Amanda Geissler created a bucket list of things she wanted to do in life.
When the 2007 University of Wisconsin-Stout applied science alumna and standout women’s basketball player from Thorp died in a plane crash Dec. 31, 2017, in Costa Rica at age 33, half of that list remained undone.
In Geissler’s memory, nine former teammates decided to check off one of those items when they traveled to California in 2018 and drove along the coast on Highway 1 in a van. They brought along Geissler’s No. 2 basketball jersey, a symbol of their beloved friend joining them.
Geissler’s friends and family are working on another one of her bucket list items — helping less fortunate children. They started the Amanda Geissler Memorial Foundation for women and children, and the first project is almost halfway to its goal.
The project is a Pencils of Promise website in her name to build a school in Ghana, Africa. Geissler had traveled on a company mission trip there when she was employed with Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company. She fell in love with volunteering and often talked about wanting to help improve the educational environment.
So far, more than $49,000 has been raised of the $100,000 needed to build the school. Pencils of Promise has built 518 schools with nearly 107,899 students. The nonprofit organization notes that 250 million children of primary school age lack basic reading, writing and math skills.
On the website, Geissler’s family talks about how she urged others to “fall in love with every day. Good day or bad day, we learn something from the experience.”
Geissler kept a journal and would tell her friends to write down their dreams and then make them happen, said former teammate Erin Konsela, 2001 alumna and a current admissions counselor at UW-Stout.
A trip to remember
Geissler was a point guard for the Blue Devils and played in 112 games from 2003 to 2007 and was a two-time team captain.
“Amanda was super energetic,” Konsela said. “Her energy filled a room. She was one of those people everyone wanted to be around. There was no judgment ever. She was eager to learn and to be the best person she could be.”
Geissler, who led UW-Stout to three WIAC conference titles, completed the Great Wall of China Marathon and Ironman Wisconsin. She loved to travel and reveled in her dream job working for Backroads, a travel company that specialized in unique, outdoor activities for families.
She was a trip leader for Backroads when the plane crashed, killing 10 U.S. citizens.
On the bucket list California trip in 2018, the nine former teammates hiked at Big Sur, camped on beaches by the ocean, saw elephant seals, laughed and cried as they remembered Geissler.
The five-day trip started at Half Moon Bay and ended at Manhattan Beach.
“Throughout the trip it was like Amanda was with us,” Konsela added. “It was a very happy time. We had a moment of silence for her. We took her jersey to the ocean and watched the sunset. There is not a day that goes by I don’t think of Amanda.”
Steffanie Nemitz, a 2006 dietetics alumna, recalled Geissler as someone people enjoyed being around. The trip was truly special, added Nemitz, a chiropractor from Cuba City.
“Amanda literally touched the lives of people across the world,” Nemitz said. “Her smile was contagious, and she made you feel like you were the only person that mattered. Our trip reflected a quote by Amanda in her journal: ‘I would challenge anyone that their best memories were part of some type of adventure. Whether they intended to adventure or not.’”
Lindsey Olsen, a 2005 alumna, said losing Geissler changed her and her friends’ lives. “The silver lining is Amanda lives in our broken hearts and gives us the strength and inspiration in our everyday lives,” Olsen said.
Olsen said she will remain friends for life with her teammates. “We were teammates but most importantly friends and friends we remain,” Olsen said. “Stout gave us our degrees, but it also gave us the vehicle to create friendships and memories for a lifetime.”
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
Former basketball teammates of UW-Stout alumna Amanda Geissler pose with Geissler’s No. 2 basketball jersey as a symbol of their beloved friend joining them on a trip to California. Geissler died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 2017.
The teammates toast Geissler on the trip.
Geissler was a standout basketball player at UW-Stout from Thorp.