Malewicki remembered for support of entrepreneurship

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Kayla Bunge
Monday, May 17, 2010
— Debra Malewicki believed in the power of people and ideas.

She connected aspiring entrepreneurs with resources to take their businesses from garages to storefronts.

She prepared students for a changing economic climate and encouraged them to pursue their dreams

She also helped UW-Whitewater gain a reputation as a regional powerhouse in business education and support.

Malewicki died of lung cancer May 9. She was 55.

She battled the vigorous disease for about nine months. She went through chemotherapy and radiation, but she kept teaching classes at the university.

“She refused to let that cancer define who she was,” said Robert Malewicki, her husband of more than 20 years. “She was very much a strong person, an optimistic person. She was a battler, and she didn’t want that to stop her from doing what she wanted to do.”

Malewicki started her career at UW-Whitewater in 1984. She held many positions over the years, including head of the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development and assistant professor of management in the College of Business and Economics.

Malewicki had a brief stint with the state. From 2006 to 2007, she served as interim director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center system and managing director of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network, two organizations dedicated to helping small businesses in the state grow.

Malewicki also is credited with coordinating the university’s effort to create a business degree in entrepreneurship.

Colleagues at UW-Whitewater said the smart, talented and passionate educator would be difficult to replace.

“Her energy, her insight, her creativity contributed significantly to the reputation and success of the university and a generation of entrepreneurs,” said Bill Dougan, professor of management. “She just had the kind of social, political and intellectual skills that were very effective in navigating the private, public and university resources that help entrepreneurs.”

She had a gift for connecting with students, colleagues said.

“She had the ability to listen to people … and she understood their needs and concerns,” said James Bronson, chairman of the management department. “She seemed to have that knack of knowing when people needed an encouraging word, a wider boundary or to know that the paper is due Tuesday and no later.”

Malewicki spent her last few weeks at home with her family.

“She was the happiest she’s ever been,” Robert said. “She was in her glory.”

In addition to her husband, survivors include her son, her daughter and a grandson due in July.

Services were held Saturday in Milton.

Her family is establishing a scholarship fund in her memory to benefit students pursuing a major in entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater.

“I know that was something she would feel very good about,” Robert said. “Having her name on it wasn’t important to her, but supporting students getting into the major … was extremely important to her.”

Last updated: 1:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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