The Red Gym is one of UW Madison's iconic buildings, connecting the university to its past while still serving it in the 21st century. Whereas in the past it was an armory, today its purpose is much more consonant with that of the university: It is the home of the Morgridge Center for Public Service, where the UW puts the Wisconsin Idea into practice.
The Morgridge Center puts the UW to work on behalf of public service in the local, national and international communities. This weekend it celebrates its 10th anniversary with a two-day conference at the Memorial Union titled "Celebrating the Many Faces of Service at UW-Madison." The conference kicks off at 8:15 a.m. Friday, March 9, and wraps up the afternoon of March 10. The public is invited, especially UW faculty, staff and students, as well as returned Peace Corps volunteers and anyone interested in community service. (For more info, visit www.morgridge.wisc.edu/conference.html.)
The first day of the conference is devoted to local and national public service. Keynoting will be David Eisner, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is the entity that administers programs such as Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America and VISTA. Before being appointed to the position by President Bush in 2003, Eisner was a vice president at AOL Time-Warner, in charge of the company's charitable foundation.
Other distinguished guests include Maureen Curley, a 25-year veteran of community service and public policy who is now president of the national Campus Compact, and recent UW grad Bryan Gadow, who will speak on the topic "Developing Citizenship for Today and Tomorrow." Also present will be conference sponsors John and Tashia Morgridge (both UW '55).
Friday evening the focus switches to the international community with the Peace Corps Gala Dinner, partially in celebration of the fact that UW-Madison leads all universities in supplying volunteers to the Peace Corps over its 46-year history. The evening will feature international cuisine and music by Madisonian Leotha Stanley, aided and abetted by vocalists Lifutso Ranthimo and Riquiea Kitchens. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, or RPCV (Liberia VI), I have the honor of introducing the featured speaker for the evening, Henry McCoy, Peace Corps regional director for Africa. All RPCVs are encouraged to attend. The conference continues its international bent through lunch on Saturday. Feel free to drop in.