UWM honors alum Gale Klappa with Lifetime Achievement Award

Gale Klappa, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumnus and executive chairman of WEC Energy Group, the parent company of We Energies, was honored with the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award by the UWM Alumni Association at its annual awards evening on Feb. 23 at the Pfister Hotel.

At the end of the program, UWM Chancellor Mark Mone surprised the audience and Klappa, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, by announcing the award. The presentation featured a video of Wisconsin business leaders talking about Klappa’s impact on UWM and Greater Milwaukee.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is reserved for an exceptional alumnus in recognition of extraordinary success in their professional achievement; community involvement; advancement of UW-Milwaukee’s mission; giving back of time, talent and treasure; and encouraging and inspiring future leaders,” Mone said. “Gale has a head for business and a heart for UWM, for our students, and for the city of Milwaukee. We’ve worked shoulder to shoulder on the Milwaukee 7 initiative to bring business and talent to our region, and I always appreciate his enthusiasm and insight.”

Klappa graduated cum laude from UWM in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, and in 2011 he received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree from UWM in recognition of his support for UWM’s growth initiative, his extensive community involvement and his leadership in helping to shape the economic future of southeast Wisconsin through the launch of the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development initiative.

Based in Milwaukee, WEC Energy Group is one of the nation’s premier energy companies, serving 4.7 million electric and natural gas customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Under his leadership, WEC Energy Group and the We Energies Foundation have supported UWM’s Connected Systems Institute, the Moon Shot for Equity initiative, and Innovation Fellows in the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. The scholarship and success coaching funded through the foundation helps students obtain their degrees and launch successful careers.

“I think Gale sees himself in those students and knows that every opportunity he’s been given, UWM opened the door for him,” said Mary Ellen Stanek, president of Baird Funds Inc. and a UWM alumna. “He has never forgotten that.”

Klappa has more than 40 years of experience working in the public utility industry, and more than 25 years at the senior executive level. Klappa serves as co-chair of the Milwaukee 7. In addition, he serves on UWM’s Lubar College of Business Advisory Council, and he co-chaired UWM’s comprehensive campaign, which had raised $251 million when it concluded in 2019. Klappa also is a member of the board of directors of Associated Banc-Corp. and owns a minority interest in the Milwaukee Bucks.

He was inducted into the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame (2023) and has been named Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Boy Scouts of America (2022), one of the 30 most inspiring leaders to watch (2021) by Silicon Review magazine, CEO of the Year for the Most Outstanding Energy Delivery Holding Company (2018) by CEO Monthly magazine, Growth Strategy CEO of the Year – USA (2018) by Business Worldwide magazine, CEO of the Year – Electric and Natural Gas Industry (2016, 2018), a member of All-America Executive team (2010-2015) by Institutional Investor magazine, Wisconsin Business Leader of the Year (2013) by Harvard Business School Club of Wisconsin, and Responsible CEO of the Year (2012) by Corporate Responsibility magazine.