Peters passed away peacefully on October 16, 2019 at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.  During her final days, she was surrounded by many family members who helped to care and comfort her as she made the transition to being with her Lord and Savior, as well as other loved ones, in heaven.

Mary was born in Dodgeville, WI on August 20, 1947 to Leone (Wiest) and James Francis Shea.  She graduated from Dodgeville High School.  She was married to Roger Flanagan for 26 years and was blessed with two children, Kari and Kathleen.  She married the love of her life, Ralph Peters, on March 5, 1997 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Atkinson, WI.  They were blessed with 22 years together until Ralph’s passing on October 3, 2019.

Mary pursued different careers throughout her life including legal assistant, real estate agent and executive assistant.  She is retired from WD Hoard & Sons.

Mary is fondly remembered for her strong faith, her love and enjoyment of her family, her close family ties and her dedication and loving care for her husband, Ralph.  Mary was proud of her Irish Heritage, enjoyed Irish Music especially the Irish Rovers and loved to collect family recipes.  Everyone loved Mary’s krispie treats.

Mary is survived by her daughters: Kari Flanagan of Mukwonago and Kathleen (Marc) Harris of Salem, South Dakota, her step-children, Ralph (Ilse) Peters Jr. of Fort Atkinson, Marian (Eric) Jacobsen of Menomonie, and Kurt (Rebecca) Peters of West Bend.  Mary is also survived by her brothers and sisters including Jim Kiley of Rowlette, TX, Janet McGuire of Verona, John (Diane) Shea of Barneveld, Pat Shea of Madison, Carol Higgins (Ken Laufenberg) of Dodgeville, Julie (Lyle) Farnsworth of Fort Atkinson, Mike (Sharon) Shea of Dodgeville.   Finally, she is survived by 15 grandchildren:  Amber, Allison, Kailey, Benedict, Kirsten, Nicole, Sarah, Shanna, Michelle, Amber, Brittney, Stephanie, Sean, Kellie, Katherine, 18 great grandchildren, her Godmother, Glady Starry, her Aunt, Margaret Wiest and her brother-in-law, Thomas Peters.

Preceding Mary in death was her beloved husband, Ralph Peters, her step-daughter, Debra Jean Peters, her parents, Leone (Wiest) and James Francis Shea and her grandchildren Faith, Michael, Joy, Hope, Andrew, Claire, Grace and Lucy Harris, sister-in-law, Myrna Kiley, brother-in-law, Paul McGuire, nephew, Paul James McGuire and her sister in law, Carol (Edward) Van Cleave.

A visitation will be held on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1225 West Main Street, Whitewater, WI 53190 from 9 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Funeral services will begin right after the visitation at 11 am. 

Memorials can be made in Mary’s name to the charity of one’s choice.

Nitardy Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Sharon Lee Splinter was born July 17, 1939 in Sullivan, Wisconsin

Sharon Lee Splinter, daughter of Harold and Lora (Rowe) Grant was born July 17, 1939 in Sullivan, Wisconsin. She graduated from Whitewater High and worked as an accountant in Indiana until her retirement. 

Sharon Lee Splinter

She was united in holy matrimony to Richard Splinter in May 1986, and together they combined households and raised their children.

Her beautiful life will be forever cherished by her beloved children, Connie Collins and Dale (Kelly) Splinter, and eight loving grandchildren. Also surviving are children Steve Splinter, Ron Splinter, and Rich (Deb) Splinter as well as siblings Doris Spiess, Ellen (Dean) Tucker, and Jerry (Shirley) Grant.

Sharon was preceded in death by daughter, Cheri Hudgins; siblings, Eugene Grant and Margie Massie; and her parents. Her generous spirit and pleasant personality left her loved by many. 

At her wishes, she will be donated for full-body medical research leaving no funeral services to be held.

Bryan Nelson, age 84, of Janesville, passed away on Sunday, September 1, 2019

Bryan Nelson, age 84, of Janesville, passed away peacefully on Sunday, September 1, 2019 at Agrace Hospice in Fitchburg, WI.  Born in La Grange Park, IL to the late Marvin and Naomi (Paulson) Nelson.  Having lived around the southern Chicago area before moving to Crown Point, IN, the family settled in Whitewater, WI in 1952. Bryan graduated from Whitewater High in 1954 and attended college in Whitewater as well.  He was soon drafted into the United States Army and completed his obligation later to return home and start his plumbing apprenticeship and receive his Masters of Plumbing while working for LeRoy Kepp.  Bryan met his future wife and his love to the very end, Joan (Harris), while bowling at The Hawk Bowl in Whitewater.  They were married on July 8, 1961. Together they built a life around raising their family and running Bryan’s plumbing business, first with his brother in-law, Bob, in Ft. Atkinson in 1968 and then on his own in Orfordville and in Milton/Janesville, before retiring in 1997.

Bryan Nelson

Bryan is survived by his wife, Joan Nelson; and their children: Tracey Fox of Janesville, Terry Nelson of Marshfield, MO, Brent (Susan) Nelson of Janesville, and Toni (Steve) Rowley of Brodhead; grandchildren, Nicholas and Sarah (Dillion Woollums) Rowley of Brodhead, Catherine and David Nelson of Janesville; great grandson, Weston Rowley; sister and brothers, Sherry Plucinski, and Jeffrey and Wesley Nelson; along with in-laws, Tom and Barbara Dosemagen, Rod and Linda Sandleback, and Jeanette Milleson; long-time friends, Larry Williams and Paul Kulinski; and many extended family members and friends.

Bryan is preceded in death by his parents; mother and father in-law, Lyle and Catherine Harris; siblings, Dale Nelson and Karen Dinsmore; brother in-law, Robert Plucinski; and son in-law, Thomas Fox.

We would like to give our upmost gratitude to Agrace Hospice in Janesville and Fitchburg for all of the love and support they’ve offered and a special thank you to Amy Olson and Erika Schultz for all of their love and help they provided to Bryan at home.  Without any of them he would have never been able to stay at home for as long as he did.

A celebration of Bryan’s life will be held from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at the Schneider Funeral Home Life Celebration Center, 1800 E. Racine Street, Janesville.  Schneider Funeral Home & Crematory is assisting the family. For online condolences, please visit:

Judson Michael “Jud” Lowry, age 66, of Appleton passed away on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019

Judson Michael “Jud” Lowry, age 66, of Appleton passed away after a brief illness on Monday, August 12, 2019, at University Hospital-Madison, with his family at his side.  Jud was born on May 25, 1953, the son of the late Robert and Marjorie (Cox) Lowry in Janesville.  He was raised in Janesville and attended Janesville Parker High School. He had three children while living in Janesville, two daughters, Jennifer and Jessica and a son, Adam. In 1999, he married the former Brenda Berg in Whitewater. They made their home in the Fox Valley and had one child, a daughter, Logan. He had numerous jobs in his lifetime, but sales engineering became his passion, finishing his career at Kenrich Industrial/EMS of Waukesha where he worked for the last 20 years, retiring in January of 2018.

Judson Michael “Jud” Lowry

An avid sports fan, Jud enjoyed his Packers and Brewers as well as Nascar. He was thrilled to watch his son, Adam play baseball and even coached him in his younger years.  Not always a fan of basketball, he became Logan’s biggest cheerleader during Wisconsin Flight AAU tournaments and at Appleton East High School.  Harley and snowmobile trips with friends were a favorite activity as well as camping with their fifth wheel over the last few years. 

Judson is survived by his wife, Brenda and daughter Logan of Appleton; daughter, Jennifer (Ken Richards) Lowry and their children Alexis, Morgan and Evan; daughter, Jessica Garrido and her children Austin and Mia; son, Adam Lowry of Appleton and his children Noah and Luke; brother, Jeff Lowry of Edgerton and his children, Amber (Mark) Warmke and Ashley (Ken Schuur) Lowry; brother, Josh (Deb) Lowry of Janesville; mother and father-in-law, Rod and Donna Berg of Whitewater; and sister-in-law, Sandra Miller of Fitchburg; as well as great-nieces and nephews. Jud was predeceased by his parents, Bob and Marj of Janesville; brother, Matt of Edgerton; and brother-in-law, Matt Miller of Fitchburg.

The family would like to thank the medical care team at Appleton Medical Center ICU, especially nurses Cassie and Kim as well as nurse Katie in the TLC unit at UW Hospital for their kind and compassionate care.

A family celebration of his life will take place at the ELKS LODGE, 2100 N. Washington St., Janesville, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson Fitchburg
Funeral & Cremation Care
2950 Chapel Valley Road
(606) 442-5002

Lynton M. Piatt, age 90, longtime resident of Whitewater, passed away on August 19, 2019

Lynton M. Piatt, age 90, long-time resident of Whitewater, WI, peacefully passed away at St. Therese Care Center, New Hope, MN on August 19, 2019.

Lynton M. Piatt

He was surrounded by those he loved and who loved him. He lived a long life, and more importantly the life he wanted. He loved old movies, travel, gardening, listening and dancing to music (genre Nate King Cole and Big Band sounds) and owning a pet, but mostly being with family and friends. He served proudly in the United States Air Force and was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for over 24 years. We will always remember his love of laughter, silly jokes, and his huge heart.

Survived by wife of 66 years, Mary Kay (Jacobs) Piatt; children, Pam (Larry) Hansen, Julie (Richard) Enerson, Tim (Heidi Sonnenburg) Piatt and Darcie (Richard) Payne and grandchildren who were so special to him: Breanna, Cassandra, Justin, Chelsey, Kajsa, Olivia, Malina, Seth, and great-grandchildren Quinn and Tristan. He also leaves behind his little dog, Oliver.

Celebration of Life at St. Therese Care Center, New Hope, MN on Sunday, September 15th. Interment at a later date in Whitewater, WI, where the family will have another gathering for those who knew him.

Dale Edgar Bornick, age 80, passed away peacefully on Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dale Edgar Bornick, age 80, passed away peacefully on Saturday, August 17, 2019.

Dale Edgar Bornick

Dale is survived by his children; Janet (Mike) Bennett; Glen Bornick; Scott Bornick; stepson Wayne (Andrea) Graham and family; grandsons Jacob and Brady Bennett; brother Gary (Mary) Bornick and family; Sister-in-law Sherry Bornick and family.

Dale is preceded in death by his wife Amy; parents Elmer and Mildred Bornick; sister Nancy and brother Wayne Bornick.

Dale’s happiest moments were spent growing old with his wife Amy and spending time with his family and friends. Life is only worth living if you are with those you love. His last wish was to be reunited with his wife Amy. May his wish be granted. We will miss you both.

Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, August 23, 2019 in the Kratz Funeral Home-Portage ( 302 E. Conant St., Portage, WI. Visitation will be held from 9:00 a.m. until time of service at 11:00 a.m.

Burial will follow at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Portage.

Jean L. Steinhoff, 88, of Palmyra, Wisconsin, passed away on Sunday, August 18, 2019, at UW Hospital

Jean L. Steinhoff, 88, of Palmyra, Wisconsin, passed away on Sunday, August 18, 2019, at UW Hospital.

Jean L. Steinhoff

Jean was born May 1, 1931, in Pleasant Valley, the daughter of Albert and Edna (Lundt) Emery. She grew up in rural Jefferson County and was a 1949 graduate of Palmyra High School. Jean married John Steinhoff on September 16, 1950, at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Eagle. The couple enjoyed 37 years of marriage until John’s death in 1987.

Jean worked in the lunch program at Palmyra Elementary School. She was the Friday night fish fry hostess at the Nite Cap Inn for many years and later the Cornerstone Restaurant. She enjoyed seeing her regular customers each week and hearing about their families. 

Jean enjoyed gardening and was proud of her colorful flower gardens. She also enjoyed decorating her home for every holiday, especially covering her Christmas tree with angels. Her front porch was always decorated with lights for the season.    

Jean was a long-time member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmyra. She served as a Parish Council member and was a member of the St. Mary’s Women’s Club. Over the years she baked countless desserts for parish events.

The most important thing in Jean’s life was her family. She was a loving wife, mother, grammy, and great-grammy. She loved baking cakes for birthdays, weddings, and graduations. She hosted the entire family for holidays and always made an assortment of delicious desserts. Jean’s recipes will live on as her grandchildren make delicious food from her hand-written cookbooks which she gifted them. She made sure her family and friends received a Hallmark card for every special occasion. Jean was a caring, thoughtful, and determined woman. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren miss her dearly.

Jean is survived by three children, Bonnie (Glen) Schaefer of Fort Atkinson, Steven (Linda) Steinhoff of Palmyra, and Susan Mehring of Fort Atkinson; seven grandchildren, Michael Steinhoff, Juliana (Timothy) Gebhart, Alex (Emily Bralick) Mehring, Benton Steinhoff, Jonathan (Laura) Schaefer, Eric (April) Mehring, and Lacey Mehring; a great-grandson, Connor Gebhart; six step-grandchildren; ten step-great-grandchildren; a special sister-in-law, Janice Emery; and a special cousin, Sister Ellen Shannon. She is also survived by a number of nieces, nephews, cousins, a brother-in-law, and friends.

Jean was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, John Steinhoff; her brother, Roger Emery; sisters-in-law Carol Foelker and Catherine Eaton; and a brother-in-law James Foelker.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, August 22, 2019, at Gibson Family Funeral Home in Palmyra from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.  Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, August 23, 2019, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmyra. Jean will be laid to rest on Friday at 3:00 p.m. at St. Theresa’s Catholic Cemetery in Eagle.

Memorials in Jean’s honor may be made to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmyra in lieu of flowers.

The family wishes to extend their heartfelt thanks to the staff on D6 at UW Hospital for their compassionate care.

Gibson Family Funeral Homes of Eagle and Palmyra, WI is serving the family. To place an online condolence please visit

Jim Coburn, 73, Whitewater, passed away on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at Fort Memorial Hospital.

James A. Coburn, age 73 of Whitewater, passed away from natural causes on February 7, 2018, at Ft. Atkinson Hospital surrounded by loving family.

Jim was born December 29, 1944, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin to Deane and Thusnelda (Kraeft) Coburn. Growing up in Whitewater as the youngest of three children, he was indulged and tolerated by his adoring parents and big sisters as he played basketball, performed barbershop quartet, and rode his motorcycle in the local quarry.

At St. Olaf College, Jim met Virginia (Ginny) Hanson. They married on June 24, 1967, after Jim graduated but before he could follow through on his plan of rafting down the Mississippi River. Jim and Ginny returned to his hometown, where he worked as a social worker for two years before joining the Coburn Company. His father and uncle quickly entrusted him with the company, and he devoted himself to growing it from a small mail-order dairy supply business to a worldwide distributor of dairy equipment and farm supplies.

As a boss, Jim was casual and approachable. He respected and supported his employees and was always available, using his social work training and listening skills to help whenever he could. He remained active in the company even after his sons assumed management, giving advice and opening the company mail until the day he died.

Jim loved Whitewater, serving on the City Council and Plan Commission for several years and, more recently, the Whitewater Community Foundation. He exemplified a caring community member with a global perspective. He loved to travel, combining business with family adventures all over the world. His favorite destinations included Baden Baden, Leipzig, and Puerto Rico, but wherever he went, his priorities were always music, fantastic food, and friends.

Jim also loved getting up early, giving gifts, Bach cantatas, public schools, Labrador retrievers, asking questions, trout fishing, exploring back roads, Trading Places (the movie), grilling by the pool, Friday night fish fry, sticky toffee pudding, Fiestaware and train rides, but most of all he loved his family. His proudest accomplishment was his seven grandchildren, who would always echo back his favorite parting words: “Peace, harmony, and the American way.”

Jim is survived by his wife, Ginny; son Thayer (Anne) Coburn; daughter Cara (Alex) Faris; son Joe (Jess) Coburn; grandchildren Aidan, Olive, Kate, Nola, and Langdon Coburn and Corinne and Odell Faris; sisters Karen (Joe Svec) Coburn and Nancy (Jerold) Lenz; niece Kirsten (Houkom) Hafner; nephews Joel Houkom and Sheldon Lenz; and many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Service will be held Saturday, February 17, 2018, at 3 PM at First English Lutheran Church in Whitewater, followed by a 5 PM reception at the Hamilton Room at the UW-Whitewater University Center.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Whitewater Community Foundation.

The Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater, WI is assisting the family.