University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Nichole Miller, UW-La Crosse

The Beginning

"Old Main" - the first building at UW-Eau Claire - now named "Schofield Hall".

Normal schools were created at a time when teachers weren’t required to have a four-year degree; rather, they were needed to provide information to teachers about how to effectively run a classroom (Gough & Oberly, 2016, p. 10). By 1909, there were eight schools in Wisconsin and trying to open an additional school was quite the challenge (Gough & Oberly, 2016, p. 10). There were several requests to the Regents but all were denied. Another request was put through after by Emmet Horan (Gough & Oberly, 2016, p. 12).

In 1913 the Legislature, after considering plans submitted, appropriated the sum of $225,000 for a Normal School building. This amount was divided into three installments of $75,000 each extending over a period of three years. In September of 1915 we began the foundation of the building. In September 1916, the building was completed. Two years ago we secured an amount of money sufficient to take care of the operating expenses of the school for the year 1916-1917 (Periscope, Horan, 1917).

The institution started out only serving those who wanted to be a teacher, but today, the school is so much more! From offering diplomas and one-year certificates, the university now offers bachelor and master's degrees in programs that consist of nursing, business, liberal arts, and education (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 7).


(First row: Harvey A. Schofield, William R. Davies, Leonard C. Haas, M. Emily Hannah. Second row: Larry G. Schnack, Donald J. Mash, Brian L. Levin-Stankevich, James C. Schmidt)

Eight Chancellors represent the 100-year history of UW-Eau Claire; each having their own impact on the success of the institution.

Harvey A. Schofield, 1916-1940

Harvey A. Schofield, the first president, began UW-Eau Claire's history in 1916 and remained as such for 25 years. Schofield managed the administration entirely by hiring faculty, utilizing the curriculum as designed by the Regents in 1892 (Gough & Oberly, 2016, p. 16), and was the political advocate during attempted closings in 1923, 1928 and 1937 (UWEC, n.d.-d). He was successful in assisting with the name change to The Eau Claire State Teachers College as well as guiding the college to accreditation by The American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1927 (UWEC, n.d.-d).

William R. Davies, 1941-1959

The enrollment at UWEC spiked from approximately 700 students to 1700 throughout William R. Davies' tenure. Like Schofield, Davies followed suit by changing the Teachers College to a State College in 1951. It was at this time that the curriculum, then solely focused on teaching teachers how to teach, now includes the arts, nursing, and business programs. He was the first leader at UW-Eau Claire to encourage international travel, now known as study abroad (UWEC, n.d.-d). Finally, he was successful in securing a new building that housed many functions: a campus school, theatre, academics, and a sports arena as well as opened two dormitories.

Leonard C. Haas, 1959-1971 and 1973-1980

The school really began to take shape during Haas' leadership. Not only did it become a State University in 1964 (UW-System, n.d.), but the school now consisted of 25 buildings and close to 11,000 students. From the single accreditation in 1927, the university now has "30 honor societies and accreditations". Haas also "adopted 'Excellence' as the university's motto" (UWEC, n.d.-d).

M. Emily Hannah, 1981-1984

Hannah marks history as the first woman chancellor in the University of Wisconsin System. As a woman leader, she encouraged more women faculty and continued the efforts of previous chancellors. These efforts included more international opportunities, research, and expanded the honors program (UWEC, n.d.-d).

Larry G. Schnack, 1984-1998

Schnack was a long-time staff member at UW-Eau Claire before his leadership as Chancellor began. Fortunately, when he became Chancellor, the university was running quite well. He was able to work on the curriculum as well as started a new addition to the students degree plan: assisting the community with a project and describing how they used what they learned at UWEC to help with the project (now known as service-learning) (UWEC, n.d.-d). This is still required of every UW-Eau Claire student and is very successful!

Donald J. Mash, 1988-2005

The university continued to grow under the leadership of Mash. He was persistent in gaining funds for the benefit of the students as well as helped create a vision for the grounds and buildings at UWEC. He also helped students see that their monetary assistance sustained the "differential tuition program ... financing for the academic programs that made UW-Eau Claire distinctive" (UWEC, n.d.-d).

Brian L. Levin-Stankevich, 2006-2012

Levin-Stankevich started the remodeling process at UW-Eau Claire. With a new Davies Center and new education building (Centennial Hall) as well as updating Schofield Hall, the ice arena, and the McPhee recreation building. Expanding the efforts of Mash, Levin-Stankevich named the student-assisted funds as the Blugold Commitment program whereby helping to "to fund new faculty positions, provide additional financial aid, create programs that provide education beyond the traditional classroom setting, increase the four-year graduation rate and lower class size" (UWEC, n.d.-d).

James C. Schmidt, 2013-present

Schmidt began his leadership with the focus on the importance of excellence. He has continued the efforts of all previous chancellors by creating a new academic master plan, an equity, diversity and inclusivity initiative, a new liberal education curriculum, and instituting several goals in the new strategic plan. These include: "100% of students participating in two high-impact practices, 90% of our entering students retained to their sophomore year, 50% of all students graduating within four years, and 20% enrollment of students of color and elimination of the opportunity gap" (UWEC, n.d.-c). In addition, Schmidt has carried the university through the largest budget cut, $12.2 million, in its history. Schmidt instituted a voluntary separation incentive program to allow for those who were eligible to leave the university with a severance; as a result, 94 faculty and staff left the University with an additional 36 other cuts (UWEC, n.d.-b).

Influential People

There are many people that deserve to be recognized as hallmarks of UW-Eau Claire's history.

(Left to right; top to bottom) Ade Olson, Charles Brewer, Earl Kjer, Emmet Horan, Eugene McPhee, Harvey Schofield, John Schneider, Katherine Putnam, Leonard Haas, Lewis E. Phillips, Richard Hibbard, William McIntyre (seated), and William R. Davies.

Many of the buildings at UW-Eau Claire are named after these esteemed colleagues for their own distinction. Several were students at UW-Eau Claire prior to becoming a faculty member or an administrative staff member.

  • Ade Olson graduated in 1926 from Eau Claire Normal and started coaching the UW-Eau Claire football team in 1929. Leading the team to several wins, Olson ended his coaching in 1956. The McPhee-Olson building is where recreation is housed and is commemorated by a picture of Olson in the breezeway (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 90).
  • Charles Brewer had a lot of experience with teaching and creating education programs at local schools in Ellsworth, New Richmond, and Chippewa Falls. Schofield hired him to be the director of the UW-Eau Claire teacher education program (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 21). With his background, he was able to highlight Eau Claire in Wisconsin by having a prestigious teacher education program. The original education building was named after Brewer; however, with the new Centennial education building, Brewer Hall is scheduled to be removed from campus.
  • Emmet Horan was appointed to the Board of Regents and was instrumental in the creation of UW-Eau Claire. In fact, he joined several other individuals with the funding request to get the Normal School off the ground. A residential hall was named after Horan to always remember his legacy.
  • Eugene McPhee received his diploma and bachelor's degree from Eau Claire Normal. Similar to Brewer, McPhee also had significant teaching experience as he led Elk Mound school until Schofield hired him to be a principal in the Campus School (now known as Brewer Hall) (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 42).
  • Harvey Schofield (see description under Leadership above).
  • John Schneider began his career at UW-Eau Claire in 1930 and brought diversity to the curriculum by discussing racism in his classes. He was interested in social justice issues and helped create the first democrat club on campus. It was during the speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. at UW-Eau Claire on March 29, 1962 that he "was so overcome" with his speech "he collapsed and died" (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 126). In the words of Leonard Haas, who was with him, "it just seemed to be the fulfillment of his life that [King] had come there" (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 126). The building in his honor is called Schneider Social Sciences and houses many of the business courses and faculty.
  • Katherine Putnam Schrauff was the granddaughter of Henry C. Putnam, a local lumberman who owned a significant amount of land near UW-Eau Claire (now known as Putnam Park). Although he initially donated the land to the City of Eau Claire, UW-Eau Claire "took ownership of the land in 1957" although at least half of it still remains as a nature landmark (Visit Eau Claire, n.d.). A new residence hall, Putnam Hall, was named after his granddaughter, Katherine.
  • Leonard Haas (see description under Leadership above).
  • Lewis E. Phillips, a wealthy businessman in Eau Claire, donated the money necessary to build the new L.E. Phillips Science Hall on campus (The Spectator, 1964).
  • Richard Hibbard held many roles at UW-Eau Claire. Initially a political science professor in 1950, he later worked in Admissions, the Registrar's office, and the Veteran Counseling office. Towards the end of his career, he was an interim chancellor in 1971-1972. Hibbard Humanities Hall was named after Hibbard to recognize his legacy.
  • William McIntyre, similar to Lewis E. Phillips, was a businessman but also sat on the Wisconsin Board of Regents. The library is named after McIntyre for his work with the Regents.
  • William R. Davies (see description under Leadership above).

The Students

The first class at UW-Eau Claire consisted of 184 students and has grown to a consistent number of ~10,500 annually (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 7). The life of the student changed as new presidents/chancellors took office as they each saw a different vision for academics and student life. The limited curriculum at that time focused more on "vocational training" versus a liberal education today with multiple avenues for learning and flexibility (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 53). During this time, especially while Schofield was president, in loco parentis, was a large part of a students life. There were many policies instituted (i.e., a curfew, gender-specific housing, etc.) that impacted how students presented themselves on and off campus (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 53).

Fall 2016 Enrollment Locations (UWEC Factbook, n.d.).

A majority of students (from 1921-1941) came from the farm sector, 37-42.2 percent, and lower white collar, 11.2-16.9 percent; most of which from surrounding communities (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 55). If someone could afford a more expensive education experience, they would go to a different school, possibly the University at Madison (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 55). Students today come from all over the nation and world; however, the whole state of Wisconsin is represented at UW-Eau Claire (see image above).

Religion and politics were present on campus as well. A majority of students, 35 percent, had a Lutheran background; however, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Catholics were all represented as well (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 57). UW-Eau Claire has a Ecumenical Religious Center on campus that has weekly Catholic (Newman Parish) as well as Lutheran (University Lutheran) services. It was during this time, similar to other students in the nation, that many were conservative; although, that changed in the 1930s due to the political nature of that time (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 57). UW-Eau Claire recognizes that politics and governmental study is very important to students. As such, there are several student organizations that are representative of all sides and UW-Eau Claire has demonstrated inclusivity by allowing members of each party to speak on campus.

Student organizations, musical experiences, and athletics were present during this time; just on a much smaller scale. There were a few organizations and athletics initially consisted of basketball and football. Today, there are over 250 student organizations and 13 athletic teams!

Current athletic teams at UW-Eau Claire (2016-17).

Student gender has also changed over time, but still reflective of the gap between men and women. At the beginning, there were only about 1/3 of men on campus with a spike in 1930 with 2/3 of the population (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 64). In fall 2016, men represented 38 percent of the university whereas 62 percent are female (UWEC Factbook, n.d.).

Challenges & Persistence

UW-Eau Claire has certainly experienced quite a bit in its 100 year history. Enduring several wars in the infancy of the institution to policies and procedures changing, the University has continued to remain strong.

During WWI, 25 students left to assist in the war and overall enrollment decreased by 13 percent (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 28). During this time, the flu also tried to affect UW-Eau Claire, but as Harvey Schofield said to a group of students, "the war and the influenza tried to annihilate the school this year, but we are lustier than ever" (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 29).

The school underwent many name changes: from Eau Claire State Normal School to Eau Claire State Teachers College in 1927, Wisconsin State College at Eau Claire in 1951, Wisconsin State University-Eau Claire in 1964, and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1971 (UWEC, n.d.-a).

In the 1930s, the Great Depression had a direct impact on jobs and higher education. As jobs went away, enrollment spiked at many institutions. Specifically for UW-Eau Claire, enrollment in 1932 was 672 students compared to the 450 students in 1929; a 49 percent increase in just a few short years (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 36). Unfortunately, at the same time, the state budget inflicted a 7 percent cut to UW-Eau Claire (Oberly & Gough, 2016, p. 36).

As with most organizations, budgets are one of the topics always on the agenda. As the institution has grown throughout the years, so has the budget to continue serving the students. In 1916-17 the budget was $225,000; today, the budget is $457,105,333 (UW-System Redbook, 2016). This is reflective of the number of faculty and students on campus. In 1916, there were 24 faculty and 184 students; today, there are 1,217 faculty and 10,629 students (UWEC Factbook, n.d.). The budget will remain a challenge as the Governor of the State of Wisconsin has a freeze on tuition and has reduced the overall budget to the state institutions.

Faculty in 1916-17.

Another challenge is the growth of the campus. There has been a lot of updates and renovations, but the campus will run out of student housing if enrollment continues to increase. Housing and Residence life have begun to address this concern; however, buildings of that size take considerable time to plan and construct.


It has been an honor to research and review the history of the institution that I have worked at for almost 9 years. There was so much that I was unaware of and how the history has impacted the very place I call myself an alumni and employee. Walking through Schofield Hall the other day, I envisioned the halls 100 years ago; students on their way to class, commencement in Schofield Auditorium, and professors teaching students. The leadership of UW-Eau Claire is truly remarkable. Just eight individuals, in 100 years, are responsible for the continued legacy of the institution. The institution endured so much and they were able to carry forward.

Studying the history of higher education has created a new sense of understanding of the system itself. From the first nine Colonial Colleges to the thousands of institutions today, it is reflective just how important education is. My latest inspiration that reminds me of this importance? Please view the video below.

I'm proud to be a Blugold!


Gough, R. J. & Oberly, J. W. (2016). University of Wisconsin Eau Claire: Building excellence, 1916-2016. City, State: Publisher.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (n.d.-a). News: Chancellor’s blog-state budget impact on UW-Eau Claire. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (n.d.-b). Office of the chancellor. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (n.d.-c). Office of the chancellor: Past chancellors. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (1917). Periscope 1917. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (2016). University factbook: Fall 2016. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-System. (2016). 2016-17 redbook: Institution summary. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-System. (n.d.). What is the UW system. Retrieved from

Visit Eau Claire. (n.d.). Putnam park. Retrieved from

Wisconsin State College at Eau Claire. (1964). The Spectator, 41(26), 2-9. Retrieved from

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