longest serving congressman, David R. Obey, will receive an honorary Doctor of
Humane Letters degree bestowed by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point,
Chancellor Bernie Patterson announced today.
who represented Wisconsin’s 7th District for 42 years, made
significant contributions to higher education, the state and nation, and helped
launch several innovative programs at UW-Stevens Point.
demonstrated unwavering commitment to UW‐Stevens Point, Patterson said. “A
frequent visitor to the university, he was a strong advocate for educational
access, environmental protection and college affordability.”
passion for public service, Obey has a long list of accomplishments, said Rene
Daniels, his former deputy district director. “Dave spent his career,
which was historic by any measure, fighting for average Americans and his
beloved state of Wisconsin. He was tireless in his commitment to
expanding access to higher education.”
supported increasing the size of the Pell grants and reducing the interest
rates for student loans. He also supported federal programs, such as the Upward
Bound, which provide services to thousands of low-income, first-generation
college-bound students. He championed expansion of the Federal Work Study
program and capital investments in school facilities.
those of us who were lucky enough to work for him, he inspired us with his
intellect, work ethic, and the unshakeable belief that government could play a
critical role in solving the nation’s problems,” said Daniels, who is executive
director at North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.
chair of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Obey helped secure funding to
establish programs that benefited UW-Stevens Point, its students, communities
and businesses. They include:
- Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) founded
in 2009, which connects UW-Stevens Point to
business and industry through research, laboratory services and education
focused on sustainability solutions.
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Training
Center, which combines modern technology and geographic data with
cartography to create tools for governance, society, commerce and environmental
- Global Environmental Management (GEM), a
land use management program founded in 2000 in the College of Natural
Resources, which provided outreach education to safeguard surface and
"The significance of Congressman Obey’s support for WIST
cannot be overstated. Quite simply, WIST and all its outcomes and achievements
of the last five years would not exist without Dave Obey’s efforts,”
said Paul Fowler, WIST executive director.
Obey, who grew up in Wausau, believed in a balanced
conservation approach, said Mike Dombeck, a UW System
Fellow and retired professor of global conservation at UW-Stevens Point. “He always had the best
interest of Wisconsin and its people in mind.”
understood small, rural communities, tourism and the value of public lands. He
supported the sound management of those lands, based on solid science,” Dombeck
said. Education was an important part of that.
They first met when Dombeck
was attending UW-Stevens Point and Obey was running for Congress in 1969.
went on to serve as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management in the
1990s and chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Obey became one of the youngest chairs
of the House Appropriations Committee in 1994. Their roles gave them many
opportunities to interact.
“He asked very difficult questions,”
Dombeck said. “I’ve been both praised and chastised by Dave, as has everyone
who’s worked with him.”
his quiet way, Obey directed millions of dollars to his district, Dombeck said.
This included a $4.8 million addition to the College of Natural Resources
building and $14 million in the 1990s and 2000s for projects that advanced
environmental education curriculum and tools for K-12 teachers. “That support
helped put UW-Stevens Point and CNR in a leadership role nationally in the
field of environmental education,” he said.
was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1962 and quickly rose to leadership
positions. In 1969, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill
a seat vacated when Melvin Laird became secretary of defense. Obey served on
numerous committees. Among them were the Labor, Health and Social Services and
Education Subcommittee and Appropriation Committee for 35 years, including four
as chairman. He also served as chair of the Foreign Operations Appropriation
Subcommittee for 10 years. He was an advocate for education, public health,
political transparency and humanitarian assistance in the United States and
abroad. He did not seek re-election in 2010.
will receive the honorary doctorate during spring commencement on Saturday, May
16, at UW-Stevens Point. This is the second honorary doctorate ever conferred
during UW‐Stevens Point’s 120‐year history. Obey’s predecessor in Congress,
Melvin Laird, received the first in 2011.