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