Campus mourns the loss of ‘Ultimate Badger’ Arlie Mucks
UW–Madison alumni and Badger sports fans are among those mourning the death of “Mr. Wisconsin,” former Wisconsin Alumni Association executive director Arlie Mucks, Jr. He died Saturday at age 84.
“The university has lost one of its most enthusiastic ambassadors,” says Chancellor John D. Wiley. “Arlie worked tirelessly on behalf of this institution and its athletic programs, and he touched the lives of thousands of Wisconsin alumni around the world.”
A memorial service celebrating Mucks’ life will be held on Thursday, March 31, at 2 p.m. at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison.
WAA President and CEO Paula Bonner says Mucks was known and loved far and wide, adding that alumni directors from around the country would also be saddened by the news of his passing.
“We have lost a great cheerleader and a true Badger,” says Bonner. “Arlie did a tremendous amount to position the Wisconsin Alumni Association for its growth and the reputation it has today.”
Mucks headed the association from 1962-1989 and produced a long list of accomplishments. Throughout his tenure and beyond, he worked to strengthen the university’s ties to its alumni. In his first editorial in the alumni magazine, he wrote: “Our stay (as students) at the university will forever affect our lives.” He went on to say that alumni have an obligation to give back to their alma mater with understanding and support.
Under his leadership, WAA became the second largest independently funded alumni association in the United States. He established the alumni travel program and the pre-game “Badger huddles,” which raised money for UW–Madison scholarships. Mucks built the association’s international club program and spearheaded the effort to build the UW–Madison alumni house on Lake Street. He co-founded the Wisconsin Singers group in 1967 and accepted the donation of the Bucky Wagon in 1969.
When Mucks announced his retirement in the fall of 1988, then UW–Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala said she had a number of special projects in mind for him.
“I love Arlie Mucks! The university wouldn’t be any fun without him, and I have no intention of letting him get away,” Shalala said at the time. As a special assistant to the chancellor, Mucks continued to work on the institution’s behalf for many more years.
He served as a special consultant to the Athletic Department from 1992-2003, where he helped to develop the Bucky Ambassadors program. It utilizes about 50 volunteers, most of them retirees, who work on special events, conduct tours and help with other department needs.
“Not only was he a great friend of the Badgers and the university, but he was a great personal friend of mine for the past 40 years,” says former UW–Madison Athletic Director Pat Richter. “When he moved from WAA to the chancellor’s office, he was a big help to Donna (Shalala) and subsequently to me. He always had time to help out and spread the word. I don’t think there ever has been, nor ever will be, anyone who will be able to exhibit the amount of enthusiasm, energy and dedication to the University of Wisconsin and the Badgers that Arlie did.”
Wisconsin Senior Associate Athletic Director Vince Sweeney describes Mucks as the “ultimate Badger.”
“Arlie represented the spirit and loyalty of Badger fans everywhere,” Sweeney says. “He was so proud of this athletic department, this university and this community, and he was committed to work hard at making things better.”
In a 1988 interview, Mucks said, “I have been nourished by people’s love for the university. At Wisconsin, there is a spirit that’s hard to define.”
He epitomized that spirit. Wearing his signature red hat with a stuffed Bucky Badger head on it and his custom-made red pants with white Ws, he was easy to spot in a crowd. His office phone played “On Wisconsin” when he got a call. And he kept a red pen nearby for writing short notes to people that always ended with “On Wisconsin!”
Marlene Vlachina, a Bucky ambassador and longtime friend of Mucks, says he was one of a kind and a legend. “He was the most kind and caring person I’ve had the good fortune to know,” says Vlachina. “‘Love thy neighbor and the University of Wisconsin’ was his motto.”