BGSU a true family affair for the Ulreichs

Parents’ love of University passed on to all four children

By Matt Markey ‘76

Their love affair with BGSU started more than 60 years ago, and it has not only brought the Ulreich clan an impressive collection of degrees and career success, it has also played a pivotal role in building an extensive Falcon family.

The Ulreich story starts early in the 1950s, when Fred '56 and Lois '56 met on a blind date while studying as undergrads at BGSU. The couple went on to marry in 1955. Fast forward 20 some years and Fred Jr. '80, the oldest of their four children, meets his future bride Shawn '80 while they both were working as student volunteers on the BGSU campus.

Soon Fred Jr.’s brother Greg '84 was attending BGSU, and then sister Donna '84 followed and also became a Falcon. Barb '87, the youngest of the Ulreichs, was given the middle name Gail so her initials were BGU, and she, too, attended the school that was by then so tightly linked to her family.

Each of the four children of Fred and Lois Ulreich would meet their future spouses at BGSU. Greg would eventually name his son Brent Gregory, so he was a “BGU” as well.

“I guess you could say BG was the foundation for our careers, and for our families,” Fred Jr. said. 

“All of these connections and relationships make our story a bit unique.”

Lois Ulreich came to Bowling Green from Wisconsin, and while on campus her friend Gretchen, from the same small town as Lois, met a student named Nick Mileti. Nick and Gretchen, who were friends with the Ulreichs in those college days, married and Nick Mileti went on to become the owner of the Cleveland Indians and the Cavaliers. His name would be placed on the University’s alumni center in 1976. While at the University, the elder Ulreichs were also close friends with future BGSU athletic director and Mid-American Conference commissioner Jim Lessig and his wife Margarita.

“I think the strong family connection with Bowling Green started then, and unbeknownst to us, my folks had a real passion for the University that kept the connection going,” Fred Jr. said. “They remained close to their BGSU friends.”

After graduation, the Ulreich’s settled in Fred Sr.’s native Chicago, and about the time Fred Jr. was looking at in-state colleges in Illinois, his father took a job opportunity in northeast Ohio. That brought them much closer to BGSU, and after visits to campus for football and basketball games, Fred Jr. experienced some of what had forged that bond his parents had with BGSU and he chose to become a Falcon.

While majoring in communications, Fred Jr. was on campus for the opening of the Mileti Alumni Center, and worked there as a student. He also met many celebrities that visited campus, and worked as a bartender for functions hosted by University President Dr. Hollis Moore Jr. and his wife Marian.

Following his graduation in 1980, Fred Jr. interviewed for his first job with Standard Oil of Ohio, and one of the company officials said he remembered meeting Ulreich at a reception hosted by Dr. Moore.

“He was a regional vice president with the company and he said he was impressed with me after meeting me at the president’s house, and that was one of the main reasons they wanted to hire me,” Ulreich said. “That was a Bowling Green connection I didn’t see coming.”

Ulreich did graduate work in organizational management and development, and went on to eventually serve as the executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in May of 2014 he was named the CEO of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Shawn Ulreich, who was honored as one of Bowling Green’s 100 most prominent alumni, received her nursing degree in 1980. She went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees and works as the chief nurse executive and vice president of clinical operations for Spectrum Health Hospitals.

“Bowling Green was inspirational for me. It created an atmosphere where I first felt comfortable, but I was also challenged from an academic perspective,” the Pittsburgh area native said. “The nursing program was difficult, even grueling, and it was a rigorous course of study, but it gave me a very solid foundation. It was challenging every day, but it set me on the course for my career.”

“I think we all have that great connection to the University,” said Fred Jr., who has served on the alumni board of directors in the past. “That passion started with my parents and it has been maintained over the years.”

That link and his friendship with the director of the BGSU men’s chorus enabled Fred Jr. to arrange a performance by the group at his father’s funeral in 2006. The chorus was returning from an appearance in New York when they passed through the Cleveland area where the funeral was taking place. Two motor coaches pulled up at the service where many of the family’s Bowling Green friends were in attendance. 

At a reception after the funeral, as the members of the chorus broke up into small groups and performed, Ulreich noticed his mother was overcome with emotion. Unbeknownst to anyone in the room except her, the song the chorus performed was the first music she and her late husband had danced to, at BGSU, so many years ago.

“It was one of the most moving experiences you could ever have,” Fred Jr. said. “It just shows what Bowling Green can do for people.”