You don't make Eagle Scout without hard work and dedication to seeing a big project to its completion.

Mark Klapatch learned that as a youngster on his way to earning the highest rank in Boy Scouts. He apparently also found those qualities hard to wash off.

The UW-River Falls employee works as sustainability/facilities manager for the university, but his involvement doesn't stop there. The Green Bay native chairs the university's Sustainability Working Group, he serves on the Faculty Senate's diversity and inclusivity committee, he teaches two classes, he completed a critical sustainability report for the university and he organized campus events ranging from film screenings to community bike rides.

The university's popular monthly surplus sale? He launched that.

Klapatch's growing list of accomplishments was recognized this month with perhaps the biggest one yet: the UW-System Board of Regents Academic Staff Excellence Award. Klapatch was one of just two people in the entire UW-System to be recognized with the award, handed out June 7 in Milwaukee.

It wasn't a surprise that he was nominated for the accolade after he received the 2018 UWRF Chancellor's Award for Academic Staff, but Klapatch said the UW-System honor was "kind of shocking."

"I'm not one for public recognition," he said.

Mark Klapatch. UW-System photo
Mark Klapatch. UW-System photo

The honor meant giving a speech at UW-Milwaukee to a room filled with regents and others. Klapatch admitted it was a bit intimidating, but he said he used the opportunity to highlight UWRF's efforts toward his passions on campus - sustainability and diversity.

"The more distinctiveness we can bring to the university, the better," he said.

Surplus, sustainability

Klapatch graduated in 2009 from UWRF, where he cut his teeth on facilities management, having managed the University Center as a student. He was hired on as custodial supervisor after graduating and found himself in charge of about 65 student-employees.

It was in that role that Klapatch started UWRF's surplus program - a monthly event that draws deal-seekers from campus and the greater River Falls community.

"It's kind of like extreme garage saling," Klapatch said.

University custodial workers Deb Shafer and Missy Davis have watched it grow and were witness to nearly 100 customers lined up outside the door at 6 a.m. last Friday anxious for a crack at high-end bicycles being phased out by the Falcon Outdoor Adventures program.

The surplus program is promoted on Facebook, where thousands of followers keep tabs on the coming deals.

"It's just been spreading," Davis said.

Over time, she and Shafer have noticed some deal-seekers become "familiar faces," Davis said.

Klapatch said the program started as an effort to prevent used, but usable, furniture pieces from becoming landfill dwellers.

The program, launched in 2010, has become a small revenue generator, with most of the proceeds going back to the departments from which the sold items originated. A small portion stays with the surplus program to cover expenses.

More than 3,200 items - about 50 tons - were sold through the surplus sales and university auctions in 2018.

"It's turned into a pretty successful program," Klapatch said.

Klapatch's role has grown to include supervising 17 full-time workers and serving as the university's sustainability supervisor. He said that position lets his passion for sustainability shine through - not just through things like recycling and waste minimization, but by identifying the economic and social impacts of sustainability.

Now when he thinks of his roles, he comes back to one phrase: "continuous improvement."

Klapatch said that concept figures prominently as he looks to future projects like boosting the university's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. He helped UWRF gain a "gold rating" in 2018.

Now he's in search of the rare "platinum" rank. Fittingly, the name for the university's sustainability plan is "Path to Platinum," Klapatch said.