We Are Family

The Andringa Family celebrates at State Street Brats, Summer 2012

Andringas Celebrate Rich Tradition of UW Education

Maybe someday the headline will read:

“UW-Madison researchers locate DNA code for Badger pride;
“Golden Gopher disease remains mystery.”

But until then, it’s anyone’s guess what produces so many tightly knit, fiercely proud family members, whether it’s nature — Badger blood literally running through their veins — or nurture — Bucky onesies and stories of Lake Mendota’s Lady Liberty told on Grandpa’s knee (member of the Class of ’79, of course).

What is possibly one of the largest extended Badger families in UW history took Madison by storm in June when 85 members of the Andringa clan — 26 of whom are alumni — gathered at State Street Brats for a family reunion.

Brothers Cal and Conrad Andringa with the Sigma Chi fraternity in 1959.
Brothers Cal and Conrad Andringa with the Sigma Chi fraternity in 1959.

That’s right: 26 men and women who’ve shared many of the same experiences since the first Andringa started class in the 1950s, until the most recent alumna graduated in 2009.

Conrad Andringa ’60, MD’63 called it magic. “Everyone was thrilled to be in Madison,” he says, “and [to] remember how much the university means to us.”

The third of five children who grew up in Waukesha, Conrad Andringa shares that their mother, Bessie, made it through 10th grade, and their father, Big Casey, was a Dutch immigrant who dropped out after sixth grade. He and all of his siblings, however, went on to earn nine degrees among them at the UW. “From the time I can remember, education was very important,” Andringa remembers. “For [our parents] to see us go to college was the ultimate success. There was no one more proud.”

For 23 years, at least one Andringa was a student at UW-Madison, and all four boys belonged to the Sigma Chi fraternity, which stood in the same spot that the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Below Alumni Center now occupies. It’s where he recounted stories of happy times as a student just a few weeks after the family reunion.

“The friends I made here at Sigma Chi are still among some of my closest friends,” Andringa says. He worked as the head dishwasher at the house in exchange for meals and lodging, and paid tuition bills by hitchhiking to Madison’s east side to deliver bread for Gardner’s Bakery.

“The experiences we had helped shape who we are today,” he adds.

Andringa and his wife, Phyllis, grew up together in Waukesha and married in 1958 during his last year of pre-med. He’s been practicing at Dean Clinic since the 1960s and served as team physician for the 1976 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team coached by Bob Johnson. Madison’s Memorial High School named its athletic field house after Andringa, and he was inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Four of the original five UW-Madison Andringas today (from left): Conrad, Nancy (Furry), Casey and Rick.
Four of the original five UW-Madison Andringas today (from left): Conrad, Nancy (Furry), Casey and Rick.

All four of their children attended UW-Madison, including daughter Saundra Andringa Meuer ’82, who was one of the first female trainers for the Wisconsin football team and now owns State Street Brats with her husband, Kelly Meuer ’80; and sons Jeff (Conrad Jeffrey) ’84 and Rob ’92, who both played for NCAA championship hockey teams. Meuer’s children are carrying on the Badger athletics tradition: son Keegan is currently on the Wisconsin men’s hockey team, and her three daughters have played or are currently playing soccer. (This is getting complicated! See below for a full family tree.)

The triple-generation family chose Madison as the site for its epic reunion because of the history it holds for so many — from sunset at the Terrace to walking up State Street to the farmer’s market and the museums.

And at a special dinner at the Pyle Center, Andringa says that “we recognized my parents and my brother Cal [who passed away in 1997], and took a moment to remember what Madison means to all of us. And now our children and grandchildren are reliving the same experiences, and making their own new memories.”

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How big is your Badger brood?

Do your sisters, grandparents and cousins (twice-removed) all know the words to “Varsity”? Whether your family of alumni is as large as the Andringas’, or you’re simply proud of your brotherly Badger bond — fraternity or blood-related — we want to hear about it.

Send your stories and photos to insider@uwalumni.com, or comment below, for the chance to be included in an upcoming issue of Badger Insider or online at uwalumni.com.