Becky Cranston is proud to say she’s a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Her connections with the university, however, go far beyond receiving a diploma. She grew up in north Menomonie, and nine of her relatives have attended UW-Stout, including her father and a sister.
She remembers ice skating from the north end of Lake Menomin to the south end as a means of transportation to campus. “It was easier to skate than to drive and find a place to park,” she said.
She loved the old student Winter Carnival with large snow sculptures when she attended from 1960 to 1964. She recalls wearing a white uniform to her dietetics classes, changing in a locker room for women in the basement of Harvey Hall. UW-Stout also helped launch her teaching career for 1½ years in the mid-1960s.
“I have Stout floating in my blood,” she said.
Cranston, a resident of Kent, Ohio, has been away for more than 50 years, but she hasn’t forgotten about her alma mater in her hometown, and she wants UW-Stout to continue to thrive.
That’s why the retired dietetics professor recently committed $1 million as an estate gift, with the possibility of donating some of that gift earlier.
The gift is in addition to her other university support in recent years. She has established the Rebecca Gralow Cranston Dietetics Professional Development Fund, an endowed fund to support dietetics faculty. She has made several significant gifts to the Chancellor’s Fund for Teaching Excellence and Student Success, and this past summer she supported faculty work to help develop an online Master of Science program in dietetics.
“I’m really excited for the new program. It’s very challenging, and that’s what students need these days,” she said.
She has targeted faculty and the dietetics program with her donations.
“Without faculty you don’t have much of a program,” Cranston said, citing the many outstanding professors she had when she was at UW-Stout. “My professors were all focused toward shaping your philosophy of teaching and giving us the technical knowledge and work ethic and skills to succeed in the profession.
“I wanted to honor the program and the teachers and the success I’ve had,” she said.
Willie Johnson, vice chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations, said the commitments will make a difference at UW-Stout.
“Becky’s gift will provide resources for our instructors to develop new and innovative curriculum that will enhance the students’ learning experiences. It is an outstanding example of a blended gift received during the Pathways Forward campaign,” Johnson said.
Stout University Foundation’s Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign has already exceeded its initial goal of $35 million and is working toward an aspirational goal of $40 million before the campaign ends June 30, 2020.
Cranston returned to campus in 2018 for the Pathways Forward campaign kickoff. When she graduated in 1964 enrollment reached 2,000 for the first time, less than a quarter of what it is today. She was an officer in the Dietetics Club and was an editor of the Tower student yearbook, which received a national award in 1963.
Long teaching career in dietetics
Cranston taught for 25 years at Kent State University, where her husband, a physician who has passed away, was the student health center director. She also taught dietetics eight years at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., before retiring and returning to Kent.
After graduating from UW-Stout, Cranston worked for the University of Michigan athletics program for a year, taught at UW-Stout then earned her master’s degree from Kansas State University.
The passion she had for teaching undergraduates started with the faculty who taught her at UW-Stout, then known as Stout State College. She even credited Tom Fleming, whose English classes helped teach her to write, for a skill that made her a successful grant writer at Kent State.
“The faculty puts so much time and effort into teaching. You have to love teaching the subject matter as well as your students. It’s something you do with a passion, and a passion is to make that career even better for whom you’re serving,” she said.
She initially was unsure of her major but then chose dietetics after two years. Based on her aptitudes, her high school counselor had pegged her for two careers, dietetics or airplane mechanic, she said. “I loved taking things apart; I just didn’t put them back together.”
Cranston challenges other alumni to support UW-Stout and the faculty at any level “to say thanks to those educators who gave you the tools to succeed on your chosen career from Stout. I’ve never interviewed for a job because I have a transcript that says University of Wisconsin-Stout. I don’t think as an undergraduate you realize the reputation of this small school you’re at.”
Becky Cranston has committed $1 million, plus other financial support, to dietetics faculty development at UW-Stout, her alma mater.
Becky Cranston, then Becky Gralow, in 1964 when she graduated from UW-Stout.
Tower staff members Becky Cranston along with Bill Heuser, left, and Tom Heller look at the All-American Award that the student yearbook received in 1963.
Becky Cranston, left, meets with members of the Tower yearbook staff in 1963.