Taking a Chance on the Future Florence County

Looking back at her education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Meg Dallapiazza ’80 says she loved the fact that it was a challenge.

She had come from Florence County, the uppermost reaches of the North Woods. Her graduating high-school class had 76 students. The average lecture hall at the university felt like an all-school assembly in her hometown.

Connections in Florence County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

“I didn’t do so well,” she recalls. She could no longer study at the last minute and expect to get an A or, frankly, a B. She had to learn to manage her time, to build relationships, and to persevere.

“It was really helpful to find people at UW–Madison who shared my passions and interests and who were willing to help me succeed,” she says.

Dallapiazza graduated as a physician’s assistant and worked in Milwaukee for 11 years before she decided on a big change. She had a son in middle school and had just had twin daughters. She decided it was time to go back to Florence County and fill their childhoods with rivers, lakes, and trees.

It was really helpful to find people at UW–Madison who shared my passions and interests and who were willing to help me succeed.

Dallapiazza not only raised her children there, but managed day camps and other programs for elementary- and middle-school students. Through her work, kids in Florence County get to canoe, kayak, and learn outdoor cooking and camping.

She became the president of a local scholarship program that awards some $55,000 annually for 35 students who seek post-secondary education. One scholarship is designated specifically for a Florence County student to go to UW–Madison.

Her own children have grown up, and all three went to UW–Madison. Her son is a neurosurgeon resident, and her daughters are graduate students — one in water resources management, and the other in audiology.

“I tell kids, ‘Don’t hesitate, take a chance — try your abilities.’ Madison is someplace special. It was the hardest community for me ever to leave. It instilled in me the value of lifelong learning.”