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University of Wisconsin-Superior
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Superior, WI 54880
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How does studying fine art and music at UW-Superior prepare you to play key roles in aninnovative, tech-oriented industrial company? Very well, it turns out.
Just ask Rhonda and Bill Rushing, who met in 1969 and fell in love, were separated by 7,000 miles for a time, and wound up marrying and graduating from UW-Superior four years later. In between, Bill served in the Navy, Rhonda learned some life lessons, and her father started the company she now runs. "UW-Superior provided much more than a music education for me," says Rhonda, a member of the UW-Superior Foundation Board and president of Berntsen International. "It also helped me realize that I could be a lifelong learner." Berntsen makes and sells boundary and utility marking products that range from property markers, metal medallions and concrete markers to the patent-pending InfraMarker underground utility location system. It uses a combination of GPS, field sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) markers and hand held computers to precisely locate utilities, saving labor costs and reducing damage to utilities.
Rhonda and Bill met in Madison in the summer of 1969. They dated for just a few weeks before Rhonda headed back to UW-Superior for her sophomore year and Bill left for a tour of duty aboard the USS Coral Sea in the Tonkin Gulf. For the next two years, "we kept the mail very busy between the USS Coral Sea and Crownhart Hall," Bill says. They were married in the summer of1971 and Bill enrolled at UW-Superior that fall. Rhonda graduated in 1973 as did Bill, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree.
Rhonda credits Lucille Webb with not only being an excellent organist and teacher, but passing on 'life's little lessons on the bench,' she says. "She kept me accountable. Her husband, Dr. John Webb, was my music theory teacher. One time, when I had skipped several of his classes,she quietly reminded me at my weekly lesson that 'Dr. Webb is looking forward to seeing you in class this afternoon. 'That was all she had to say!"
"Learning didn't just happen in music class," said Rhonda, who has served two terms on the UW-Superior Foundation Board. "The class sizes were good and we knew our professors. I had a concentration of music courses to get my bachelor of music degree, but I also felt I was getting a broader perspective with a variety of other courses," she said. Bill says Prof. Paul Kending was instrumental in his education. During his studies, Bill also developed a TV commercial for a local bank and worked as an intern teacher in Superior public schools. He says the broad experience was helpful. "Being able to make the grade in a wide variety of required subjects and interesting electives gave me the confidence to explore innovative, solution-focused answers that served other's hopes, wants and needs," says Bill, who is vice president of research and development for Berntsen.
Rhonda says she and Bill became increasingly involved in Berntsen in the late 70's. She took business and accounting courses and they both became interested in lean manufacturing and quality control, taking numerous courses and seminars, including from quality guru, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
Now,Rhonda is glad to be able to give back to her alma mater. "I am honored to be part of helping students today have the opportunity that I had. It has been so much fun to reconnect with old friends and make new ones," she said. "And, I still feel like I'm coming home when I get that first glimpse of Lake Superior as I approach the city. It's like a homecoming - you really can go back!"
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