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Meet a Badger: Jim McMillin ’63

Jim McMillin '63

What is your hometown?
East Moline, IL - United Township High School

Which years did you attend UW?
1959 - 1963

What was your major and what degree did you obtain?
Physical Education, Minor - Recreation

First of all, I want to say that there is so much truth in the saying "Once a Badger, Always a Badger". The experience of UW-Madison for me was life changing and the plaque on Bascom Hall rings true in my life today, as strongly as it did when a part of fraternity hell week demands, required us to memorize it:

“Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

This is still my life’s motto


  • Married to Diane Matthys & widowed in 2014 after 48-1/2 years.
  • Married to Jessie Sperry in 2019.
  • Five Children, 22 Grand Children, 2 Great Grandchildren & 2 more on the way!

Describe your career.
Upon graduation, I taught school for a couple of years in Wilmette, IL. I found my bride of 48-1/2 years in Iowa and moved back to the Quad Cities, IL. I initially worked as a Production Control manager for a company that produced truck cabs for three years and then another three years as General Manager of an Athletic Club. While there, I met a member of
the club that crafted my career as a sales engineer in the field of Material Handling and Power Transmission. For some 45 years I worked as a commissioned employee, owner, and freelancer. The challenges and experience have provided me with a wide variety of experience and growth. Most of all, the education and the competitive spirit amassed as a "Badger" was a great impetus to move through the ups and downs of a highly challenging career.

Describe a fond memory of your years at UW.
I started playing football in a parochial league in the 4th grade and loved the contact and competitiveness from the very beginning. I attended UTHS and played football, wrestled, and track. My plan was to join the Navy after graduation. However, a business friend of my parents watched me play and brought a Wisconsin scout to one of my games and that
led to the scholarship offering which changed the course of my life. Our family vacationed in Wisconsin and I was always a fan of the people and UW. There were other colleges that had interest and a far trailing second choice was Nebraska, but when the offer came from the Badgers, I was immediately all in.

Even though I was never first string, my practice, playing time, being part of a Big Ten Championship Team and Rose Bowl participant has provided valued memories for a life time. "Camaraderie" is a very important key to a championship team and once you are a part of it, it also becomes a bar that is incorporated in life quests. Almost everything that we do in life requires "team work" and the level of camaraderie which connotates levels of success.

What are you doing now?
Today I enjoy the freedom of retirement with my new wife, Jessie. I stay active in church, community, and Ubering which nrich and continue to add value and growth to my life. I can't ever say never to what tomorrow will bring. God is still at work!!

Discover the many ways you can live a more Badger-filled life by paging through WAA’s comprehensive guide. Get the guide >