The UW-Madison community is mourning the death of a longtime colleague and champion of helping promote the university.
Liz Beyler Kraak, 69, a former broadcast and university relations specialist, died Feb. 9 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
She grew up in Madison and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from UW-Madison in 1969. After college, Liz worked for radio station WIBA in Madison. During her time there, she was the first female reporter to become a regular in the all men’s press room at the State Capitol. After her employment with WIBA, she went on to work part-time at the Department of Natural Resources and the UW.
She started working at UW-Madison in 1988 as a part-time broadcast specialist. Liz had worked for 20 years in radio news in Madison and used that experience to serve as a broadcast liaison for what was then known as UW-Madison News & Information Services, now called University Communications. She went on to serve in a number of roles before retiring as a senior broadcast specialist in 2012.
“Liz was a relationship builder,” says Amy Toburen, former director of University Communications, a colleague for 25 years. “She was my go-to person for working with broadcast media and on the logistics of many special events. From campus visits from government officials, to building openings, to film crews from Hollywood, Liz knew what needed to be done and who needed to be involved. She gave great attention to accuracy and detail, which was incredibly important.”
Having someone who grew up in Madison with such a deep historic knowledge of the university was a valuable resource, says John Lucas, assistant vice chancellor and director of University Communications.
“She had many, many connections to the community and was a valuable asset to helping promote the university,” Lucas says. “It was always clear how much she cared about UW-Madison.”
From campus visits from government officials, to building openings, to film crews from Hollywood, Liz knew what needed to be done and who needed to be involved.
Besides her knack with people, one thing colleagues remember Liz for was her laugh.
“It was infectious,” Lucas says. “You could hear it across the entire floor.”
It was a laugh that was meant to be heard — and shared.
“If she got laughing, no one in the room could stop from laughing,” says Mary Degenhardt, a former program assistant for University Communications. “You just couldn’t help it.”
Liz took special pride in promoting the university, whether it was through helping with visiting speakers or planning other campus events.
“She was a good ambassador of UW-Madison and was really proud of being a Badger,” Degenhardt says. “It was just ingrained.”
Liz is survived by her husband, Larry W. Kraak, who worked in grounds management at UW-Madison until retiring earlier this year.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Rd., Madison, with visitation from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the funeral home.