On Saturday July 16, 2016 Lowell Klessig was honored with the Russ O’Harrow Award during Leadership Wisconsin’s Legacy of Leadership Celebration in Wausau. The Russ O’Harrow Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to Leadership Wisconsin. From 1983 to 1988 O’Harrow served as the first President of the Board of Directors. He was a statesman-like Developing Leaders to Strengthen Communities.
The 2016 Russ O’Harrow award was given posthumously to Lowell Klessig. Klessig’s wife Christine was present at the event to receive the award. Lowell was born in Fond-du-Lac where his family operated a dairy farm. He achieved both a B.S. and an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, in addition to another M.S. from Vanderbilt University. In 1973 he was conferred his Ph. D. in Rural Sociology from UW – Madison. Lowell’s doctoral dissertation served as the foundation for Wisconsin’s Inland Lake Management Law. The first of its kind in the country, it served as a model for other lake protection programs. Thus began Lowell’s career with the University of Wisconsin-Extension as a Lake District Specialist. He crisscrossed the state to help lake property owners and county boards develop stewardship plans and lake districts. In 1992, the UW-Madison Center for Resource Policy Studies presented Lowell with the “Wisconsin Idea Award” for his ground-breaking work on lake management, and continuing advocacy for the environment.
Lowell managed forest properties for 43 years in three counties in Wisconsin. He helped establish the New Hope Family Forest group, in which he served as the president for the first 10 years. He and his wife established the Tomorrow River Fund to assist other landowners in protecting the Tomorrow River watershed. He developed the Wisconsin Woodland Leaders Institute, and the Wisconsin Master Woodland Steward Program. Lowell served on the Scenic Wisconsin board and was an active member of numerous environmental groups. Lowell also operated a small beef farm operation.
Lowell was very committed to the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program, now renamed Leadership Wisconsin. From 1994-1996 Lowell served as the Executive Director. In addition to leading state-based seminars, Lowell served as a co-leader for a number of the program’s international seminars. Not only did he give generously of his time and talents, Lowell supported the program as a fiscal donor – ensuring that leaders across the state had access to the program in order to increase their capacity to address local issues. In her acceptance remarks, Lowell’s wife Christine fondly reminisced on his passion for the program and educating leaders. Leadership Wisconsin is proud to recognize Lowell Klessig for his significant contribution to the program and the leaders who graduated under his tutelage.
Leadership Wisconsin is a non-profit whose educational programs are delivered through University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Cooperative Extension division. The program, formerly known as the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program, graduated its first class in 1986. Designed for residents from diverse backgrounds who share a strong desire to actively participate in meeting the challenges facing their organizations and communities, Leadership Wisconsin helps individuals discover their leadership passion, potential and philosophy. Participants gain a broadened understanding of local, state, and national issues, and are prepared to apply their leadership skills to affect positive change in a dynamic multicultural world.
Leadership Wisconsin would like to thank the many partners and alumni across the state who made Group XVI’s leadership experience possible. In addition to University of Wisconsin-Extension, major support for the program is provided by the Wisconsin Counties Association. WCA supports the program in an effort to foster the development of engaged and informed leaders who participate in public policy.