The Event Awards

The Event Awards Program recognizes individuals who embrace principled leadership, strategic thinking, balanced workplace values and an unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Individuals have a unique blend of vision, energy, perseverance and skill and have demonstrated outstanding achievements in operating businesses as well as leadership in the community.

The Fox Cities Chamber is proud to recognize these individuals for their many contributions to the community. These individuals have dedicated themselves as professionals and volunteers to the well-being of the Fox Cities.

See previous award recipients here.

Presenting Sponsor:


ATHENA Leadership Award Sponsor:

Contributing Sponsors:



Event Sponsors:

Affinity Health System
American National Bank - Fox Cities
BConnected, LLC
BMO Harris Bank
Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group
Community First Credit Union
FNB Fox Valley
Fox Communities Credit Union
Johnson Bank
Lawrence University
Nicolet National Bank
Red Shoes PR, Inc.
We Energies
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Wipfli, LLP

The EVENT 2016

Congratulations to this year's award recipients!


Cody Splitt - Attorney (Retired)

Cody Splitt was born in 1919, the year Wisconsin ratified the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. After graduating from high school in Wausau she moved to Milwaukee and worked for Shuster’s department store. In 1942, Cody joined the US Navy as a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

Cody was assigned to Washington DC at the height of WWII. She started in naval intelligence and then was in charge of 200 women personnel. While in Washington, Cody witnessed two historic events of 1945; she was at the Capitol for the swearing-in of President Roosevelt’s fourth term, and she was in the gallery during the President’s address to Congress on the Yalta Conference.

Service to her country allowed Cody to utilize the GI Bill to finish her education. She was the only female veteran of the five total women in her law school class, joined by hundreds of male veterans, at UW-Madison. After her graduation in 1949, Cody and her husband, Harley, moved to Appleton and she opened the second woman-owned law firm in the county. Unfortunately, the firm closed due to a lack of clients but that didn’t slow her down. She continued to practice law and at age 66, she was the first woman to hold the position of Outagamie County Bar Association President. At age 75 she retired from the legal profession and became a member of the Outagamie County Board.

Cody has been recognized as a trailblazer for her years of service to her country and community. In 2013, Cody was honored as a Woman of Distinction by Mid-Day Women’s Alliance, and she received the Wisconsin Law Journal Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

Walt Rugland - Executive Vice President, Thrivent Financial (Retired)

After a lengthy career with Milliman, an international actuarial consulting form, Walter Rugland moved to Appleton from Hartford, Connecticut in 1998 to become Chief Operating Officer at Aid Association for Lutherans.   Before he retired at the end of 2002, AAL had merged with Lutheran Brotherhood to become Thrivent Financial, one of the top five policy owner-owned life insurers in the USA.  Walt had a key role in effecting the successful combination. 

A 1955 graduate of Appleton High School, Walt received a BA degree from Luther College and an MBA from the University of Michigan.  He served his profession as president of the Society of Actuaries and the International Actuarial Association.  He has been recognized with numerous professional awards and recognized by the Actuarial Foundation as an Insurance Legend. 

Walt was recognized in Appleton with Rotary's Heeter award, the annual Walter L. Rugland Community Service Award (named after his late father), and the Appleton West Hall of Fame.  He served 12 years as secretary/treasurer of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.  He serves as board chair of the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, and is past board chair of the ThedaCare Health System, the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region, the Community Blood Center, the Actuarial Foundation, and the Luther Institute in Washington, D.C.  Current board service is with the Fox Cities Building for the Arts, the Appleton Boychoir, the Wisconsin Historical Society and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.   He is an emeritus governing regent of Luther College.

Beginning in 2009 he undertook a major commitment to focus the community on a fully functioning convention facility in the Fox Cities, which has now led to the construction, underway, of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center.

*The Business Hall of Fame is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated personal and business success, business leaders who have gained recognition and honor for outstanding achievement in their industry, who have been dedicated to the economic vitality in our community, and are role models for future generations.



Richard Batley - President, R.B. Batley Hospitality

Rich Batley, President of R. B. Hospitality, founded the hospitality management and consulting company in 2002. In addition, he is a voting member of Best Western International. Rich is an owner/investor in three first-class hotel properties in northeastern Wisconsin - the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa in Appleton; Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel & Conference Center in Neenah; and the newly renovated Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel and Convention Center in Oshkosh. In addition, he is an owner/investor in the Ground Round Grill & Bar in Neenah; the Ground Round at River’s Edge in Oshkosh; and Bridgewood Golf Course in Neenah.

In 2012, Rich received the Best Western International Voting Member of the Year Award. This award was presented at the Best Western Global Conference and North American Convention in Las Vegas in October 2012. The award recognizes and celebrates owners who go above and beyond to live the Best Western vision of providing superior customer care. There are over 4,000 hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide.

Rich was featured as the Franchisee of the Month in the August 2012 issue of Restaurant Business magazine. Rich is considered by his peers as a leader and pacesetter in the Ground Round IOC franchise group of which he is also on the board.

Rich Batley started his hospitality career at the age of 16 as a dishwasher in a small restaurant. Even without the advantage of a formal education, he quickly advanced to cook, then chef, then director of food and beverage, then vice-president of food and beverage, then vice-president of hotel operations and now he owns a hospitality management company that employs approximately 375 team members.

Rich is married to Lori and has four children.

*This award is named in honor of Gus A. Zuehlke, a past Chairman of the Board of the Fox Cities Chamber. In the spirit of Gus' passion for serving his community, this award honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions through leadership in business and service during his/her years as a Chamber member. This business leader has been a job creator through business endeavors, and has made significant contributions as a driver of economic growth in the Fox Cities. The recipient of this award will have a $5,000 award/grant donated in his/her name to the charitable organization of his/her choice.



Tom Wiltzius - President, Wiltzius Associates

A man of faith and decorated Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War veteran, Tom attributes much of his orientation to service to his Christian upbringing, his own military experiences, and those of his parents, Ralph and Lillian, who were both WWII veterans.

After using his GI Bill to complete his undergraduate and graduate education, Tom extended his service to others as a career counselor at Fox Valley Technical College, where his orientation to innovation was nurtured. While at FVTC, Tom led collaborative efforts to start the nation’s first interactive career assessment and planning initiative, build a comprehensive career planning library, and offer adult career services across the FVTC district using post-graduate interns.

His service to adults in career transition inspired Tom to leave the safety of FVTC in a venture that would span almost 20 years, founding one of the first outplacement firms in the Midwest, with his partner Carl Wuornos. Together, Tom and Carl would win several awards for entrepreneurship and small business leadership. Tom served as an advisory to many displaced professionals, helping them re-employ or start their own businesses. 

Over the last 20 years, Tom has split his time between his formal leader development coaching for individuals and teams, and special causes linked to improving the quality of life in our region. He is one of several co-founders of the New North Regional Economic Development initiative, sits on the Boards of the New North, Inc., Goodwill, Insight Publications, and the UW-Oshkosh Chancellor’s Advisory Board. Tom is also involved in leading efforts to establish a Veterans Village and Honor Home for veterans with needs across the life span, and is leading the establishment of a regional leadership institute, the Center for Exceptional Leadership, at St. Norbert College.

*Awarded to an individual who is proactive in the advancement of others by sharing time, talent and business experience for the purposes of promoting growth and opportunity in the Fox Cities Community.



Jean Long Manteufel - Owner, A-1 Moving & Storage

Jean Long Manteufel is the owner of A-1 Moving & Storage in Appleton, which she purchased from her parents, Jerry and Gladie Long. Her son, Mike, has become her minority partner.

In 2007, Jean started a division called Long’s Senior Transitions.  Her passion is to help seniors as they make the transition from the big family house into their next home.  She writes a monthly column for the Post Crescent, Transitions, which talks about life changes that are associated with aging.  In 2014, she published a collection of her columns in a book entitled:  “Transitions:  Stories of how to help Mom and Dad with their stuff.”

Jean enjoys volunteering in our community and helping others achieve their goals.


*Awarded to a woman who has achieved the highest level of professional excellence. This individual contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the Fox Cities community, and actively assists others, particularly women, in realizing their full leadership potential.



Dave Willems - CEO and Principal, Willems Marketing and Events

After college at UW-Green Bay and cool professional opportunities with the Green Bay Packers and a major marketing and promotions firm in Milwaukee, Dave Willems carefully chose Appleton in 1989 as the place for his professional pursuits. It's a decision he counts as one of the best he's made -- next to finding his partner (Mary), opting to start a family (Kim and Paul), and "birthing" Mile of Music.

Dave, along with the team members from his firm, Willems Marketing & Events, Inc. of Downtown Appleton, have been active advocates in the general and business communities. The team has helped business and not-for-profits launch, grow -- and glow. The firm's objective is to proudly stand backstage while its clients stand firmly on. In addition to serving their clients, Dave and his team, within the Willems Marketing building just off College Avenue, have initiated and helped sustain two innovative programs: the Student Marketing Team, made up of Appleton high school students who work on projects for local businesses and non-profits with little or no marketing budgets; and the Appleton Co-Working space, offering short-term chair and desk rentals for freelancers and entrepreneurs as they get started.

Willems Marketing & Events' mission of providing affordable marketing services to businesses and community organizations melded together perfectly in 2013 with the announcement, launch and execution of the first Mile of Music festival. As part of sustaining the festival and the original music movement in Downtown Appleton, Mile Productions has evolved to begin offering year-round access and affordable opportunities for music fans -- from boomers to millennials -- with a goal of producing remarkable experiences with music right here in our community.

*Awarded to an individual who, through his/her own risk and initiative, has established a thriving and successful business.



Patrick Minskey - Advisor, Edward Jones

Patrick has distinguished himself both academically and professionally. He attended UW-Oshkosh, where he acquired both his B.S. in Economics as well as his MBA. He graduated first in his class and was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, a scholastic honor society. Starting his professional career in the explosives industry working for one of the country’s most specialized blasting companies, he attained the position of Head Explosives Expert and Operations Manager.

FUN FACT: Patrick was one of only a handful of individuals in the Midwest licensed to explosively demolish and implode high-rise buildings!

Wanting a new “safer” challenge, he joined Edward Jones in 2010. Recognized as a leader in his field, Patrick is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and specializes in financial planning for individuals and small businesses. Known for his collaboration with local CPAs and Attorneys on behalf of his clients, he has been recognized by receiving numerous professional awards.

Patrick’s knowledge, background, and enthusiasm have allowed him to help the Fox Cities Chamber in many capacities. Some of these include: serving as a Team-Lead for the chamber’s Ambassador Program, assisting with the Orientation of New Members, facilitating Network Relationships at the monthly Business Connections, and will serve as a Facilitator for the new Business Roundtables just to name a few.

In short, Patrick is always ready to roll up his sleeves for the local community and Fox Cities Chamber.

*Awarded to an individual who, through his/her on-going volunteer efforts within the Fox Cities Chamber, helps strengthen the local economy through innovative leadership, workforce development, and community and business development. This individual influences both members and non-members to become more involved in the Chamber. 



Alison Mayer - Corporate Communications Specialist, US Venture

Nine years ago, Alison Mayer moved back to the Fox Cities after graduating from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Today, the 31-year-old Neenah native has realized a newfound joy in creating a place she is proud to call home and blithely runs on the belief that everyone has a story worth telling.

Alison is currently the corporate communications specialist at U.S. Venture, Inc. in Appleton. As a volunteer, she has accepted key leadership roles at Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs as the secretary of the board, member of the capital campaign cabinet, and chair of the PR committee. She also serves on the marketing committees for Weight of the Fox Valley and Women’s Fund of the Fox Valley. She spent time on the city of Menasha’s Landmarks Commission, authored a book called “The Story of Leif and Lily” for Catalpa Health to tell the story of pediatric mental health through the eyes of a child, is a founding group member of Fox Cities Restaurant Week, came together with nine other community members to create “Hand Over the Fox” in response to the tragic shooting on the Trestle Trail in Menasha last year, and was part of the Future 15 class of 2015. Alison also recently launched a passion project called River + Bay, Wisconsin’s newest online magazine and video channel. 

*The Fox Cities has thousands of young professionals who excel within their places of employment and in the community. This professional excels in his/her respective field and positively influences the quality of life in the Fox Cities. This individual has a hand in attracting and retaining young talent to the area. This Future 15 recipient was chosen based on dedication, a strong sense of vision for the Fox Cities and understanding of the importance of volunteering and giving back. 

Premier Members

Thrivent Financial WE Energies BMO Harris Miller Electric