Tragedy and compassion

Death of international student is university’s top story of 2016

December 28, 2016

Friends of Hussain Alnahdi hold candles during his memorial service Nov. 3 at UW-Stout.

It will be remembered as the year international student Hussain Alnahdi was attacked and died in downtown Menomonie, but 2016 at University of Wisconsin-Stout also will be remembered for the compassion shown in light of the tragedy.

The Oct. 31 death of Alnahdi, of Saudi Arabia, leads the list of UW-Stout’s top 10 news stories for 2016, as chosen by the University Communications staff. The case, still under investigation by Menomonie police, has drawn national and international media attention, some of it for the heartfelt reactions to the death, including a sidewalk memorial, a memorial service and a memorial dinner led by Alnahdi’s friends.

The No. 2 news story of the year is the university’s yearlong celebration of its quasquicentennial, 125th anniversary.

Rounding out the top five are the Science Olympiad National Tournament, which drew more than 5,000 people to campus in May; the September grand reopening of Harvey Hall after a $28.3 million renovation; and fall enrollment of 9,619, a record for the third straight year.

Other top 10 stories in 2016 are: the university’s reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission; a report that 97.3 percent of recent graduates are employed; reorganization of the university’s colleges to help meet a state budget cut; approval of a School of Engineering; and UW-Stout partnering in a $500,000 local watershed project.

Omar Alkohmos, of Saudi Arabia, wipes a tear at the Hussain Alnahdi memorial service.Following are summaries of the top 10 stories:

1.Alnahdi death and memorial events: Alnahdi died the day after he was found beaten and unconscious early Oct. 30 outside Toppers Pizza on Main Street. A suspect has been identified by Menomonie police, but no arrests have been made. Police have said the attack was not a hate crime and that the suspect, from Minnesota, is not a UW-Stout student.

A memorial service held Nov. 3 at the Memorial Student Center outdoor amphitheater drew about 1,000 people, and a memorial dinner Nov. 17 at the student center, featuring traditional Saudi Arabian food, drew about 750 people. A memorial fund has raised more than $10,000.

Chancellor Bob Meyer, in his Dec. 17 commencement speech, said he is proud of the university’s and community’s reaction to the tragedy. He read from an email sent to him by one of Alnahdi’s roommates. “I have never felt more honored to call myself a UW-Stout student,” the roommate said. “The student body, and surrounding community, has become closer than I would have ever imagined. Thank you for being so passionate about this school, its students and the community. Thank you for inspiring us, so that together we could hopefully inspire thousands more!”

2. 125th anniversary: UW-Stout kicked off a special anniversary year with a celebration Jan. 5, 125 years from the day in 1891 when it opened as Stout Manual Training School. Gov. Scott Walker and UW System President Ray Cross attended the celebration. Walker proclaimed it UW-Stout Day in Wisconsin. Other anniversary events were held during homecoming and throughout the year, which wrapped up with the December publication of a definitive book about the history of UW-Stout, “An Idea Comes of Age.”

Students from Menomonie High School, one of the Wisconsin qualifiers, participate in the Science Olympiad National Tournament opening ceremony.

3. Science Olympiad National Tournament: The 32nd annual event was hosted by UW-Stout for the first time. Teams from California and Illinois took home the top high school and middle school prizes, respectively. About 3,000 competitors and 2,000 spectators representing 49 states and Japan were on campus for three days, May 19-21, including a science expo.

Dignitaries prepare to cut the ribbon at Harvey Hall grand reopening.

4. Harvey Hall reopening: A $28.3 renovation project that lasted more than two years, shutting down the largest classroom building on campus, ended with a grand reopening celebration Sept. 22. UW System President Ray Cross and other dignitaries were on hand to cut the ribbon, rededicate the 100-year-old building and tour the like-new classrooms, offices and other spaces.

5. Record enrollment: With 9,619 students, UW-Stout set an enrollment record for the third straight fall. The previous record was 9,535. In the last 20 years, UW-Stout’s enrollment has increased by about 29 percent, more than double the rate of the UW System as a whole.

6. Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation: The HLC, one of the regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities, visited UW-Stout in March and in July announced reaccreditation, which is good until 2025-26. In its 95-page report, the review team said it has “confidence in the direction UW-Stout is headed.”

7. 97.3 percent employment: The 2014-15 Employment Report, compiled by the UW-Stout Career Services office, revealed that 97.3 percent of the most recent graduates were employed or continuing their education within six months of leaving campus. The report covers graduating classes in August 2014, December 2014 and May 2015. The 2013-14 employment rate was 97.1 percent, and the rate was 97 percent the previous year.

8. Colleges reorganization:In an effort to meet a state budget cut, the number of colleges was reduced from four to three, effective July 1, saving UW-Stout $360,000 a year. The College of Management was eliminated and blended into two other colleges.

9. School of Engineering approved: The UW System Board of Regents approved the new school Aug. 18. No additional university funding was requested. The school will help coordinate existing engineering programs, which have 500 students, and help develop additional programs. The new school also will assist in raising private funds for engineering education, UW-Stout officials said.

10. Watershed project: Along with the state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, UW-Stout will help lead the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership, which received $500,000 in grants and funding through 2018 to improve regional water quality in lakes, rivers and streams. The project, involving 25 organizations, was announced in June.

The top 10 stories represent a small fraction of university news in 2016. For links to all UW-Stout news stories, go to the university news page.

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Photos

Top: Friends of Hussain Alnahdi hold candles during his memorial service Nov. 3 at UW-Stout.

Second: Omar Alkohmos, of Saudi Arabia, wipes a tear at the Hussain Alnahdi memorial service Nov. 3 at UW-Stout. At left is Tommy Hutson, of Chippewa Falls, one of Alnahdi’s roommates.

Third: Students from Menomonie High School, one of the Wisconsin qualifiers, participate in the Science Olympiad National Tournament opening ceremony in May at UW-Stout.

Bottom: Dignitaries prepare to cut the ribbon at Harvey Hall grand reopening in September.