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University Children's Center Director calling it a career after 37 years

Posted: 10:40 PM, Sep 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-12 23:40:41-04
Beloved child care center director retires
Beloved child care center director retires

Her warm smile and sunny demeanor make everyone's day brighter.

"She's always so positive and kind," said college student Darsity Birling.

Wendy Eagon has worked for 37 years at the University Children's Center on the UW-Fox Valley campus in Menasha. The majority of that time she has served as the director.

"You do wear many different hats. Sometimes unplugging the toilet isn't on the job description but you do that," she explained.

Eagon does it for the love of the kids.

"This is their environment. We want it to be a happy, safe place for them. A place they can trust us to care for them."

Carrie Tirel's two sons each spent five years growing and learning there.  

"I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the outdoors. I think they really spent a lot of time outside, and I know Wendy had a huge part in making sure that the kids were exposed to nature," Tirel said.

With Eagon's leadership, the center earned the highest rating, five stars, from the state. 

"One of our children that attended here as a preschooler went on to Harvard," Eagon said. "So the early years can make a difference." 

The center also serves as a learning lab for college students. Birling is majoring in social work and psychology. She's learned a lot from watching Eagon interacting with children from all different backgrounds.

"She's patient with them and willing to always work with them, so I'll take that with me when I grow up and have my job."

After molding so many young minds, Eagon says it's now time to retire.

"It's going to be really different, but I'm ready to hand the baton onto someone else and just have a little bit more time for myself, my granddaughter, my family, do some traveling, but this will always remain close to my heart."

Birling said, "I don't want to see her go. I know nobody really wants her to leave, but you know I'm happy for her."

Tirel echoed that sentiment. "We're going to miss her for sure."

It's hard for Eagon to call it a career after touching the lives of more than 2,700 children, but she says she's ready for the next chapter in her life.

"It's bittersweet, but it's been a rewarding journey."   

Her journey comes to an end on September 14th. She will get a special send-off from the staff she calls "a second family." Many of them have worked at the center 25 years, another testament to Eagon's leadership.

While she's heading into retirement, she does plan to come back to the center to visit and even help out from time to time.

Eagon's replacement has been a teacher at the facility for 20 years. Eagon said the new director plans to keep providing a top quality program for children 6 months to 6-years-old.