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Marketing Director Vicki Keegan Retires, Leaving Lasting Impact on Wisconsin Union and Colleagues

The day Marketing Director Vicki Keegan left the Wisconsin Union team would have always been too soon, but that day came on Dec. 15, 2023, when she retired from a long career of making a difference, innovating, and leading with kindness and determination.

Vicki’s Wisconsin Union career spans two periods: 1990-1994 and 2019-2023. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna spent most of her career in higher education marketing and communications, including as a student affairs specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Washington County and executive director of marketing and enrollment for University of Wisconsin Colleges.

While at the Wisconsin Union, she helped guide the Wisconsin Union as it navigated how to continue to provide experiences for a lifetime when COVID-19 was its height and a return to more usual operations. She helped launch multiple limited-edition mini Terrace chairs, two lemonades, the opening of new dining options, and so, so much more. While her professional accomplishments could be listed for hours, her smile grows widest when she talks about her accomplishments out-of-the-office: her three children and her grandbabies, as she calls them.

Vicki struck a balance in her life that she emulated for her team and encouraged her team to find: to work hard but then go home, to take care of yourself, and to take care of relationships outside of work.

As an employee of Vicki’s, here are some of the lessons she taught her team that this writer and undoubtedly all her employees will carry with them into the future:

  1. Don’t take work stress home.

Vicki gives her team members permission to leave work at work and to be fully present in their personal lives. And she lives by that commitment. When urgent things arise, she was always there, but a brain consumed with work misses moments and times we’ll never get back.

  1. Strive for balance between work and life outside of work.

Vicki encouraged each of us to find balance in life, to take time to nurture relationships outside of work and personal hobbies. She walked the talk with regular gatherings with her friends, frequent bicycle rides with her husband and times she said she would be unavailable, because she would be in YaYa (her grandbabies’ name for her) mode.

  1. Take care of yourself.

Vicki is a keen observer of people and is quick to identify when someone is not feeling well. Suddenly, you would feel a hand gently placed on your shoulder and words along the lines of, “Are you okay? If you’re not, it’s okay to go home. What do you need to do, or what can I do, so you can go home and take care of yourself?”

She encouraged self-awareness of physical and mental health and, very importantly, never made anyone feel badly for taking the time they needed.

  1. Choose where you expend your energy carefully.

When we would bring Vicki a challenging situation, she would use this question as the litmus test: “Is this the hill you want to die on?” This was shorthand for, “Is this really where you want to expend your energy and time, and is it worth all that?”

It’s a question that leads to a moment of pause and reflection. In some cases, we would say yes, and she knew this was important to our organization and to us. In other cases, the answer was a clear no, and we could expend our valuable energy in other ways to support the organization.

  1. There is no one path to success.

Vicki took some years away from a professional office setting for her family, and she will be the first to tell you that she does not regret it. She recognizes that this path may not be the most common but believes fully that this was the right path for her and her family. And she made her way back into the workforce when the time was right for her and continued along her path of personal and professional success. She reminds her team of that journey to empower us to make the professional and personal choices that are right for us.

  1. Take your vacation!

When Vicki takes vacation, she signs out (literally) from work and encourages us to do the same. In a time with so many ways to connect and be connected to work, this feels harder than ever, but Vicki was an advocate for us and herself in truly taking time away from work.

On Dec. 12, a group made up of people from every chapter of Vicki’s life story gathered to celebrate her. It was all the pieces and people of her life coming together and was living evidence of a life well lived.

She thanked and acknowledged the people that were part of her journey. She talked about the “daycare moms” who helped her work when her children were younger, her family, her supervisors, and her team. Just as she did each day in the office, though the afternoon was about her, she took time to make everyone feel special, seen and valued.

And just as Vicki often shared wisdom and lessons from her life with us, her team, she shared a final pearl of wisdom before her retirement:

“One of the things I think is most important with work is making sure you have a good, rounded life, so I have been blessed with that,” Vicki said.

The people from her life looked on and nodded, knowing she lived her advice and lived it well.

“Thank you, everybody,” Vicki said as she ended her retirement party speech. “It’s been an awesome ride, and I really appreciate it.”

Author: Shauna Breneman

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