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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

Bell Cow award: Professor Bob Gundlach, exemplar leader in college athletics

We started the Wisconsin Sports Leadership program with hopes of helping to form athletics leaders who can make significant positive impacts on lives and communities. One of our signature strategies is to provide aspiring coaches and administrators with concrete models from whom they can learn about how and why to best lead. We refer to these models as “Bell Cows.” Over the past couple years, we’ve identified and honored a range of Bell Cow leaders. We learn deeply from them with the belief that we can each grow the good of the world in and through athletics.

Members of our Sports Leadership and BIOS teams recently visited Northwestern University to present a Bell Cow award to Dr. Bob Gundlach, a Professor Emeritus whose leadership over many years presents lessons for us all. Bob accomplished too much to describe here — including serving as the founding director of the Cook Family Writing Program for over 40 years, chair of the Linguistics Department, interim athletic director (on two separate occasions), and as Faculty Athletics Representative to the Big Ten Conference and NCAA. Underlying these impressive formal roles — each of which he’s carried out with distinction — is a noteworthy "Gundlach Leadership style" marked by wisdom, diligence, integrity, and humility. In a rapidly changing college sports environment where foundational principles of academics and athletics are contested, Bob provided exemplary leadership. We honor Bob for his way of leading.


Congratulations, Professor Gundlach, on your Wisconsin Sports Leadership Bell Cow award!

UW Athletics team members celebrated Professor Gundlach's well-deserved Bell Cow award at the conclusion of our afternoon at Northwestern.

Professor Gundlach with longtime collaborator Janna Blais -- a deputy athletic director at Northwestern.

Professor Gundlach served as a mentor to many Big Ten faculty athletics representatives over the years, including Wisconsin's Pete Miller. Professor Gundlach is extra special because he is a proud Wisconsin alum!

Bob greeted members of our team in the Northwestern visitor’s center, where he shared some stories of his early days as an athlete, student, and Northwestern faculty member. Our stimulating afternoon of conversations on leadership and college athletics were enriched by the spectacular Lake Michigan shoreline setting.



Professor Gundlach and Janna Blais led us through the spectacular athletics facility and we engaged in conversation about how top universities can pursue high level athletics while staying true to our academic principles.



Thank you, Professor Gundlach for hosting our team and for your leadership model over the years!

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