WWHEL celebrates 20 years of service 1996 - 2018!

2004 Award Winner


The first WWHEL Outstanding Achievement Award was presented in October 2004 to Mary Dee Wenniger at the annual state conference held at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Ms. Wenniger is the founder/editor of Women in Higher Education (WIHE) and since 1992, this monthly publication has enhanced leadership opportunities for women. Because the newsletter has an international readership, Ms. Wenniger's influence extends far beyond the Wisconsin borders. However, because WIHE is based in Wisconsin, the strategies and successes of Wisconsin women leaders in higher education are often presented as the model for the world.

Ms. Wenniger's lifetime career of supporting opportunities for Wisconsin women in higher education began when she was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned BA and MA degrees in the 1960s. As her co-authored book with Mary Helen Conroy Gender Equity or Bust describes her career, "her true credentials are surviving being fired from three professional positions in fifteen years, in the academic, business and non-profits sectors of the workplace, attesting to the widespread failure in all three sectors to accept a woman with brains and an attitude." She was the only female at University of Wisconsin-Madison's Management Institute in a management position. She inspires audiences of women to whom she speaks about the success of WIHE by highlighting her own career path of failures in the workplace, failures of leaders in the three sectors to recognize and value the alternative viewpoint she presents and to espouse the doctrines of fair play and diversity. Their failures provide the foundation for Mary Dee's success as a supporter of women's opportunities for leadership.

Mary Dee Wenniger has promoted women into leadership positions in Wisconsin through her personal as well as professional life. Mary Dee was born and raised in Waukesha. For twenty-five years, she played on the Women's Hockey club team, the team that finally led to UW-Madison approving an NCAA Division I team. Those who know Mary Dee know that she has always been active in support of women's equity issues. She loves to play sports; she is an active tennis player and kayaker and has recently begun sailing. As a single mother, she supported her daughter Elizabeth, who grew up in Madison and earned an BA in 2000 from Smith College. Elizabeth is currently living in San Diego and is managing editor of the monthly publication.