Family has strong ties to MATC


Photo by Leo Strong

Cathy Lechmaier’s great uncle encouraged her to attend the Milwaukee Continuation School (now MATC) because of his father, who was founding director Robert L. Cooley.

Leaving a place, especially after 39 years, definitely affects a person. Catherine (Cathy) Lechmaier, Student Life, is retiring after spending the majority of her career at the Oak Creek Campus.

“I thought it was time to have a new pair of eyes and a fresh perspective on Student Life and student activities.  Leaving in May also gives my department time to train a new staff person before the next school year starts.  It gives them time to get the office ready and meet the staff of the campus. Also, I have some slight health issues that were creating some difficulties on the job,” Lechmaier explained.

Catherine Lechmaier and her husband and three children all attended MATC.
Photo by Leo Strong
Catherine Lechmaier and her husband and three children all attended MATC.

Lechmaier has a special connection to MATC; Dr. Robert Cooley was her great grand uncle.  If you have ever passed by the Cooley auditorium at the downtown campus, that’s the Cooley she’s related to.

“I never had a chance to meet him, but my great uncle talked about him and his vision for the school and encouraged me to attend MATC at night and get my first of three higher education degrees. This was a big step in my family and I was the first generation to go to college.  I met my husband at MATC, and all three of our children have degrees from MATC as well,” Lechmaier said.

Lechmaier has seen a lot of changes in her time at MATC, and has learned a lot, too. “Seeing the college expand both physically and grow with new challenges such as teacher strikes, bad economic conditions, low and high enrollments, changes in philosophy on how to administer the district staff, budget and departments.  Looking back, and seeing what worked and didn’t work and why.  I had the honor of working under Mr. Ed Taibl and Mr. Al Vanderport in training me for my job in Student Life. Also, Dr. Vicki Martin took me under her wing when she was first hired as the Student Service Director at Oak Creek, and gave me a chance to learn the inner workings of Student Services and guiding students in their academic endeavors,” she commented.

Lechmaier has also experienced a lot, as well. Lechmaier expanded, “There were so many moments over the last 39 years.  VICA State competitions being held at Oak Creek Campus, 25th and 30th campus anniversaries, and MATC’s 100-year anniversary. The campus building and growing with the ECAM, shooting range, fire burn building and athletic fields.  The family-orientated events like end-of-the-year picnics, breakfast with Santa and lunch with the Easter Bunny, and not to be forgotten, Winter Carnival outdoor games.”

“What I will miss the most is students and seeing them grow.  Over the years I had the privilege of seeing two of my student leaders and workers become a coordinator and manager of this institution.  Rita Wood became a Student Life Coordinator and Marisela Galaviz became the Manager of Oak Creek Student Services.  It warms my heart to see people grow personally, academically and professionally and it gives me personal pride that I helped them on that path to success,” Lechmaier stated.

After retirement she would like to volunteer. “I would like to volunteer my time in either the school system in northern Wisconsin, which has been devastated by Act 10 and budget cuts, or the hospitals in either Eagle River or Minocqua.  I would also like to come back to MATC and assist during crunch time for the Student Life department,” she said.

Thirty-nine years leaves a lot to be thankful for. “I have so many people to thank for a wonderful time in my career at MATC. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and hope I have touched some lives in the students I guide on a path to a better life. I am thankful I got to work in a department that for 39 years has strode to bring out the leadership qualities in students and give them the skills that they can take with them in their new careers.  I have also seen inroads made by Student Government, both campus and district wide improvements to the physical buildings, as well as improved and new services suggested by this group of dedicated individuals,” Lechmaier said.

“I look forward to my new path in life, and will miss the one I am leaving,” she said.