UWO renames Welcome Center

Culver family donates $2 mil


Joseph Schulz

The Culver Family Welcome Center was renamed in honor of alumnus Craig Culver and his family.

Megan Behnke, News Reporter

Signage made it official just before the start of the semester: the Alumni Welcome Center is now known as the Culver Family Welcome Center.

The name change, announced in May, brings the University one step closer to the end of the legal dispute between its fundraising arm, the UW Oshkosh Foundation, UWO and the UW System.

George and Ruth Culver along with Craig and Lea Culver started the Culver’s restaurant chain, which has since grown to 707 locations. Craig Culver, a 1973 graduate of UW Oshkosh, promised to donate $2 million to the University in exchange for the naming rights of the building.

The Center was built under the direction of former Chancellor Richard Wells, who, along with former Vice Chancellor Thomas Sonnleitner, are now facing civil and criminal charges for using the Foundation’s funds on University building projects, including the Culver Center.

Last year, Wells and Sonnleitner were accused of knowingly signing “comfort letters” to banks promising UWO would cover the private foundation’s payments if they defaulted on their loans.

Both Wells and Sonnleitner argued the letters are not legally binding and the civil complaint, which the UW System filed a year prior, alleges the two transferred $11 million to the Foundation to support the five building projects the “comfort letters” were for. The two will be back in court in January for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the case.

UWO Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said the renaming was to honor Culver, who is a big benefactor of the University.

“He’s been very generous to this institution,” Leavitt said. “He donated a very sizable gift to the institution, and we felt it was the right thing to honor him by changing the name of the facility.”

Culver has been a big supporter of the University, serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, contributing to Sage Hall construction and sponsoring the Culver’s Business Model Competition, which has student entrepreneurs presenting their business models for $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Leavitt said the signage was the only change the Center would receive.

“We are always innovating in terms of how we use the facility,” Leavitt said. “That’s already occurred since the facility has opened in terms of the broad spectrum of uses of the facility. I would expect that to continue.”