Charles Farrell Interview




Charles Farrell is the former director of student centers at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. This interview explores how Farrell joined the university and his work with the Viennese Ball. Farrell focuses on his role on the Ball committee, how he contributed to the event, what changes he facilitated, and his work in designing the new Davies Center and how it affected the Viennese Ball, as well as public feedback about these changes.


Interviewers Jonathon Kedrowski and Dylan Lueck


April 17, 2019


Jonathon Kedrowski: (02:31)
All right. So let's get started with the interview here itself. So first of all, tell us about, tell us about yourself. Tell us about your early life.

Charles Farrell: (02:42)
Well, my early life. Yup. Oh god, so I was born in the Chicago suburbs, in 1963. My parents moved to Morris, Minnesota, which is on the western side of Minnesota to a small college town: and I grew up there and I went to high school at Shattuck school in Fairbault, Minnesota. I'm an eagle scout. I attended the University of Minnesota-Morris. I have a bachelor's degree in history and in English. I went to Minnesota State University a couple of years after I graduated from Morris 1985. I have a master's degree in education and college student personnel stuff and I got that in 1990. Then I proceeded to work at a number of colleges. I worked at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I worked, I worked at the University of Chicago here in Chicago for 10 years. Then I worked as the Illinois Institute of Technology for a few years, came up to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I was the director of the student centers for 11 years
from 2006 until 2017. I have a daughter who is 24, who just graduated from college a couple of years ago and currently works at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. I am an ordained person in the episcopal church. I'm a deacon and, used to be a deacon assigned to Christchurch Cathedral at Lake in Farwell and clear for now. I'm assigned to two parishes here in the diocese of Chicago.

JK: (05:03)
Right. So this is kind of an interesting question that we have for you. It was, so, was music ever part of your life, like in your upbringing per say?

CF: (05:14)
Well, I'm a dyslexic, so reading music is something I have never figured out how it makes
sense.and then I was in, let's see, trying to think what year that started from fifth grade through eighth grade till I went away to boarding school. I was in the band, I was in the percussion section.

JK: (05:42)
Ah, did you like play drums then?

CF: (05:46)

JK: (05:47)
Oh, that's interesting Was it mostly like snare drum and bass drum or was it like kinda just, you know?

CF: (05:55)
Mostly snare and bass; and then marching I played bass.

JK: (06:01)
That sounds like me. And you have that common because I also, I never learned how to read music myself, so I, they stuck me into the percussion section. So that's something that's interesting. So how exactly did you get to Eau Claire. Were you just kinda just looking for a job then? Or what, what exactly were you looking for?

CF: (06:21)
So when I was at the University of Chicago, we were, the university had gotten, had gotten very badly dinged by, the media for being very dull. And the university kind of panicked and my office was reorganized, some people left the university and, our job was make the university seem a little, little bit more normal. And part of that was to move the main students in our building from the edge of campus into the core quad. And we renovated a, what had been the men's club, at the turn of the century. This would have been in the mid 1990s. So he did this and, and, so I was small, a part of a very small group of people who help do that. And then when it was time to leave, the UC on a ended up going about 20 blocks north to the Illinois Institute of Technology, which was about to build a new student center.

CF: (07:34)
So they built a $50 million student center around a parking lot underneath the l tracks, the, the elevated train tracks. So I really enjoyed the process of helping to open and reimagined buildings. And, and actually the planning and building the building is, is one set of challenges, but it's the settling into a new normal, which is a, almost the bigger and longer challenge. And so I had been looking around for a day job somewhere in the upper Midwest. That would be, I had been associate director at three different places. So if I decided it was time to be a director, I was 42 at the time. While I was married, my wife and I both grew up in Minnesota and met in college, so she was quite insistent that we stay close enough to drive to Minnesota easily. Wisconsin was a good fit. We had lived in Wisconsin prior, on the east side in Kenosha and in Racine. My daughter was born on the scene and so it made, it made sense. I, we had driven past Eau Claire for years, you know, had occasionally stopped on our way back and forth, Minnesota
between Chicago and Minnesota trip, we made multiple times a year and we also knew people who worked there through different professional associations. There was planning underway to build a new student center. And so all of those things sort of coalesce. I have also been very lucky in my career. I haven't done any real repeat in the type of school. So I've been at a, I went to a small public liberal arts college. I went to a medium size serves state university, but was a research university and NDSU and worked at a small college, Carthage College at the time, had only a thousand students. And, now it's about little more than twice that, then I worked at an elite private institution that was medium size. Then I worked at a, an elite smaller size private
institution that was focused on technology, architecture and engineering. Then I worked at a, you know, mid size regional comprehensive eau Claire, and now I work at a huge Urban University, the biggest in Chicago. So, you know, every time I've picked a school, I've wanted to try to work at a different kind of place. So it isn't just, you know, the same, the same thing with just different faces. So I've been lucky to do that. So moving up to Eau Claire, made a lot of sense. And, the idea of being able to be part of a building process from start to finish was also very enticing.

CF: (11:04)
And so the plan changed very significantly by the time I had a accepted the job and by the time we opened up, the Davies Center and in 2012, it wasn't in addition to the old building, which was sort of ugly and uninspired and a lot of what it was a whole new building on what had been our backyard before. And you know, which wasn't what I expected it was going to be, but it was a wonderful opportunity. And then I moved here to UIC because we're going to renovate a 400,000 square foot building and putting an addition on it for another hundred thousand square feet. And lots of challenges. And, and we're right on the edge of the loop in Chicago, so right on the edge of downtown. And so very different from being Eau Claire.

CF: (12:02)
So it seems like you came to Eau Claire mostly. Not mostly, but because there was, you know, several factors. And just to recap, so basically it's, you were kind of familiar with Eau Claire itself, so it was, you know driving passed it all the time. And you also liked the idea of building a new, you know, being part of building a new student center, which it seems you have experience with doing that in multiple areas actually. So that's, that's pretty cool. And, you also, it's closer to home. So that's, so these things all sort of coalesced for you just to move to Eau Claire. Was Eau Claire. Did they know that you had previously done, you know, work with like doing construction and stuff with student centers or where they, you know,

CF: (12:46)
Oh yes. And I think that's why I was, was, was, was hired because I, I had done two other
projects and they had, they had had a number of struggles. The previous director had only stayed three years. And when the initial referenda failed, he decided to leave, and went to another institution. And they, you know, I think wanted somebody who understood what a process it was, to get something on this, moving along. And since I had lived through it two other two other times, I think that gave them a bit of, of a, of confidence. And, you know, I think that, they needed something like that in order to kind of sustain things. Cause in the process of my being there and, and the preplanning and then the planning, I've worked for, for three different people while I was at Eau Claire during the, my, between my arrival and the preplanning stage, I went through two different supervisors, one who retired and one who left university, surely after Brown lemons and Kevin, she became the chancellor.

CF: (14:14)
And then that's how the word was the person who is my supervisor most of my time in Eau Claire. And so, I think that I was, you know, asked to join, you know, Eau Claire because they felt like I'd be somebody who would be able to see that project through. And I, I was very clear. I was relatively strategic, not only in my own career, but my daughter had, was, was just sort of, at the, in the middle of middle school. And so it was a good time to move, because you know, she would be changing schools in, in the suburb that we live in. And so changing schools and you know, Eau Claire was a little less traumatic. And so, by the time we got there, she went to DeLong and then to Memorial, and so we tried to time it so that it was, you know,

JK: (15:10)
A smooth transition?

CF: (15:12)
well smoother. You don't need,

CF: (15:14)
yeah, you have to leave all your friends is, it's hard. But, tried to figure out a way to make it, you know, as as least painful as possible.

JK: (15:26)
So had Eau Claire, so obviously, Eau Claire had been aware that you had done those things, but did Eau Claire ever reach out to you specifically because of the projects you had done in the past or was it just someone, was it like a coincidence that they just, you having to apply?

CF: (15:41)
I applied for specifically because I was, one of the things I knew, I can't remember how I knew whether I knew from, from the job announcement or if I knew from the people I knew who work there that, oh, why? Well, let me think. Oh, my boss that I IIT was friends with the guy who was the director. That's how at at Eau Claire. And I think that, and I actually been how I found out about the job and I didn't, I didn't know the guy who was my predecessor. I subsequently become friends with him, but he and my, my boss said at IIT, I can't remember if they went to Grad school together or if the guy who had been the director of the student centers that IIT had known the guy who was the director of Eau Claire. You know, it's after you've been doing this for 32 years, it's kind of like a big Arkansas family. We all know each other, right? We've all worked with him with the steps and we've all, we know people who've worked with other people or whatever. And so it seems a little fuzzy, but somehow I, I mean, I, I knew through Pulsars, you know, who is my boss at as, an IIT, Mitch Kilcrease who was the director, at Eau Claire who was
leaving. And I actually, after I accepted the job, had a couple of long conversations with Mitch about who was, who and what was watching, you know, what to look out for and so on, as I came on board, which is very, very helpful. So, you know, it, it just happened to work out and, and you know, my wife and I have made it, made it a decision that, you know, Eau Claire was a location because it was near enough to where we want it to be, a Minnesota to get there easily, but not so close that our family would just sort of swinging on in unannounced and is about four hours. And, so we thought that was a good level of separation because we'd spent our entire married life over in, in Chicago, in Kenosha, Racine, and, and the idea of being right next door wasn't overly appealing. So, you know, we, we just kind of left out at all, sort of fell into place in 2006.

JK: (18:11)
Right. So were you aware of the Viennese Ball prior to coming to Eau Claire or was that just kind of like a, something you've never heard of before? Like what's the story behind that?

CF: (18:23)
I had not heard about the Viennese Ball until, I was a candidate for the job. So what happened was, you know, job searches and higher education are notoriously long and disjointed. And so I don't remember exactly when I applied, but I remember that I got a phone call from, Chuck Major, who is the director of housing at the time and chair of the search committee. And my daughter and I had just gotten home and we were changing to go off for soccer practice. I was the soccer coach at the school right next to our house. And, Chuck called and was wondering whether I had applied months ago and it kind of written it off cause I hadn't heard anything back. And so I was like, well, you know, when I indicated that I was still interested, he was, you know, kind of relieved. I think I, I rather imagine they lost quite a few people because of the length of time it took from when people turn in an application, if the search committee up and running. So after I had agreed to come to campus, I started doing research on Internet about what, you know,
what were the moving parts and Eau Claire said it was a bit of a broader job then I had IIC. And, and that's when I heard about the Viennese Ball is, you know, the fundraiser. Although I can't remember if I knew what exactly was a fundraiser for at the time. And there was the largest Viennese Ball inside of Austria and it was at that time, I'm trying to think just passed its 30th year, so it would have been 30, I think my first ball might've been the 33rd. I served on March 1st, 2006, so I would have gone a month or so in, it was probably, I was there less than six weeks before I attended my first ball. So, and then I attended, you know, both of you know, Friday and their day every year. I was, in Eau Claire.

JK: (20:45)
So you mentioned that you had started the committee once you had applied for it and kind of forgot about it, but were there qualifications to get onto the committee itself or was it kind of just, we'll take anybody? That as long as they apply or like what were some of those qualifications?

CF: (21:02)
Which committee?

JK: (21:03)
The Viennese Ball committee.

CF: (21:05)
Oh, I'm, the director of the student centers was an ex officio member. And so because of my job, I automatically had a place on the committee, and actually the person who was the assistant director, of what is now called, activity and involvement and leadership. That person was the chair of the committee and that was the way it was my first two years there. And her husband was my vice chancellor. And so I was caught in between both of them, which was an awesome work experience. And, so I, you know, I did really very little the first two years, but it was a good way to, they had no responsibility to serve, settle in and watch, watch what happened and who did what to whom and so on. And, I was, I wouldn't say actively discouraged from having any ideas or, or making any suggestions, those first couple of years. And so I just kind of kept my head down and I went to the means and again, watch what happened, but I didn't really any participated on after they left, Karen Stuber, who was in our event services office and really was the person who behind the scenes made the Ball happened. She didn't want to chair the
committee and so, or be the public face during the event and so on. And so what, she and I agree is, I would be the figurehead, and, the a chair and we didn't know what to call that person. So what, what I decided to do is I was the chair of the Viennese Ball committee. And then I was also the person who welcomed people at the grand opening. I was the person who hosted the chancellor's reception, if the chancellor didn't come, which sometimes happened. I was the person who announced the grand march and, and introduce the orchestra, when they kicked off their for set and you know, was, and that was my whole job. You know, Sharon told me what to say, behind the scenes, you know I had good input. But, you know, it was Karen’s show and I was, I was just there because it made Karen uncomfortable, I think to be in front of large crowds and speaking and all it had to do is read the script I was given, so I can do that in almost any situation. So that was kind of my role in how we divided things up. And it also gave me, you know, a purpose on the committee without getting in the way, which I think the people who have
been involved since the beginning with this event, you know, kind of wanted me not to, not to fiddle too much with the event, that also to not forget that it was an important event. And so they, you know, we have negotiated and created this, this, the figurehead role for me.

JK: (24:37)
So your job kind of just came out of the fact that, you know, and decided that she didn't really want to be the face of it and, but you were more comfortable with doing that. So you did the job, did they naturally just sound like you to do it because you'd been, you know, like a, a figure within those couple of years or was it kind of just...

CF: (24:55)
The student center, you know, has, has always produced the Viennese ball. We had been in the Davies Center, the staff is deeply involved in it and does all the production and has, has financially, you know, made it possible for the Viennese Ball to, to happen because you know, all of the, you know, support, that goes into, making, you know, the production happen comes out of this student centers and doesn't get really charged much to the Viennese Ball. And so when, when the Salts left the university, Beverly and Andy, I sat down with Kevin or, Karen, sorry. And, you know, we kind of talked about what, what should we do with the Viennese Ball and you know, we decided together that it having to two heads, which is what happened with Karen and Beverly, didn't work so well.

CF: (26:19)
And it just made everyone very, very unhappy. And there was an assumption that the woman who had been like the assistant chair of the Ball, who had a, was relatively young and, and was one of the program coordinators in the activities office that she would step into that role. And so I sat her down and I said that, you know, Karen has been doing this for over 30 years and it makes no sense to me why she shouldn't be in charge of this event. And so what did was I created a role for, Jennifer Broadpiler. And what she did was she became then the person who interface with the music department and organize all the entertainment. And I, made her the artistic director and, she was none too pleased, that because I think she had been basically told by, the Salt’s who were very good friends of hers, that she would just step into this. And, I think that the Sault’s forgot that I was actually the director and I got to decide. And so, it seemed horribly unfair to me that somebody had invested over 30 years and was passionate about this event, should be always the number two and the toady and not actually in charge. And so, I
decided to do that. And then the Broadpiler’s left a couple of years after that and stuff. He would have, if I hadn't, I hadn't done at that time, I would've done the later, and then, so then that gave me the opportunity to ask Karen to be the absolute queen of the Ball. And that's why she's the, you know, director emeritus or Merta of the Ball, for life and when she retired from university, we kind of named her that, so she will, it's over a permanent role, with the Ball, even though it's, you know, has no active role. She, she gets to come, you know, whenever she wants to. And I think she and her husband, will come just one night, probably on Saturday night, every year, but she doesn't have to do anything but, you know, talk to the people she's known for years. But that's how, how all of that got sorted out and how I ended up being the chair of the Ball, because I also wanted to make sure that there wasn't no infighting within the staff. And so they couldn't, even if they didn't like it, they couldn't really argue that it was different within my rights and a departmental committee to make myself the chair, and then I could appoint people to different roles, and so I divided up the, the production from the music part of it. But I made Karen the head of the event and she was the director of the Ball and Jennifer brought Pilar, who is the artistic director and then when she left, we never named anyone else artistic director. He just all got assumed into the role of the director of the ball. And then the, chair, the Viennese Ball Committee, just tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.

JK: (30:20)
All right. So in your early days in the committee, did you kind of like compare what the original committee planning, the planning stages that they did? Did you like look at their notes and stuff?

CF: (30:33)
Not really. I mean, I had a number of very long conversations with Karen about, you know, how to win the event started, and how, Ada Bores have been asked by the chancellor to creek have a signature event for the university that would help tie in some of the things that the university was very strong at and music, with something that would become an experience. And Ada's husband Adam, not who I believe is still alive, the German professor and they had a good bit of experience with, both German culture and Austrian culture. And so I think the idea of creating this spawns certainly by, by her and it, it kind of took off and, and there were things that that evolved, you know, so the old Davies Center, which, was a building that had not had a lot of master planning happened to it, so additions were sort of slapped on the end of it is, it stuck out
towards the business school.

CF: (31:56)
We we had a ballroom on both ends of the building, which meant you had to traverse the very narrow corridor of the second floor to move, to move beyond it. I'm trying to remember if it was before or after I got there that we went to using the first year or two and we use the first four only for the acapella groups and, in the marketplace. And I, I know that wasn't my idea, but I think that I may have pushed to use the first four because I didn't know that you weren't supposed to. And we got some feedback from people because they were, what do you mean we have to go downstairs for part of the bone line? It's always been just on the second floor and you know, like, well that’s the way it is, and up, you know, people don't always adapt to change real well.

CF: (32:57)
And so, after a couple of years, most people, they kind of accepted it and the space was very challenging. It was the eating area of the food court. It had glass on three sides of the room, which we covered for some bizarre reason with pipe and drape. Which made it even less attractive but, I think that there was also at the time where there was a growing number of acapella groups. And so there was, and we had a student who was on the committee and as she worked for the Davies Center and our, what is now the EPC who was interested in coordinating the acapella groups. And so those things kind of coincide too. And it gave us a home where the acapella groups could be and where there are sometimes very enthusiastic fans weren't disturbing other quieter parts of the, of, of the event. So if, you know, it made sense from production standpoint, and so there were things that had already begun to, to evolve and I was able to, you know, occasionally influenced things quietly, behind the scenes that always through Karen and that, that allowed, you know, she and I would occasionally put our heads together and kind of
talk about, you know, she would say, this is kind of what I want to do. And we kicked around a couple of different ways to maybe do that and then we agree on a strategy and then she could go out and already know she had my support to do that and just make, so, and, that, that was, that was useful, especially, when there were still people who weren't necessarily thinking she should be the one in charge of everything, still on campus and, and after, those people weren't involved anymore than it really wasn't a struggle. But the original structure with, with Ada and a huge number of volunteers that as those people got older, the, what had been a really strong cadre of probably 30 and 40 somethings. 30 years later had turned into a cadre of 60 to 70 somethings who couldn't always lug stuff around and who you weren't able necessarily to run up and down
ladders all day. And, and, one of the things that you can't see now in the new [inaudible] so new anymore in a, in a current Davies Center, is that we used a lot of set pieces and decorations to cover up how utilitarian the old Davies Center looked. And when we moved, we decided not everyone was always not on board with this, but we decided to get rid of a lot of those decorations in part because just the scale of the new building was so much larger. So here's a very good example, in the main ballroom where the orchestra and jazz one play, the, which is now, you know, the main ballroom in the, in the new Davies Center, we have these things that sat in the corner, that had there were electrified. So you plugged them in and they had a mirror and they had this little swag of red at the top and they were supposed to look like they were marble, and they had these little fake crystal, not chandelier's but, bracket lights sitting on them. And so after we knew what every, you know, what ties everything was going to be, Karen and I looked at those and decided that they looked like we put Barbie dream house furniture in new
ballroom if we tried to reuse those. And so we got rid of them and we got rid of all of the, or most of the set pieces.

CF: (37:21)
And now if you go up to the event, the things that still exists, as decoration wise, are things like I am imagining up in the living room where they have towards on the second floor of the Davies Center, they had been putting, still some of the fake a stained glass windows up over the glass doors. And there was some talk as I was leaving if not doing that anymore. So I don't know where that actually fell. So, we, you know, got rid of most of the rest of it. So one example is, is outside the council Fireball room, in the old Davies Center there was I typical a waffle, concrete ceilings. So, you know, it looks like a waffle and concrete. So they had alternating red and white little banners that they will put up with double stick tape on every side. So when you looked at it looked like this red and blue striped ceiling, which was a really clever way to, to mask the fact that we had the hideous white concrete ceiling outside the ballroom, and, but then we didn't need
it anymore in the new building. Also, the ceilings are so high that you'd need a lift to get up there and do it all. So there were lots of things we were, we changed when we moved in and our need for volunteers continue to shrink. And I know that after I left, they disbanded the, the volunteer committee completely.

JK: (39:12)
So there's no more volunteers that volunteer for the, to help the Ball anymore at all?

CF: (39:19)
I would, that would be a question for, for Kristin Schumacher my understanding is that they remove all of the volunteers who had been on the Viennese Ball committee. But again, that's just my understanding, and, I think, you know, originally they really needed the, the people in the community to promote this and to, help do a lot of the work, but frankly organizing that many people, became a lot of work itself. And so we had decided years ago, DPC, trying to think what year we created that. Probably around 2010. We had had two different groups. The stage crew and the operations team who often didn't see eye to eye. And also, also did exactly the same work but in different parts of our operation. And soon after I got there, that has not been my experience at other schools. And so I had asked why we had two groups that sometimes openly squabble between each other and why didn't we just have one group that worked as a team? And so, it took from 2006 to about 2010 to make that happen. But that's how the DPC was born. And
so, after they've got established in their roles, solidified that that's a 75 person production team, and so there really wasn't anything we need the volunteers to do. And so we continued to use them in part because I was hesitant to, just to give up, you know, and tell people who've been part of the ball who still want to be part of the ball "we didn't need them anymore." And so we just kind of continued on. I think the decision was made after I left, people with a little less history than that. I had, we're like, this is a lot of work. Getting all the people organized. We can just do it passed to ourselves. And I think those people were just sort of, slit aside. Now they may still help with the, during the set up, they just aren't on the committee anymore. But that would be something that you'd want to clarify with, with Kristen because I don't, that happened after I left. Not really sure how that, how that worked. And during the time I was there, the number of people who retired and quotes from the Viennese Ball committee was considerable. Probably
half of the people who had been long time, volunteers, they were just getting to a point in their life where they didn't want to be tied down. You know, some of them, had retired and we've part of the year in a place that gets less snow and it's not as cold as Eau Claire. And then other people just physically didn't feel capable of doing that. They still wanted to come to the event. They still wanted to feel a part of it, but the idea of doing what they did when they were much younger, they just didn't want to do that anymore. Which is completely understandable. We still had, you know, a handful of people who were very passionate about what they had done for a long time.

CF: (43:07)
And personally I didn't feel comfortable in telling them they weren't needed anymore. We could have probably done it faster without them, but it, you know, I'm, I'm somebody who feels if somebody is invested, you know, a part of themselves over many years in something, we don't just shove them out cause it's easier to do it yourself. You, you just deal with it. It's like, you know, when you have an elderly parent who can't walk us quickly, you don't just leave them behind. And so, you know, I think that the, the folks who were on the staff now, I think just to say that they kind of hit the limit of how much time they could take doing this. And so whatever they decided, to do, I'm sure makes sense for the current situation. I also, you know, had the luxury of, of Karen only being gone I think one year, or maybe she was trying to remember what year she retired. I think it was only one year that she wasn't in charge of the ball while I was still there. So, you know, we had, we had created survey, interim transition plans. We tried to figure
out who it's going to take charge of what pieces, and I had kind of forced the group to work as a, as a working committee, all of the design staff. And that worked okay. And I think that as, you know, with me out of the way and, and here in Chicago, you know, the people who were left, you know, that's, I think still how it's being done is this committee of the staff, run the most of the, the Ball. But I also think that, there are just fewer people with as much history of the event and their focuses, making sure it continues, and you know, fair enough. That, I think they decided was, you know, kind of an important thing to make sure to continue.

JK: (45:29)
So quick question then are asked a question. You can answer however you want. When you were designing the new Davies Center or helping with that, did you have the Viennese ball in mind?

CF: (45:42)
So there were many people who wish we had, but no and we actively we didn't do anything that we thought would hinder the ball. But we were very clear with people and got a lot of negative feedback from some folks that the building was not being designed for the ball. The ball was hit going to have to be redesigned for the building. And I was just very clear, you know, students have paid $50 million for this building. We're not going to make it for work only for a two day event. The two day event can alter itself to work for in, in, in the building. And we've changed it. So the first year we were in the ball, the Dorf Kapelle was in the, the Dakota ballroom and that did not work very well. There wasn't enough room for the dancing. So that's why they're downstairs. The piano bar, we decided we've worked better there. We had that. I'm trying to remember if that was in the Ho-Chunk or the room next to it. The room name. I've never remembered. Menominee? Whether it was there, whether it was down, it might've been down in
the cabin. I just can't remember because it was in the president's room, in the old building, which was not super large and that’s what people liked it. But when we moved it up to that ballroom, there are times it's not always packed, but there, there are times it is just jammed. You can't imagine that at some point that event happened in a room, one quarter the size of the Dakota. But that's what did happen for decades before we moved into that building. So, you know, that first year was a real struggle and there were, there were a lot of tears and a lot of emotions from people because we couldn't just do it the way it has always been done. And, you know, part of the culture of UW Eau Claire is it does not embrace change, well and, and often fight to change. And when you are presented with an event that everyone knows backwards and forwards, and the building that had been in since the beginning got pulled down while we watched it, and now
we're in this other building that is not laid out at all. Like the old building was, everything had to be on the table to rethink it

JK: (48:27)
So did that cause tension between some of the people in the committee?

CF: (48:30)
Oh, sure. You know, because people, you know, there was a lot of wailing and moaning. You in the old building, we could do this now, well you know, again, you know, we built that new building to serve UW Eau Claire had become, not what UW-Eau Claire was when, when that event started in 1974 UW Eau Claire was a very different institution than it is now. What was expected of a student center was very different. Half of, of well, maybe a third of the, old Davies Center hadn’t even been built when the event started. And so, you know, it, the, the event had grown and it has been able to grow a little bit more in some ways. Now, you know, there were things that I think in retrospect, people see, you know, like we never had a ballroom like the grand ballroom to do the dancing. It was a wood floor and with 22 foot ceilings and, and a room that was purposely designed to be a production of an event production space with one of the events that's produced in there is the Viennese ball. But it also, you know, and, and when I always think of is, is amazing as you go in February and you see the, the fireball in there and then almost the polar opposite type of event, you know, a month and a half later, and the Viennese ball and that room is able to do both and they're both jammed with people who want to
be at that event.

JK: (50:15)
Right. So what were some of the biggest challenges in your opinion when moving from the old Davies Center to the current center?

CF: (50:24)
Where things should go. I mean, there were some real easy things like, you know, no one had any argument with putting the new orchestra in jazz one into the grand ballroom. That was an easy , you know, slam dunk. The one question that, we, we thought because of the Dorf Kapelle had always been into the other ballroom, that we had to put it in there, and it just didn't work. It wasn't big enough. And, you know, I think that, not that we could change the structure, but yeah, we're in where it is now in the marketplace is not ideal with all those columns and the fireplace, but it works in its own quirky little way and you can stand, which was what I would do, up in the living room and watch what's going on downstairs and that you couldn't do any other space before.

CF: (51:29)
So, so that was, that was a challenge. Where to put the faculty recital. It moved around it, I think it's still in the cabin, if I'm remembering correctly. It had been a couple of different places. The acapella groups, we're a huge challenge. I mentioned earlier that they were in the old market place in the old Davies Center. They started out all of them being in the auditorium, which then became a big sweaty mess because there were too many fans, not enough space. And people stood right in front of other people, so they couldn't see as the place got way over, overfilled. I'm trying to, I don't remember what year we decided to break up the groups. And so we, I think had the two or three groups that have huge audiences, they stayed in the auditorium, if I'm remembering correctly and the groups that were newer and, or, usually attract as smaller audience. Those were pushed into other spaces. And I think if I was remembering correctly, went down to the cabin and so they alternated with faculty recital, that would happen. Then, but I, I
wouldn't swear to that. I'd, I'd have to look at the program to remembering faculty. What ended up, where, because things change from year to year. And you know, I went to what 22 is it 22 or 24 balls, after a while, one was very much like another end and I just don't remember which year we did what, unless they were really big things. The other challenges where the piano bar, which I mentioned a little while ago, we put it in a room similar in size to what the presidents room had been, but we just said very after the first year there was way too small and we decided to, after we move the Dorf Kapelle out of the Dakota ballroom.

CF: (53:46)
We decided, you know, what, what’s the worst that can happen with the, with the piano bar. And so, Karen talked to Tim, whose been our piano bar, got for decades and said, here's what we're thinking about doing. Are you cool with it? And, he, one of the things we like about him is how easily he rolls with the punches. He was not going to be offended and flounce off if, if the room wasn't full because we put him in a room that was a little too big and in fact just the opposite happened. It got even bigger, which, you know, as a performer, of course he loves, so, you know, there were things that just sort of evolved that we couldn't necessarily have predicted like the growing piano bar. The, trying to think, what were the other challenges, the photographic area. Initially I think we had, we had down on the first floor that did not work. I think we tried to do it at the, bottom of the stairs? I can't remember where we, we tried to do it somewhere on the first floor and it just, it did not work well. And it actually is, has, I think, found its home outside our offices on the second floor. We had, and I don't know how many years you've gone to the ball, for many, many years of a ball had this little store in it. Which I never exactly understood, but sold all of these catchy knick knacks from Vienna, and they used to go to a, like a home goods trade show. And buy these imported crystal things. Sort of, you know what I'll call, you know, German esque, towels and, and you know, you know, kitchen towels and just stuff and people would buy them as remembrances of the ball. Occasionally we had tee shirts. I think, one of my favorite tee shirts that I own is we did a fun, set of tee shirts. One year I have a teal tee shirt that has the top of fake lederhosen printed on the t shirt. And I think on the back it says, "Polka? You Betcha" or something like that. We had a couple of different fun little phrases on the back of those shirts. They didn't sell as well as we know. And so we discontinued those. In the old Davies center we had this little room called the alumni room that was right next to the, to the Koltz fire ballroom. I was across the hall from it, where the Polka band was. And so the, and I can't remember what we called it. The little store did pretty well. We had a fit, we had a set that was put into the rooms you, so it looked like a little street market, when you went like a little German Christmas. Bazaar. And after we moved, we tried it, we opened up where the blue gold cart offices one year that didn't work. Then we put it up, at the top of the stairs where you walk into the activities involvement and leadership office. We use pipe and drape to kind of build out a little store into the right to the edge of the court or has the, their front desk covered up and we all the stuff there. And that didn't really work. And we finally decided that the little store had run its course. It was more effort than was worth. We were losing money every year on it. So one year we clearanced everything. And, I want to say that was probably like, man, 2015, maybe we
clearanced everything, said, you know, it's just done with, we've talked in the committee about the fact that people weren't buying and they kind of were agreeing, you know, the people, both university staff and non university staff and, we just decided that we're done and so we just continued that. And part of that was the location didn't work. And I think part of it too is you know, it was just, something that that in the end, wasn't you know, kind of run its course and it was done with.

JK: (58:42)
So like,was the cost ever an issue between the old center and the new center? Did that ever become a challenge, you know, like raising funds for that.

CF: (58:51)
Well, because the, the student center there was the university terrace paid for, you know, most of the production, the ball itself, I don't think, did not feel the full impact of, what the additional production costs were, are limiting the decoration because we didn't have to cover up and ugly old building, helped. So where production costs went up in some, in some areas because the space was just so much grander and needed, you know, to be dealt with in a, in a different way was negated by the fact that it was so much more attractive and therefore we didn't have to cover it all up, and so it, it didn't completely balance out, but it was not the, the income that the ball has created has not, gone down a whole lot because of being in the new, in the new building. And in large part that's because, I think as a group we were pretty creative. We cut our losses on a few
things, like saying, “hey, we don't need to, to decorate all this stuff. We don't need to have”, at one point we had a large storage unit, which I actually have now a large storage unit Banbury, where I have half my house, still. And that was the Viennese ball storeroom for years cause we didn't have enough room in the old Davies Center to store stuff cause we, we own basically all these movie sets. So we brought out to, you know, build little Vienna, and we didn't need that any more. So we got rid of a lot of stuff. So the costs, you know, shifted and, and, and, and we're different. You know, the, the cost for instance, of decorating the grand ballroom is much higher than it used to be because we have to run the lifts and given over to, instead of doing the same thing every year, we have print, I think it's still Brent Douglass, comes in and designs a slightly different space every year. Where in the past we had just, use a step ladder and hung ferns around the, the tray ceiling and had created these little wooden planters that were full of Geranium. And we were done so we didn't have to fill the space the way you do in that gigantic
ballroom, so just trade off.

JK: (01:01:34)
Yeah. So earlier you were talking about some of the feedback you received from the new center, but how would you describe the overall feedback from the transition from the old center to the new center?

CF: (01:01:45)
Well, again, the first year was really rough and, both people in university and Eau Claire
community were, pretty rotten to Karen Stuber. They were mean and said nasty things. And you know, she was very unhappy and took it very personally. And, I was disappointed that both people in the university, and, people in the Eau Claire Community where some nasty about it. I think that after a couple of years and that people who, who had been, had a terrific time and they saw that, you know, the new building works really well to, to produce this event, even though it was different from what they experienced before. And, and people who maybe had never been to the ball or hadn't been to the ball in years came back because they had heard good things about
how the new Davies center had worked so well. For the, the ball, it all sort of settled down. You know, are there a few old timers who will say, “I remember when we used to do this and this and this and this,” you know, in the old day center and it's too bad that, you know, we can't do that anymore. Those, those people have, have, pretty much stop that. I think just because, you know, common sense.

JK (1:03:29)
Yeah. It's never coming back to the way you want it to be.

CF: (1:03:33)
Right, exactly. And I, and I think that the other thing that's happened is that there are even more, I mean, one of the things that was a weird thing when I moved to, to Eau Claire, I remember being at Gold's gym with in a couple of months of, of showing up here. And the Davies Center was on the news, and I was on the treadmill at the time just sort of watching the local news and I stopped because I thought, “oh my God, the building's on fire or something's wrong.” And I realized, oh no, it was just like the Chamber of Commerce event that, at the Davies center and as I got used to the Eau Claire community and the culture there, having come from, you know, working here in Chicago before it, the Davies Center is really the Eau Claire Regional student center and it gets used for all sorts of things in the community and it's on the news all the time.

CF: (01:04:27)
And so, I think as more people got into the new building and saw how well it worked for all the different kinds of events that it does, then I think even the people who maybe kind of sort of wish it was a little bit more like, you know, there's the V, the V-ball was a little bit more like it used to be kind of realize that this building is so much better than the old one. That, you know, the, there's the trade off, you know, wasn't even worth talking about. And so, that also silenced, you know, anyone who was still, you know, maybe Tibet chain just a little bit.

JK: (01:05:05)
So people were overall, it wasn't very popular when it first started out, but over the years that people just kind of grew to like the new formatting for it.

CF: (01:05:16)
No, I am not sure I would see it exactly like that. I think even from our first instance, it was, you know, 80%, 90% of the people that went to the event, were, were, were very, impressed by, you know, what we had done, you know, by taking this event that had really grown up in a different space and completely reimagining how it would work in this new building. It was the 10% that had no imagination and no common sense and or we're not smart enough to think that you don't build a student center does for a two day event, who, who were dragging their feet saying, well, this is awful. You've ruined the Viennese Ball. So I would say that it was, it was always popular and Karen got the positive feedback. I think she just wasn't prepared for the negative feedback
because she had to ever deal with that before.

CF: (01:06:18)
And people were really, the people who, who gave negative feedback, we're really nasty about it, and I think shocked her. And so, it was still a very small number of people who were unhappy after we moved, but they were unhappy in a pretty vocal and particularly unpleasant way. And you know, when you invest as much time and effort as Karen Stuber that event and, over so many years, and then you have people, some of whom she had known for decades, right, you really biting emails about how you have ruined this experience for them. It hurts. And I think that she just wasn't prepared for that. And you know, she, I read some of those things and they were very disappointing and clearly people who had no common sense, and who, just, you know, why it always to be the way it always had been and that just wasn't going to be reality anymore. and, you know, again, by the second year almost all of that had washed, washed away and so it was just a surprise I think of that first, of that first year. And, it's a very different events. You know, you walked into spaces is cause it was, it had been the same for so many years and when
things had been added on, it had been done so gently that you hardly knew that there was this new thing. And then all of a sudden absolutely everything is different because you've plucked up this event out of this, this old, low ceilings, long narrow building and plopped it into the current. And there was no hiding the fact that it was all totally different.

JK: (01:08:14)
It was, the difference was pretty blatant, I would assume.

CF: (01:08:20)
No, no. Trying to cover up the fact that, but all the elements were still there. I mean, that's what I couldn't exactly wrap my head around when people were really, and it has unfolded over so many years and we started the planning for the Davies Center in 2008. And, we didn't open until 2012 and you know, at least for the, both the 2011 and the 2012, the Viennese Ball, you could look out the windows from the, the main ballroom and you could see the new building looming over the old one, and you know, it was a surprise. And again, you know, some, some folks in, in both UW Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Community in general do not embrace change very readily. And so, you know, it, it just, it, it just was a surprise, I think the folks about how different it was. But I think, you know, I don't want to say that now it's in the new building, it's, it's, it's a better event. It's just a somewhat different events. And certainly the Davies, the current Davies Center is built to produce events, you know, purposely where, the old Davies center, parts of it had been structured that way, but by and large, you know, at least two thirds of it hadn't. And so it's sometimes struggled. But every single square inch of that building is built to
serve the student body and to produce events for the university. And, it does that really well. And I think once people saw that and embrace it, then it wasn't an issue.

JK: (01:10:21)
Right. So when 2017, that was the last year you were part of the chair. So can you describe for us what the committee was like when you left, like the year that you left, kind of what happened, what was the inner workings like, what, what sort of happened with that?

CF: (01:10:39)
Well, you know, I, I think that, one of the things that, that, we had, had, had moved away from, was that, when, when Ada Bors had been in charge, I think there was a, a very high level of formality, with the group, cause that’s just who she was. And then Beverly saw, and Karen were involved in the event. It was somewhat more informal, but it was still very, it had, just it had touches of, of the old formality. By the time that last year came, came along, we had almost like a shadow government, if you will, in the form of our staff that without Karen there, we had taken the role she played in divided amongst about six or seven people, and I had been very frank with people that, the expectation the university was that our department would produce this event and then we were not going to hire somebody just to produce the ball. And so we were all going to take on different bits and pieces of this, and that, that was the most efficient way to do it, without Karen there anymore. And so the, in my mind, the Viennese ball committee have become much more of a less of a social, we're playing this nice social event committee and much more of a, we're, you know, we're a production team and we're here to produce an event. And this is our mission, this is the event. We've done this before. You know, what works, what doesn't, and much more businessy, you know, Chop Chop, we move through things much more, much more quickly and make decisions much more quickly. Probably was something that some of the, community members didn't really like because they weren't used to it, and it was probably the beginning of phasing them out, just because they were used to this sort of more of a country club atmosphere, if you will, of of, quietly making changes and making incremental changes very slowly and talking things through, being very genteel too. This is a production meeting. You know, you're going to handle this, you're going to handle that, you're going to handle this other
thing, go. And, I think for some people that probably wasn't a good match to their personality, but that's what we needed to do to make this work because it didn't make any sense to ask the student body to pay for a part time salary for somebody to coordinate ball, and we also didn't feel that it made a lot of sense to put it all on one person. You know, Karen had grown up with this event from its, she attended absolutely every ball except for one, when her children were born. And, you know, she was highly and emotionally involved in it. You can't replicate that just by asking somebody to do it. And so, you know, it was, I talked with our executive staff, in the student center and we all agreed that taking on a much more sort of businessy invent management, tack to making this work was the only way we're going to get this done, and no one, was, willing or, or felt able to sort of step into Karen shoes by themselves.

JK: (01:14:48)
Right. So would you describe your time on the Committee has very enjoyable then?

CF: (01:14:54)
Oh, sure. You know, I, it to some extent, I, I, you know, I, I am a very, you know, action oriented person is, you know, I don't want to meet just to meet, I want to meet with a purpose. And have, you know, tasks laid out that, you know, everyone's, you know, advances, whatever it is, meeting about, I think that, you know, one of the things I really like about the Viennese ball and I think it's the best example of it, is that it highlights everything that UW Eau Claire is good at, and you know, it shows off our music program. It shows off the talents of the students, you know, who may not be musically inclined but are, you know, say the, the moving statues or our students on the event production team. And, and it is really a showcase for the university itself in a way that is different than, you know, say when our, when, when the university hosts the, the holiday concert as an example, that shows off our students' musical talent, but it's an entertainment event where people come sit, watch and leave. They don't actually participate the way they do in the Viennese ball, which is very much a, a, a, they're part of it. And, that's what makes it different from just a production that that gets put on over at Haas. And, so I've always been a big supporter of the ball, because it's such a great showcase for the university. And you know, people who, you know, especially during the most money in there, Scott Walker was the governor of Wisconsin. When you had somebody who is such enemy of public education. Who is the chief executive of the state? You know, there are lots of people in Eau Claire, who in Eau Claire who agree with him and it's harder to agree with. (Phone Rings in background) Sorry, I’ll make that call go away.. It's harder to agree with people who are enemies of public education or higher education, as a whole. When you were at an event and you see people who are 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, doing these things in front of you, you actually see, sometimes people who you saw two years ago when they were first year students now are a junior or senior. And you can see the marked changing them. Maybe they were one of the young man, the Statesman who, were, were up in one of the back bleachers when they, you first saw them and now they're one of the soloists their last year. You can see that growth. It's harder to hate the university and want to continue to cut budgets and raise tuition if you are attending this event and seeing the talent that UW Eau Claire sponsors and help mold in the students who attend there.

JK: (01:18:34)
So why did you leave the committee?

CF: (01:18:37)
Well, I left the university. Yeah. So that necessitated by leaving the committee though.

JK: (01:18:45)
Right. Do you miss working on the committee?

CF: (01:18:49)
Well, I mean, I work on committees here. I've worked in higher education for 32 years. So there's, there's, they're always committee, to be on. I do, I do, you know, think you, I work at a school of 31,000 students, you know, in, in downtown Chicago. And, and so there are not events that have the same kind of, you know, history or are, you know, kind of involve the community in the same way because it's, it's, it's harder in a big urban area to, to, to do that sort of thing. Yes, I missed that part of it. But, you know, I get to do all the same things just at a different school for different reasons.

JK: (01:19:33)
Right. So in your opinion, what makes the Viennese ball a special event?

CF: (01:19:39)
Well, I think I was, kinda saying that a minute or two ago. In that, it is, it is such a great
showcase for the student body of, of Eau Claire and what makes UW Eau Claire unique, and I think that, you know, there was some talk at one point after Chancellor Levin- Stankevich came on board. He was Jewish and was maybe less thrilled about the overtly German overtones of the event. And there were some open questions at why, why do we host a German events? You should, we have an international ball. Should we do this? Should we do that? And I think that the decision was, was taken it, that while we could do that, it loses its flavor. And that part of what makes the V-Ball work is it, it's this musical showcase for the institution, but it's also a reason to get dressed up and to have an event. You know, if you had, you know, if your theme one year was South America in the next year, it's in Africa, are people going to, you know, take on cultural appropriation, and try dressing in costume? Are they still going to come in black tie? You know, it, it would change the event in such a substantial way that we don't know that it would continue to have the same appeal that it does. So what makes the, the V-ball work is, it's
to some extent, kind of like a prom for the community without being a prom. And, it gives people, there aren't a lot of reasons any more people to get dressed up. You do it for weddings, and you do when you're in high school for prom, but once you get past that, you're kind of done. Unless you live in an area that has, you know, say an east coast, if you do, you're part of a, a country club or a city club that has, you know, formal events. You know, like I, I'm going to be going to a ball at one of my churches, throws as a fundraiser in, in a, in a couple of weeks. They change the theme every year. So it's different and the venue. But, in a community, like Eau Claire, it's, it's less likely to happen. And so I think there is a group of people who, who enjoy that and want to continue it. And so that's, I think part of what makes it unique as well.

JK: (01:22:33)
So what value does it have to the people of Eau Claire, or the community as a whole?

CF: (01:22:39)
I think it's a really long way. Like I was saying earlier, a tiny community to the university. Any tangible way. It's, it's not people coming to a speaker or coming to watch, an athletic event or coming to watch performance of some sort. They're coming to an event that they get to participate in. And, that I think people take ownership of and feel a part of that. And then even people who didn't go to UW Eau Claire feel like they're part of the UW Eau Claire community because they have attended the ball and that ties the community to, the university, which for a mid size regional university is heavily dependent upon public support, if not financially, at least in kindl that's, that's really, really valuable.

JK: (01:23:45)
So the last thing we have for you is, is there anything that you want to talk about that we didn't ask you?

CF: (01:23:57)
I don't really think so. Trying to think if there's anything that I think, I didn’t yammer on about they should have. Not that I can think of right now. I mean if, if you all think of something or something comes up in one of your other conversations, you want to check in with me, feel free to shoot me an email, we'll find a time to talk. I, I think, you know, the last 90 minutes we've kind of covered most of what, you know, my involvement with the Ball was and I've seen it evolve. So, yeah.

JK: (01:24:43)
All right. Other than that, that concludes the formal interview that we have. So we want to say thank you for your participation in this event and we will fax you these documents, that way you could sign it. And other than that, my name is Jon Kedrowski and this is, introduce yourself I guess.

Dylan Lueck: (01:25:03)
Hi, I'm Dylan and I'm partners with him. So no thank you very much for this. We appreciate it.

CF: (01:25:08)
Yeah, sure thing. I'm happy to help you actually get a fax them or you're going to email them to me.

JK: (01:25:12)
I think we had the facts then. We'll get this sent over to you as soon as we can. Really point to sort of, I don't know if these exactly what can be emailed to you. I mean, we could ask Dr Ott and I'm sure we could actually email it to you, but

CF: (01:25:29)
I don't know that I have the fax. Okay. So,

JK: (01:25:33)
Okay, so we'll just email or we'll just tell Dr. Ott, if we could just email you. All right, other than that, I have a good rest of your day and thank you for your participation, Mr Farrell.

CF: (01:25:45)
You Bet. Yup. Thanks so much. Take care. Bye

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