The Ernest Spaights Plaza award is named in honor of the late Professor Ernest Spaights and is dedicated to individuals who have made significant, enduring and campus-wide contributions to the growth and development of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Ron Perez, former dean, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, 1990-2020 (posthumous)
Ron Perez never shied away from volunteering to fill a leadership void.
When he took the role of interim dean of the Zilber School of Public Health, Perez was an outsider, an engineer with no public health training. But he was a leader so clearly committed to UWM and the school that the faculty asked for him to be named to the role permanently.
Perez joined the Zilber School after serving as associate dean of academic and student affairs, one of multiple roles he had at the College of Engineering & Applied Science. He brought with him a wealth of administrative expertise and experience in relationship-building.
It was because of Perez that the Zilber School successfully navigated its first round of accreditation; began building an undergraduate program, which was critical to its sustainability; and fostered a successful relationship with multiple donors, including the Zilber Family Foundation.
He played a significant part in forming Partners for Health, a health school consolidation effort that had previously failed at UWM. Partners for Health was jointly created by Perez; Ron Cisler, then dean of the College of Health Sciences; and Kim Litwack, dean of the College of Nursing.
Through Partners for Health, the colleges were able to advance research through shared administration, establish research groups in geriatrics and community/population health and offer joint student-community experiences at a local public housing project.
The strengths of the relationships formed through Partners for Health became the foundation of UWM’s health
–school realignment involving the three schools becoming two new colleges.
Perez also co-chaired the UWM Restructuring Team, which helped bring together the Washington County and Waukesha campuses with UW-Milwaukee, a realignment mandated by the UW System. It was just one of the dozens of committees and task forces he served on.