Very Important Panther (VIP)

We all have that one person who made the difference for us at UNI. Share how they were a difference-maker for you, and we'll work to share your story with your Very Important Panther. We might even highlight your story on our social media! Please send your VIP stories and photos to

  Amy Marling and professor Jeff Tamplin 


VIP: Jon Buse, '91, previous UNI Admissions staff member
Nominator: Nicole Juranek, '00, '05

A Very Important Panther would have to be Jon Buse, who was my boss at the time and the director of UNI summer orientation staff. Jon hired me to do a job that I thought was much bigger than me. Meaning, I couldn't believe someone thought I had the character and ability to be in charge of helping people register for classes and encouraging them to have a successful orientation experience. Yes, I applied for the job, but Jon selected me, trained me and believed in me. I always felt like he saw so much promise in me that I couldn't let him down. If he believed in me, I might as well start believing in myself too. Doing this job allowed me to make new friends, hear and learn about experiences other than my own, and promote UNI in the most positive ways. I was able to tell incoming students and parents that UNI changed me for the better, and that remains one of the best decisions of my life.

There's one interaction with Jon Buse that will stay with me forever.

Summer 2000 orientation ended. The staff members lived in the residence halls and we had to move out the next day. I was realizing college was over and I was heading to Omaha to student teach. We had to be moved out by 3:30 and I didn't have one thing packed, but not to worry, I owned very few things. Life was hitting me in the face at that moment and if I packed up my belongings, that meant I was leaving, and if I was leaving, college was over. How could I go on? The past four years were a blur of late-night laughs, writing papers at midnight, lifelong friends, and accomplishments. At 3:15, I heard Jon coming down Hagemann Hall and my door was wide open as I sat on my bed in a puddle of tears. "Fifteen minutes 'til move out," I heard him say, but he saw I was sobbing and came in. I told him I couldn't leave UNI. I told him I couldn't take the next step. I wasn't ready to be a teacher and leaving all of these friends was going to be torture. He grabbed an empty box and gave me the pep talk of a lifetime as he started throwing things in the empty box to help me pack. In that short time, he reassured me I would shine as a teacher and make new friends and keep the old. Jon reminded me that UNI was my stepping stone. The whole point of college was to prepare and then go out and thrive. He continued to believe in me. I left campus that day and cried for the first two hours of my trip to Omaha. Twenty years later, I have been teaching ever since and have made amazing friends in my life after UNI while keeping those very dear friendships made at UNI. But I will tell you, it's because Jon Buse believed in me and I couldn't possibly let him down.

— Nicole Juranek

Carolina Wilson and Janet MacTaggart

VIP: Janet MacTaggart, residence hall secretary
Nominator: Carolina Wilson, '87

As a transfer student and with late admittance to UNI in my second year, I ended up in a Triple Room in Lawther Hall my first semester. While my roommates and I got along, I usually felt like the "odd man out" and had a difficult time connecting with others in my house. I was a first year student, but not a freshman new to college life; many times that first year I was in the hall office with questions. Janet was always so friendly and seemed to know everything even though she too was fairly new to UNI. When I became a mail clerk and then a desk assistant, I had more interactions with Janet. She truly took the ladies in Lawther Hall under her wing. I remember her even having a birthday dinner for me with her family at their home. It was so nice to get off-campus! In the 80's that didn't happen often, not everyone had a vehicle. When I was struggling with classes and direction, she had a listening ear. After I graduated, Janet kept in touch and has become a personal friend. When I moved back to the Cedar Valley we reconnected and a few years later, she became a source of information and encouragement when I was applying for a position at the university. After I was hired, we met for lunch on many occasions. When I served a term as President for UNI-AEOP, she was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I cherish the friendship we have and it reminds me of the importance of my role in the lives of the students with which I cross paths.

— Carolina Wilson

Elton Green and Kathy Green

VIP: Elton Green, Ph.D., health education professor
Nominator: Kathy Green, '72, '89

Dr. Elton Green was a health education professor who made a significant and positive impact on my life. As a physical education major and health minor, I had Dr. Green as a professor between 1968-72. I enjoyed him as a teacher and then our paths crossed a few years later in the late 70s while I was teaching at Denver, IA. He was part of the school accreditation team that came in to assess Denver Schools.

I also had him as an instructor one summer when I took a class in Title IX, which was just being implemented in schools. It was fun to connect with him again. Then in the mid-late 80s, when I went to graduate school as a health promotion/fitness management major, we would cross paths and keep in touch.

Upon completion of graduate school in 1989, Dr. Green asked if I would like a part-time job at UNI to help him "grow" a wellness program for the campus. I, of course, jumped at the chance and he became my boss for a year, after which he retired and I assumed leadership of wellness promotion at UNI. From there my job grew and evolved, becoming Director of Wellness and Recreation Services in 1997 and Director of University Health Services in 2000.  

Dr. Green, Elton, as I came to call him over the years, was an exceptional teacher, mentor, role model and friend through it all. He is a wonderful man and I will always appreciate the role he played in a career that I loved. We still enjoy seeing each other.

— Kathy Green

  Amy Marling and professor Jeff Tamplin 


VIP: Jeff Tamplin, biology professor
Nominator: Amy Marling (Klopfenstein), '11

I received my BA from UNI in Biology: Honors Research in 2011. I went on to receive my MAT in science education at the University of Iowa in 2014, taught high school science for several years and am now pursuing my Ph.D. in science education at the University of Iowa.

While there are many people who were an incredible influence during my years at UNI, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the professor I like to refer to as the Indiana Jones of UNI, Jeff Tamplin. As an undergraduate researcher in his reptile lab for three years, I remember being mesmerized by his stories of digging up dinosaur bones in Antarctica, the joy of playing with his Great Dane, Jack, who was always ‘helping’ us in the lab, and the thrill of searching for rare wood and Blanding’s turtles in the remote parts of northern Iowa. It was under his guidance that I began to truly understand the scientific process. Biology came to life for me in a way that I never expected. Research was messy, exhilarating, sometimes frustrating and truly amazing! It spurred my decision to leave the medical field that I was initially tracking to foster that same excitement for science with K-12 students and now future science educators. 

Dr. Tamplin was and continues to be a great mentor and Very Important Panther for biology students. :) 

— Amy Marling