Brian Wendt graduated from Rhinelander High School in 1989. Thirty years later as president of Superior Diesel, Inc., he and his company have a history of positive impacts on his school district. During the last building improvement project, their donation named the tiered classroom at RHS. Now they have extended those positive effects with another contribution.
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $100,000 from Superior Diesel, Inc. through the Rhinelander Community Foundation. The donation comes in the form of a pledge over several years, designated for improvements for the Hodag Sports Complex. The impact to the overall community and business was a major factor in the decision to present such a generous gift. Brian notes, “We have a lot to be proud of living in Rhinelander. Our company is fortunate to be located here where people bring a positive attitude and creativity into the workplace. Northern Wisconsin has a lot to offer, but if we are going to recruit and retain talent for businesses like ours, we need to continue to invest in our youth and infrastructure.”
Wendt and his company believe the permanent Dome and outdoor facility improvements will dramatically help Rhinelander. “This project has the potential to provide a great deal for our community by improving our indoor and outdoor facilities. It builds on what our school system and community have to offer. Students will now be able to condition and practice 365 days a year, without having to work around congested schedules, allowing ample time to focus on their academics. Families will look at Rhinelander as a place where their children can get a valuable education as well as a means to meet their physical and athletic goals.” Wendt continued, “There will also be opportunities for various organizational partnerships to provide new programs and initiatives unavailable before because we didn’t have the facilities or infrastructure to support them.”
As a Board Member of the Rhinelander Community Foundation, Wendt understands that the ability to promote giving through the Foundation is important for the future. “We thank the Rhinelander School Board (SDR) and the HSF and all involved for working tirelessly to promote the design [of the sports complex] and hope this gift further inspires other donations for our schools and community.”
“It just made sense to support this initiative and others that enhance the way of life in the Rhinelander area,” Wendt continued. “I am proud to be a Hodag.”
Sue Makris, Vice-President of HSF stated, “We are so thankful for Superior Diesel and Brian’s continued support and gift for Rhinelander. These multiple donations are significant and HSF applauds the company’s determination to help our community and our students.” Judy Conlin, Vice-President of the School Board noted, “We appreciate the on-going support for our educational system from Superior Diesel, enhancing our school district.”
As a child Mary Lewandowski and her family spent summers with her grandfather who lived in the Rhinelander area. Little did she realize then that as an adult, she would have a major impact on the same area.
Mary has “great memories” of her summer visits with her grandfather, even taking the train from southern Wisconsin to go “Up North” to the lake and woods. After Mary finished her schooling, she taught health and physical education at the high school and college levels both in Wisconsin and Oregon. When presented with an opportunity to return the Rhinelander area and build her house on the same land her grandfather loved, Mary became a permanent part of the community.
As a life-long sports and outdoor enthusiast, Mary embraces the UW-LaCrosse motto “mind and body.” So when Mary heard about Dr. Lee Swank’s donation to the Hodag Schools Foundation, (HSF) which focused on a possible indoor practice facility, Mary knew that she wanted to support the mission of HSF specifically that indoor facilities project. “As an educator, seeing the vision of HSF gave me clarity for donating,” says Mary. “When you see possibilities from the beginning, it leads others to contribute.”
Hodag Schools Foundation is pleased to accept a significant donation from Mary. Supporting the dome project from its early stages, Mary sees it as the future and an integral part of giving back to her community. Mary believes that both the schools and the entire area will benefit, stating, “This project will offer additional professional, and business opportunities, providing a venue for a variety of community events. I wanted to pay it forward, and so paying it forward supports the place I will always call home.”
Julie Bronson, Secretary/Treasurer of the Hodag Schools Foundation stated, “HSF is very thankful to all our donors and much appreciates Mary’s donation. As a person that values the mind-body connection, Mary recognizes how an indoor facility can improve the physical and mental health of students and senior citizens in the community as well as keep and attract families. It will change Rhinelander, making facilities here different from anywhere in the area.”
School District of Rhinelander Board President Ron Counter said, “We so appreciate Mary’s donation and look forward to providing these new facilities to our community.” If you are interested in supporting this project, donate on the HSF website at hodagschoolsfnd.org or send a check to HSF, PO Box 1522, Rhinelander, WI 54501.