April 09, 2024

In Remembrance: Erwin Zuehlke

Erwin Zuehlke, whose confident management brought Beloit College through financial hardship and helped transform it into the school it is today, died Aug. 14, 2023, at 95.

Erwin Zuehlke Zuehlke worked for the University of Wisconsin system before his appointment as vice president for business operations at Beloit College in 1977. In a Round Table article that year, Zuehlke explained, “I could not refuse the opportunity presented by a college with the tradition of excellence Beloit has, combined with the challenge of mankind, a contribution to private higher education at a critical juncture in its history.”

Zuehlke was a Beloit administrator for 13 years, managing renovations across the college, and in 1980, balanced the college’s budget for the first time in years. While he cited this as his proudest accomplishment, the renovation of Pearsons Hall was perhaps his most exciting. At the time, the building was closed, surrounded by fencing, its windows broken. Zuehlke saw promise in the building and encouraged the college to invest in its restoration. He also oversaw the construction of the Sports Center, the Field House renovation and the first renovation of the Col. Robert H. Morse Library. He also initiated the college’s first energy reduction program.

His careful financial decisions and willingness to turn down funding requests earned Zuehlke the nickname “Dr. No.” Longtime Vice President for Enrollment Alan McIvir describes him as a social and intelligent coworker. “He was always smiling [as] he would move around the campus; everyone knew him,” he says of Zuehlke. “He was thoughtful and he could articulate clearly and positively why he was going to make a decision that would affect the well-being of the college.”

Zuehlke was active in the Lutheran church and involved in the Janesville Symphony Orchestra. He retired in 1990 after being diagnosed with cancer. He received treatment and recuperated, continuing his involvement in the Beloit community.

In the late ’90s, he and then-economics professor Jeff Adams worked on the Beloit RiverFront Project, which transformed the riverfront from a state of disrepair into a destination. After his retirement, he managed other community projects including renovations of the First Beloit Congregational Church and Beloit Memorial High School.

Zuehlke was also involved in construction on a much smaller scale. “He had quite a big model train hobby and he was part of a club that would set these things up,” says Adams. Zuehlke’s impact on Beloit, both the college and the city, was transformational. “His reach touched just about every building on campus,” says McIvir.

He is survived by three sons, seven grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.


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