UW-Platteville alumni celebrate 40 years of friendship with continuing reunions

Written by Ruth Wendlandt on Thu, 10/21/2021 - 10:25 |
2021 Ozone KLH reunion
2021 Ozone KLH reunion

It’s a celebration of lasting friendships, memories, and stories from the days spent on the UW-Platteville campus. For 40 years, Mike Kopf ’79 and his wife Kathy (Littel) Kopf ’80 have been organizing reunions for their fellow Pioneers. The weekend gatherings have been held every five years since graduation, starting in 1985. The latest reunion was postponed a year due to the pandemic and held in July, bringing more than 65 friends back to the Southwest corner of the state.

“It’s awesome,” said Kathy. “We have a mailing list, and in the early part of the year, we send a save the date. About 6-8 weeks before the reunion, we send out a registration form so we know how many people will attend. For the people who come from far away, they go all out. It’s so much fun.” 

The event is full of reminiscing, going back to local favorites, listening to live music, flipping through photo albums, and for some, staying up to watch the sunrise. There are many in the group who have never missed a reunion, including Susan (Wanless) Sexton ’81 and Gary Cobus ’90. 

“Our group of friends have a unique special bond,” said Cobus. “When we had the chance to get together every five years we thought, why does it have to end when we all have graduated and moved on? Let’s try to keep in touch. We tried to make it easy on ourselves by making the reunion years that ended on a five or a zero.”

“The name of the reunion is Ozone KLH,” added Sexton. “I always love going back to Platteville. Like everyone who goes to school, there are times you think, ‘Wow! It was a good time to be young and it was.” 

All the attendees each have their own favorite part of the weekend and for Mike it’s the annual group picture.

“It’s probably the most memorable part of the whole evening for me,” he said. “It’s a lasting memory of this group of people who came from far and wide and close by too, who took the time to enjoy each other’s company and the relationships that carry on 40-some years later.”

For others, it’s looking out at the landscape with their friends. 

“It’s a magical area with the all the mounds and dairy farms. It’s a beautiful area,” said Cobus.

Sexton echoes the same sentiment.

“You tend to forget how the Southwest corner is not only a gem for our state, but also a gem for the whole country,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful to have a reminder to get back together and see the area. A lot of history is there.”

This year, to coincide with the reunion, the group decided to incorporate a fundraiser benefiting Pioneer Provisions, a free pantry/grocery service on campus for students experiencing food insecurity. Together, the alumni donated $750 and collected three carts full of food.

“We are at a stage in our life that we can give back,” said Kathy. “We have realized over the years how truly generous our friends are. We decided to pick a place that benefited UW-Platteville students because we all have such great memories.” 

As the Kopfs reflect on their own UW-Platteville experiences, they hope the next generation of Pioneers are having just as much fun. According to Mike, you never know who you might meet.

“You learn how to deal with people that you don’t know about at first, and then they become some of your best friends,” he said. “We came together for a lot of things. We had a lot of celebrations. We put together softball teams. We competed in campus events. We tried to have a good time together – it was meaningful to see everyone develop.”

As prospective students are looking to further their education, Sexton said she enjoys giving a gentle nudge about her alma mater.

“I’m happy and proud to always remind students who are thinking of schools about UW-Platteville,” she said. “Not everyone wants to go to the East or West Coasts, they feel comfortable in the Midwest. UW-Platteville is a wonderful place and opportunity for students in our corner of the state and tri-state area.”

The reunions may have changed throughout the years, but the one thing that remains the same is the lasting impact of UW-Platteville. It’s enough to make friends from across the country journey back home for one weekend every five years. 

“I enjoyed my time at UW-Platteville. I think of it fondly,” said Cobus. “I hope others consider staying in touch with their group of friends, like we did. It’s been a richly rewarding experience of my life.” 

“The best memories of my whole life were spent on that campus,” added Kathy. “Not only the education I received but the people I met. We met some top-notch people. UW-Platteville is very near and dear to us.”