Sesquicentennial Timeline

Read the story of UWO's past

UW Oshkosh Timeline

1866

Regents select Oshkosh as location for 3rd Normal

Having decided to create a statewide system of teacher training institutions based on a French model (Ecole Normale), Wisconsin’s Board of Regents of Normal Schools selects Oshkosh as the site of its third facility.

1868
Oshkosh citizens vote to be taxed for Normal

Oshkosh citizens vote to be taxed for Normal

After city leaders dither for two years about the location of the Oshkosh Normal School (ONS), the state legislature forces a citywide referendum on the proposal and a tax to pay for the construction of the initial building. The city commits to the school with a 1,043 to 498 vote in favor.

1871
Oshkosh Normal School opens

Oshkosh Normal School opens

President George Albee opens ONS with eight faculty members and 43 enrolled students for the first day of regular classes.

1874

First intercollegiate athletic game is played

Considered the first intercollegiate play by a Wisconsin Normal School, Oshkosh takes on Ripon College in a pair of baseball games. Competitive athletics on campus will take time to become more organized with regular games, facilities and equipment.

1875
Normal hosts first graduation exercise

Normal hosts first graduation exercise

Eight members of the first class at Oshkosh Normal graduate with diplomas at the school’s first commencement.

1880
First kindergarten at a state Normal School opens at Oshkosh

First kindergarten at a state Normal School opens at Oshkosh

Laura Fisher—a student of educational pioneer, Susan Blow—arrives at ONS from St. Louis and opens the first kindergarten at an American public normal school when the spring term begins.

1894
Normal Advance releases first issue

Normal Advance releases first issue

While it would be hard to describe it as a newspaper, the first edition of The Advance is published. Originally more a literary magazine, the publication grew into the award-winning Advance Titan newspaper published today.

1897
First Quiver yearbook is published

First Quiver yearbook is published

The Quiver, a yearbook prepared by Oshkosh Normal School students, debuts. Over the next 78 years, the annual will chronicle the people and events that made the school a community.

 

1911
Pageant attracts large crowd to campus

Pageant attracts large crowd to campus

History instructor Aleida Pieters writes and directs hundreds of students in an outdoor play about the European settlement of northern Wisconsin. The spectacle is said to have awoken the community to the “existence of the Normal.”

1912
Normal establishes a Department of Industrial Education

Normal establishes a Department of Industrial Education

After building a curriculum over several years, a full Industrial Education Program is added to train teachers in the “manual arts” of woodworking, foundry work, mechanical drawing and machine shop work.

1913
Normal School purchases Hooper/Oviatt House

Normal School purchases Hooper/Oviatt House

ONS purchases the neighboring Hooper/Oviatt House with plans to use it as the president’s residence. Instead, it first serves as a small women’s dormitory. In 1930 it is refitted as a home for the college’s president and family.

 

1916
Fire destroys Normal building

Fire destroys Normal building

A fire begins in one of ONS’s many attics and slowly burns despite firefighers best attempts to stop it. By midday, the entire building is destroyed; many records, books and equipment are saved.

1917
Dempsey Hall shortly after construction

New Administration Building (Dempsey) Opens

The school’s new main administration building (later named Dempsey Hall) is open to classes and staff.

1918
SADC Forms on campus during WWI

SADC Forms on campus during WWI

President Harry Brown receives a telegram from Washington D.C., requesting that a unit of the Students’ Army Training Corps be established in Oshkosh. Male students create a camp on school grounds and practice parade and other military skills.

1919

Oshkosh Normal School begins extension classes in neighboring communities

In an effort to expand access to its courses, the Board of Regents permits its Normal Schools to offer extension classes in neighboring communities. Faculty members are sent to small communities in order to teach freshman-level classes. In 1919 Oshkosh offers American history and sociology in Appleton and New London, respectively. After years of little activity, the program is reinstated in the late 1940s and experienced success in communities like Berlin, Coleman, Gillett, Green Lake, Menasha, Sheboygan Falls and Manitowoc.

1921
First Homecoming is celebrated

First Homecoming is celebrated

ONS celebrates its 50-year Golden Jubilee with the school’s first homecoming. Weekend events included a parade around campus with at least one member of each graduating class.

1925
Hunt Degree Bill passes allowing for undergraduate degrees. ONS becomes OSTC

Hunt Degree Bill passes allowing for undergraduate degrees. ONS becomes OSTC

Prior to 1925, Normal Schools were only allowed to offer graduates diplomas or certificates of completion, and their students were not able to compete for salary and promotion against teachers who carried undergraduate degrees. Passage of the “Hunt Bill” permitted the Normals to offer bachelor’s degrees to their graduates. To represent the change, all state Normal Schools became State Teachers Colleges.

1929
Great Depression brings more students to Oshkosh campus

Great Depression brings more students to Oshkosh campus

Hundreds of “non-professional” students come to Oshkosh State Teachers College (OSTC) during the Great Depression when home finances prevented them from attending college elsewhere.

1929
Crowd dedicates the Rose C. Swart Training School

Crowd dedicates the Rose C. Swart Training School

Designed and built especially for training and observation, the Swart building was a stand-alone private elementary and middle school with a gymnasium, library, theater and special observation classrooms.

1933

Fond du Lac Extension opens

The General Extension Division of the University of Wisconsin opens a freshman center at the Fond du Lac Vocational School at Portland and Sheboygan streets. These centers allowed enrollees to select two or three freshman courses each semester, including subjects such as English, History, Geography and Spanish.

1937
Titans nickname chosen

Titans nickname chosen

Disappointed their athletic teams lacked a nickname, The Advance campus newspaper holds a “thrilling new contest” to pick one with fighting quality that adapts well to songs and cheers and is unique to the geographic area. The Advance receives 68 entries. Thomas Lynch ’40, of Fond du Lac, is declared the winner with “Titans” and receives $5 for his submission.

1938
Menasha Extension opens

Menasha Extension opens

A freshman center of the University of Wisconsin is opened at Menasha’s Vocational and Senior High School.

1938

School fight song written

OSTC music professor John Breese writes “Hail Titans!” While the words are tweaked over the years to match the school’s name, the tune continues to rouse fans during games.

1943
First cadets of the 96th College Detachment arrive on campus

First cadets of the 96th College Detachment arrive on campus

To augment their cadets’ educational attainment, the Army Air Corps contracts with colleges, including the OSTC. Over 18 months, the 96th College Detachment educated 1,200 soldiers with cadets living and messing in Swart Hall.

 

1946
Veterans Center staff and student

Veterans Administration Guidance Center opens

On March 4, 1946, the college’s Veterans Administration Guidance Center begins offering a variety of services to student and area veterans. Through a partnership with the VA, the college hires a staff to provide standard academic advice as well as administer aptitude, ability and interest tests to help vets plan their post-military careers.

1949
Legislature allows teachers colleges to offer Liberal Arts degrees. OSTC becomes OSC

Legislature allows teachers colleges to offer Liberal Arts degrees. OSTC becomes OSC

To meet the needs of a growing number of college-bound students, the Wisconsin legislature allows the teacher’s colleges to grant undergraduate degrees in liberal arts. After two years implementing the change, OSTC becomes Wisconsin State College, Oshkosh or more colloquially, Oshkosh State College in 1951

1952
Radford Hall opens as the first dormitory built on campus

Radford Hall opens as the first dormitory built on campus

As OSC shifts to a residential campus, Radford Hall becomes the first of what will ultimately amount to 14 dormitories on campus. Students beginning to live on campus helps transform the relationship between students and the University.

1955
Enrollment is over 1000 for the first time

Enrollment is over 1000 for the first time

Enrollment eclipses 1,000 in the autumn of 1955 and increases every year until 1971, when it reached just under 12,000. The incredible growth of the campus in 15 years substantially impacts the school’s mission, culture and physical plant.

1959
Reeve Union enjoys grand opening

Reeve Union enjoys grand opening

Providing a standalone “living room” for the campus community was a dream at Oshkosh since 1915. While a nascent student center operated out of a donated house for several years, the true Reeve Memorial Union opened with two eating areas, activity rooms, offices and programming necessary for the growing campus and student body.

1960
Menasha campus moved to Midway Road location

Menasha campus moved to Midway Road location

The Menasha campus of UW Extension (now the Fox Cities campus of UWO) continues to offer freshman and sophomore courses even after many of the post-WWII extension centers close again, securing a long-term presence in the Fox Valley.

1962
Polk Library is dedicated

Polk Library is dedicated

OSC’s first free-standing library—named in honor of former college president Forrest R. Polk—opens its doors. Each of the library’s numerous departments and collections are given optimized space for their own unique needs. As the campus continues to grow, the library is enlarged with a second wing.

1963
Graduate School begins

Graduate School begins

After several years of offering master’s-level continuing education courses in the summer months in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh State College begins a true Graduate Studies Program. Offered on a trial basis in 1962, the Masters of Science in Teaching Program becomes a permanent addition to the campus in the next year.

1963
Oshkosh State College Foundation begins its work

Oshkosh State College Foundation begins its work

With a mission to “solicit and receive gifts, bequests or property” for the benefit of OSC, the Foundation is established with a board of 12 members. President Roger Guiles pushes for the Foundation in order to garner community support for new initiatives and increasing enrollment.

1964
Regents Change State Colleges to State Universities

Regents Change State Colleges to State Universities

The expanding mission of the state colleges into graduate education and an accompanying organization into separate schools prompts the Regents to rename the schools Wisconsin State Universities. Oshkosh State College becomes Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh (WSU-O)

 

1965
College of Business is founded

College of Business is founded

After two years as a major in the Economics Department, WSU-O’s third college began as the School of Business Administration with a program educating new generations of business professionals and entrepreneurs in northeastern Wisconsin.

1966
College of Nursing starts

College of Nursing starts

In 1966, the WSU-O School of Nursing begins with an enrollment of 27 students in a baccalaureate nursing program.

1966
Students and staff bring first broadcast of WRST

Students and staff bring first broadcast of WRST

With an antenna placed high atop Gruenhagen Hall and a studio in a former lumber company office, WRST—the Radio Station of Titans—begins its first broadcast at 6 p.m.

1968
WSU Fond du Lac opens

WSU Fond du Lac opens

A two-year access campus attached to WSU-O begins classes with 230 students in a new facility constructed by Fond du Lac County.

1968

Students take part in Black Thursday protest

Ninety-four African American students stage an occupation and protest in the office of University President Roger Guiles, asking University administration to make the campus more hospitable to students of color.

1969
Intercultural Center Opens

Intercultural Center Opens

A University-owned house on Elmwood Avenue becomes the Intercultural Center, a study and learning space designed for students of color. The fulfillment of one of the demands of the Black Thursday protest, the Intercultural Center provides a comfortable location for minority students on the majority white campus as well as a resource for multiculturalism in Oshkosh. Within three years the program would move to the historic Wall House on Algoma and be renamed the Multicultural Education Center (MEC).

 

1970
Students begin protest in Algoma Blvd. “riot”

Students begin protest in Algoma Blvd. “riot”

Hundreds, later thousands of students, motivated by the disparate issues of dangerous traffic along Algoma Boulevard and American military involvement in Cambodia, begin a disruptive protest along the main thoroughfare of campus, barricading and tearing up the street to prevent traffic from moving through campus and challenging the police with rocks.

1970
Students, faculty, staff and community members celebrate First Earth Day

Students, faculty, staff and community members celebrate First Earth Day

Signaling a commitment to environmental awareness and education, WSU-O students and faculty organize a daylong teach-in to celebrate the first Earth Day. The observation was bittersweet as it came after four students and biology professor Jacob Shapiro died in a winter car accident while traveling to help plan the event.

1971
Merger with UW: WSU becomes UWO

Merger with UW: WSU becomes UWO

Long discussed as a solution to competition and inefficiency, the Wisconsin State Universities merge with the University of Wisconsin System into a single agency. WSU-O is renamed UW Oshkosh (UWO). The Fond du Lac and Fox Valley campuses eventually are moved into a single UW Centers system.

1971
UWO Centennial

UWO Centennial

UW Oshkosh celebrates its 100th birthday after a century of growth and a massive expansion in mission and impact on the region.

1974

New calendar proposed

Chancellor Robert Birnbaum announces his plan to restructure the University’s main academic calendar into two 14-week semesters with two three-week interim periods. The calendar would allow for flexibility in length of courses as well as periods in the winter and spring for faculty to engage in research and creative work. The calendar would be implemented by Birnbaum and remains one of his lasting legacies.

1979
College of Education establishes Project Success program

College of Education establishes Project Success program

A program for adults with dyslexia is established by Robert Nash of the special education department. It would attract students from across the country, helping them to be successful in pursuing college degrees.

 

1985

Oshkosh Wins its first NCAA Division III Championship

In beating Marietta College 11-6 in the final game of the World Series, the Titan baseball team becomes the first UW Oshkosh team to win a national NCAA Championship.

1995
First campus website appears online

First campus website appears online

UWO goes “online” with its first official website in November 1995.

1997

University offers its first online class

After experimenting with different distance education technologies for a few years, two one-credit graduate-level classes are offered online by the MBA program. Online and hybrid instruction would continue to expand in the next several decades.

2011
Crowds dedicate Sage Hall

Crowds dedicate Sage Hall

UWO’s modern and environmentally sensitive new academic building is dedicated. It is the first new academic building built on campus in 40 years and features state-of-the-art learning spaces and green building technologies. Home to the College of Business and several departments with the College of Letters and Science, Sage Hall is a major addition to the campus footprint.

2018

Restructuring of UW System combines UW Fond Du Lac and UW Fox Valley with UW Oshkosh

With the blessing of the Higher Learning Commission, the new UW Oshkosh is officially formed. Comprised of three campuses—Fond du Lac, Fox Cities and Oshkosh—the new University provides opportunities for associates, bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees.

2020

Campus abruptly closes due to the COVID-19 global pandemic

As the novel coronavirus infects people worldwide, UW Oshkosh cancels classes and closes campus a week before spring break, giving faculty time to covert their classes to online instruction. Residence halls and offices are emptied and all on-campus activities are cancelled as all but essential staff are required to work from home.

HISTORY

From busy indigenous communities to a manufacturing and learning center in east central Wisconsin, the Winnebago region is rich with stories and tradition. Learn about moments in UWO’s past to see how history stacks up upon this land.

CELEBRATION

Our sesquicentennial year of 2021 will be filled with a variety of events, activities and programs. Learn about these events on our sesquicentennial calendar and share your ideas for holding special programming or an event of your own.

SUPPORT

In 2021, we embark on our 150th year of inspiring leaders, researchers and champions, and look forward to what our students dare to achieve. Help us ensure that our tradition of excellence and opportunity thrives for the next 150 years.

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