The University of Wisconsin-Stout traces its history to 1891 and has undergone many fascinating changes over time, but it has always stayed true to its mission of providing practical, career-focused education. To learn more about the history of Stout, view its history by eras using the tabs on this page.
The UW-Stout has undergone five name changes from its inception. Throughout its history, Stout has maintained its connection to its founder by bearing his name.
Under the auspices of the Menomonie Public Schools, James Huff Stout funded various educational enterprises. In 1891, The Stout Manual Training School began educating students in manual training and domestic science. In 1894, the school introduced kindergarten classes. It began formally training kindergarten teachers five years later. A School of Physical Culture opened in 1901 and provided physical training. In 1903, the school initiated programs for training teachers of manual training and domestic science. Finally, in 1907, the manual training schools added a Homemaker's program to the curriculum.
To simplify administration of the various public and Stout Training Schools, The Stout Institute formed in 1908. The institute was designed to "provide facilities in the way of buildings, equipment, and teachers, through which young people of both sexes may secure such instruction and training in industrial and related lines of educational effort as will enable them to become efficient industrial, social, and economic units within their environment." In 1911, following Senator Stout's death, ownership transferred to the State of Wisconsin.
The Stout Institute Board of Trustees was abolished, and the institution came under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents of the State Colleges. Initially, the institute board resisted this change, because it feared the loss of prestige from being a special college. In retrospect, joining the "League," as President Fryklund expressed it, proved to be a distinct advantage to the school and its faculty.
The name change was authorized by the Board of Regents who believed that the "state colleges had reached another plateau in their development." Increased enrollment brought new and enlarged facilities. The school maintained its traditional focus as it added new majors and brought established majors into new directions.
The Wisconsin State Universities and the University of Wisconsin campuses merged to form the University of Wisconsin System. Stout was designated by the Board of Regents as one of only two special mission universities in the UW System. Stout was to offer focused programs "related to professional careers in industry, technology, home economics, applied art and the helping professions." In March 2007, UW-Stout was designated "Wisconsin's Polytechnic University" by the UW System Board of Regents.
During the 1890s, Menomonie was one of the largest cities in western Wisconsin. In this city of more than 5,000, there were five newspapers, 12 hotels and boarding houses, several churches, and numerous retail stores. Industries included brick and cigar-making, milling, and even a merry-go-round supplier. though, The city's largest employer, by far, was in lumber - the Knapp, Stout & Co Company.
For more than 50 years, the Knapp, Stout & Co. Company played an important role in the development of western Wisconsin. At its height, the company employed more than 2,000 people in Menomonie and the surrounding area. In Menomonie alone, the company included lumber mills, stables, a store, machine shop, blacksmith shop, grain warehouse and grist mill. Several of the owners made their homes in Menomonie, where they left lasting marks on the area's history. Wilson, Tainter, and Knapp - the names that appeared in yesterday's social pages are today associated with many of Menomonie's buildings and streets. However, no name is more identified with the area than that of Stout.
James Huff Stout, the son of a member of the board of directors of Knapp, Stout & Co. Company, was born in Dubuque, Iowa. As the heir to the family's large fortune, Stout served in several positions with the lumber company before making Menomonie his permanent home in 1889.
Stout had a fascination with manual training that may have begun when he was assigned by the company to work in St. Louis. While Stout was there, the Manual Training School opened in St. Louis. A short time later, Stout returned to Menomonie, and he asked the city's common council to support an experimental program in the city. In return, Stout offered to supply funding for a building, equipment, and staff:
"I will place upon the school grounds, in a place designated by the Board of Education, a building of proper kind and size, furnished with all of the equipment necessary for the instruction of classes of boys and girls in the subjects included in the first year in a course of manual training. I will also pay the salaries of the necessary teachers, the cost of all necessary materials and supplies, and all of the contingent expenses for three terms, or for a time equivalent to three school terms, except such a part thereof as shall be paid by five hundred dollars, which is to be provided by the Board of Education."
After the city accepted his proposal, Stout brought Menomonie school principal R.B. Dudgeon on a trip to tour manual training institutions across the country. They observed programs and consulted with leaders about the logistics of creating an institute. Following this tour, the newly created Stout Institute recruited three faculty members from the manual training school in Toledo, Ohio. They were Lillian Goldsmith, who taught cooking and drawing classes; Mabel Wilson, who specialized in sewing and dressmaking; and C.P. Friedman, who offered instruction in woodworking and mechanical drawing.
The school opened January 5, 1891 in two-story frame building in downtown Menomonie. It was an immediate success, and Stout enthusiastically offered a proposal to donate a much larger and more complete manual training school. The city accepted his donation without hesitation and completed the building in early 1893.
Stout was also active on the local school board, and he named J.E. Hoyt as superintendent of the Menomonie Public Schools and principal of the high school and training school. Hoyt was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and served as principal of Columbus High School before coming to Menomonie. In his new post, Hoyt supervised 27 teachers, three special high school teachers, and four instructors in manual training. His importance to the manual training school increased when Stout was elected to the state Senate in 1894.
In 1897, fire destroyed the institute's four-year-old building. The Menomonie community presented a petition to Stout requesting that a new building be constructed. Stout agreed, with the condition that the city build a new high school adjacent to the manual training school. The stately brick building, with its huge tower thrusting high above the city, was opened to students the following year. Still an area landmark, the manual training building is now known as Bowman Hall.
At the time, the Stout Manual Training School consisted of three departments: mechanic arts, domestic arts and art. Each of the departments was equipped with the most modern equipment and was supervised by well-respected teachers. President Charles Kendall Adams of the State University of Wisconsin, stated:
"We have in this state the best manual training school in the country, and probably the best in the world. At the Menomonie school, boys and girls are taken from the grammar school and high school into the manual training department for an hour a day without in any way detracting from the amount or quality of their lessons in the regular program."
In a school that was already innovative, it is interesting to note that the Stout Manual Training School had an art department, highly unusual for the times. Stout, who valued art education, established the department in 1894. Art director Kate Murphy was sent around the world to collect art works to aid in teaching and to exhibit in the school. In later years, the art department's profile decreased for a time, only supplementing course work offered through mechanic and domestic arts.
Just as innovative was the creation of the School of Physical Culture under the guidance of N.J. MacArthur. Stout believed that young people should be physically as well as intellectually educated. To meet the physical needs of the students, Stout paid for the construction of a gymnasium-natatorium building in 1900. Included in the building was the first indoor swimming pool in Wisconsin, as well as bowling alleys, dressing rooms, club rooms, Turkish baths and a fully equipped gym. The building continued to be used by students and residents of Menomonie until it was torn down in 1964
In 1899, the Stout Manual Training School opened the Kindergarten Training School, a two-year training course in the kindergarten teaching. One of the earliest programs of its kind in the country, students served in the Menomonie schools. More important, the kindergarten training program established teacher training at Stout.
James H. Stout became a state senator, and he continued his work in the field of education.
Shortly after he joined the Senate, Stout became chairman of the Committee on Education. In this position, he was instrumental in passing legislation that helped establish an agricultural and normal school in Menomonie and similar schools elsewhere in the state. It was also as chairman that Stout became associated with Lorenzo Dow Harvey, one of the state's leading educators.
Harvey was born on a farm near Deerfield, New Hampshire, in 1848. Before he was two years old, his family moved to another farm in Wisconsin. At the age of 16, Harvey passed a county superintendent's examination and became a teacher in a one-room rural school. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1875 and While served as principal at Sheboygan, where he also studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1877. After a stint in business and education, Harvey served as president of the Milwaukee Normal School. His work and reforms at Milwaukee brought statewide attention, and he was elected to the state superindendency in 1898.As part of their elected duties, Harvey and Stout often discussed education. Harvey took a special interest in the Stout training schools and actively promoted them in Wisconsin and other states. Stout offered Harvey the directorship of his training schools, and Harvey assumed the position in 1903.
In 1904, an exhibit featuring the Stout Manual Training Schools won a gold medal at the St. Louis World Fair. Two years later, the training schools offered their first summer school to meet the needs of "teachers of manual training, teachers of domestic arts and science, superintendents and principals of public schools, teachers in grade schools, training school students, and persons wishing to gain practical experience in various forms of crafts work."
At Harvey's suggestion, the Menomonie schools were reorganized in 1903. In addition to the Stout Manual Training School and the Kindergarten Training School, training programs "for the preparation of teachers of manual training and teachers of domestic science" began. These training schools offered two-year certificates in manual training and domestic science.
Under Harvey's guidance, the manual training schools rapidly expanded, and it became increasingly difficult to differentiate between the schools supported by Senator Stout and those that were being supported by the City of Menomonie. In an effort to clarify these responsibilities, The Stout Institute incorporated on March 20, 1908. The Articles of Incorporation expressed the Stout Institute's initiative to "provide facilities in the way of buildings, equipment, and teachers, through which young people of both sexes may secure such instruction and training in industrial and related lines of educational effort as will enable them to become efficient industrial, social, and economic units within their environment."
When James Huff Stout died of kidney disease in December of 1910, many feared that the Stout Institute would falter, because Stout financially supported the school out of his own pocket. Fortunately, the senator's heirs and the Stout Institute Board of Trustees convinced the State of Wisconsin to assume control over the school in 1911.
Harvey remained leader of the institute through this transition. He was a firm believer in the importance of industrial education and a leader in educational rights for women. Like many of its contemporaries, the Stout Institute required its students to adhere to strict regulations. For many years, students were required to wear uniforms and had a 7:30PM curfew. Despite these restrictions, students enjoyed an active social life on campus. The Institute included a variety of scholastic, social, religious and ethnic clubs and published a weekly newspaper and annual yearbook.
By 1912, enrollment at Stout climbed to more than 500, and the Institute recognized a need to expand its physical facilities. The campus added a trades building in 1913, (which was later known as Ray Hall) and a home economics building (now Harvey Hall) was completed in 1916. These structures more than doubled the physical plant of the institute.
In 1917, Harvey initiated four-year the degree programs in household arts and industrial arts. Consequently, the Institute introduced coursework in history, sociology and several other liberal arts areas. During World War I, enrollment at the institute dropped by more than half. On the campus homefront, male students were required to take military drill, and female students underwent Red Cross training. In 1918, a unit of the Student Army Training Corps organized at Stout.
At the time of Harvey's death in 1922, the postwar student population stood at 589. Upon Harvey's death, Daisy Kugel, director of home economics, stated: "By those who know Stout Institute, it will always be thought of as Dr. Harvey's school, for it is, indeed his, in the sense that it represents his educational ideas and ideals; that it is the embodiment of his dominating personality."
After nearly a year, the Stout Institute Board of Trustees named Burton E. Nelson as the second president of the Stout Institute, and he began his duties in April of 1923. Nelson was born on a farm near Bedford, Pennsylvania, in 1867. He attended the State Normal School in Millersville, Pennsylvania and Western Normal College in Illinois. He became the superintendent of schools at Racine, Wisconsin, and led the creation of a part-time vocational school in that district.
Nelson began his presidency at Stout by creating the Stout Student Association. This association scheduled student activities, distributed activity fees, and organized homecoming and commencement. Three years later, the group created a Stout Student Council with members from the Stout Student Association and representatives from each of the four classes.
Throughout his tenure, Nelson worked consistently to secure accreditation for the Stout Institute. In 1921, Stout applied for accreditation by both the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the American Association of University Women. The accrediting teams were accustomed to evaluating the needs of liberal arts colleges, and were reluctant to approve the library and its limited liberal studies offerings. The Stout Institute administration invested a significant amount of time in money to demonstrate the high quality of its educational programs, and it received accreditations from a variety of independent bodies.
Many important student activities and traditions began in the 1920's, including growth in the number and sophistication of clubs. Phi Omega Beta became the first fraternity on campus in 1927. The first homecoming held in conjunction with a football game took place in 1922. By the end of the 1920s, Nelson and his staff had done much to improve the Stout Institute. They improved the library and the educational level of the faculty. Student life also improved as regulations on dress and dorm hours became more relaxed.
The Great Depression posed a difficult test for Nelson and the staff of the institute. Faculty members were forced to take pay cuts, and building projects came to a halt. Enrollment dropped to a low of 400 in 1934. In spite of these financial difficulties, Stout's academic reputation continued to grow. In 1932, Stout received full college rank and recognition.
Stout Institute graduates often found that they needed master's degrees to gain promotions. Consequently, alumni asked the institute to develop a graduate curriculum. A committee consisting of Clyde Bowman, Arthur Brown, Harry Good, and Ray Wigen worked within the institute's financial constraints to create programs offering master's degrees in of home economics education, industrial education, and vocational education. Ray Wigen served as the first dean of the Graduate School.
As the institute expanded, President Nelson delegated many of his responsibilities to faculty committees. The first committees addressed student relations, student employment, loans, publications, publicity, lyceum, library, health, physical education, athletics, admissions, credits, and curriculum. Nelson reviewed the recommendations of each committee and created policies to address their concerns.
The student body at Stout continued to increase, and by 1939, the institute enrolled 656 students. This high population decreased as war once again affected the Stout student body. After the United States became involved in World War II, large numbers of the institute's faculty and students joined the military. Many did not return. The students who remained at Stout participated in such wartime activities as a pilot training program and nursing. By 1943, the Institute enrolled only 44 male students, and intercollegiate athletics came to a halt. In that year and the next, the traditional homecoming football games were replaced by kittenball and picnics.
President Nelson tendered his resignation in June 1945, and Verne Fryklund became his successor. Fryklund came to Stout as a student in 1914, but his bout with smallpox led to a financial crisis that nearly forced him to leave. A local doctor loaned him the money to continue, and he graduated in 1916. Upon graduation, Fryklund worked in the Detroit school system. He served in the National Guard during World War I and continued as an instructor while he earned a master's degree from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. In the decade prior to World War II, Fryklund taught at Wayne University in Detroit and at the University of Minnesota. During this time, Fryklund's wrote or co-wrote 35 books and 70 magazine articles. Some of these publications were translated into foreign languages and are still in use today.
Fryklund returned to the military in 1942 as a lieutenant colonel and became the director of the instructor training department at Fort Knox. He served in several administrative posts and received the Legion of Merit. On October 5, 1945, Fryklund became president of the Stout Institute.
When Fryklund arrived, the various departments on campus were heavily divided . The new president sought to overcome the divisions and to build unity. Following World War II, Stout, like many other institutions, struggled to accommodate the large number of returning veterans. Enrollment at Stout more than doubled from 1945 to 1946, and the school scrambled to secure additional faculty, housing, classrooms, laboratories, and equipment for the influx of students.
Housing posed the most acute problem. The administration responded by purchasing several barracks-style homes. Each prefabricated unit consisted of a living-room kitchenette combination with built-in sink, running water, cupboards, a two-place electric hot plate and a built-in couch.
To overcome the shortage of teachers, the institute hired promising graduate students who worked on their doctoral degrees in their spare time. Enrollments began to drop again as the veterans of World War II graduated. This drop slowed the building program and also led to temporary faculty cutbacks. Fortunately, enrollment again began to increase following the Korean War. In 1955, the number of students broke the 1,000 mark for the first time.
That same year, the school came under the control of the Board of Regents of the State Colleges, and The Stout Institute officially changed its name to Stout State College.
In 1955, the Stout Institute joined the collective group of schools administered by the Board of Regents of the State Colleges, and it changed its name to Stout State College.
President Fryklund feared that Stout State College's transition to administration by an outside body would result in radical changes to Stout's unique position in higher education: "Stout has held to its two basic majors for more than 50 years despite occasional regional pressure that we expand into academic areas. By concentrating on the two majors we have been able to study our problem and constantly improve our work... Stout has no plans for academic majors. We wish to concentrate on Stout's traditional assignment with supporting academic offerings." Throughout the remainder of his presidency, Fryklund maintained Stout as a two program institution.
Although Fryklund withheld an expansion of academic programs, he increased the variety of student services and activities. The president had great respect for students and created programs to improve the educational experiences offered at Stout. Fryklund established Student Personnel Services in 1951, with Ralph Iverson as the director.
President Fryklund retired in 1961. During his 16-year tenure, Fryklund supervised the transition of the Stout Institute from a small-town college to a medium-sized institution of nearly 1,600 students. More importantly, he set in place the foundation for the tremendous growth that the institution would experience during the 1960s.
William Micheels assumed the role of President following Fryklund. He was truly a product of Menomonie and the Stout Institute. His father was a local businessman, and he attended the Stout Institute following graduation from Menomonie High School. While at Stout, Micheels was president of the freshman class, played in the school band, lettered in football and basketball, worked on the "Stoutonia" student newspaper, and played in a dance band. He graduated from Stout in 1932, and received his master's degree (1938) and doctorate (1941) from the University of Minnesota. Following World War II, Micheels returned to the University of Minnesota and served as an associate professor (1946-1951), professor (1951-1954), and chairman of the department of industrial education (1954-1961). On September 1, 1961, Micheels became Stout's fourth president.
Stout State grew dramatically during the Micheels administration. in 1960, Stout had a student population of close to 1,700 and a faculty of 107. By 1969, enrollment topped 5,000, and faculty increased accordingly. The college added a satellite Barron County Campus in Rice Lake, which was a two-year institution with more than 400 students.
Under Micheels, Stout instituted a variety of changes to the institution's academic programs. He created several senior level administrative teams and a faculty association in 1963. In 1964, The School of Liberal Studies joined Stout's traditional schools of Home Economics and Applied Science and Technology.
Micheels believed that it was the duty of the administration and faculty to "build on our strengths and strengthen our weaknesses." The college introduced several new majors, including art, that were related to the institution's earlier, manual training mission. Others, such as hotel and restaurant management and vocational rehabilitation, began as responses to emerging needs evident in business and industry.
In 1964, Board of Regents changed the name of Stout State College to Stout State University to demonstrate that it had "reached another plateau" in its development.
The 1965-66 school year stood as an exemplary year for the history of athletics at Stout. The football, basketball and wrestling teams all won conference championships that school year. However, as the decade wore on, there was a growing feeling of student unrest. Student disenfranchisement can be attributed to a number of factors, but by far the most important underlying cause was the war in Vietnam. From this issue, student concerns spread to such causes as academic freedom, faculty tenure and the right of students to have more input in the decision-making process on campus.
Student unrest was an important aspect of life at Stout in the 1960s, but it did not play as significant a role as it did on other campuses. In part, this can be attributed to the conservative nature of the institution. A large part of the credit for this, though, lies with Micheels. Micheels' policy was clear: "When dissent becomes such that it interferes with the operation for which we are in the business, then we will act firmly, we will act quickly, and people who dissent will have to allow us to dissent from their dissent." However, Micheels also took steps to give students an opportunity to express their concerns. One of the first programs that Micheels introduced was an independent studies course called "Personal Learning." The classes were held in the president's office with students and faculty members discussing their complaints and programs with their senior administrators. He also introduced a "box lunch" program that allowed students to sound off.
Micheels' return in March 1971 was, unfortunately, a short one. In November, he suffered a stroke. Micheels resigned three months later and was appointed distinguished professor by the Board of Regents.
Just before Micheels suffered his stroke, the nine Wisconsin State Universities, and the four University of Wisconsin campuses merged to form the University of Wisconsin System. This move was designed to reduce competition among the universities and to improve the overall quality of education. (The title for university heads changed from president to chancellor).
The newly named University of Wisconsin-Stout was guided by acting Chancellor Ralph Iverson during the transition. Iverson came to the campus in 1946 as an instructor in psychology and secondary education and had served as director of Student Personnel Services and vice president for Student Services.
During the Micheels administration, Stout experienced dramatic change. Its evolution was made possible through the vision of the able president and his faculty and staff. Due to his failing health, Micheels did not have the opportunity to realize all of his goals for Stout. It would become one of the major tasks of his successor to solidify the growth of the institution and determine its future role.
Robert S. Swanson was named to head Stout in September 1972, following an extensive nationwide search. A native of Superior, Wisconsin, Swanson was born October 3, 1924. Swanson's father, an industrial arts teacher, first brought his son to the Stout Institute in 1937. Swanson returned as a student in 1942. His stay was short-lived, however. He enlisted in the armed forces December 1942, and left for active duty the following spring.
During World War II, Swanson served in an anti-tank company in France and Germany, receiving the Bronze Star and ending the war as a platoon sergeant. He was discharged from the Army in April 1946.
Swanson returned to Stout in 1946. That was a time of burgeoning enrollments as hundreds of other returning veterans also entered the institute. In his junior and senior years, Swanson served as a teacher to bolster an expanding instructional staff. When he entered graduate school, Swanson received a half-time faculty position. Swanson completed his master's degree in 1950 and was immediately hired as a full-time instructor. One year later, he began work on a doctorate at the University of Minnesota, receiving the degree in 1955.
In 1958, Swanson was named chairman of the woodworking department (soon to be called the wood technics department). Later, he became assistant dean and then dean of the School of Applied Science and Technology. In 1966, he became the dean of the Graduate School. Six years later, Swanson received the appointment of chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Stout.
The new chancellor faced a wide range of problems and opportunities as he assumed office, but perhaps none was more significant than determining the future role of Stout. The rapid expansion of the student population and programs during the previous decade, combined with the merger of Stout into the University of Wisconsin System, provided an opportunity for the institution to maintain its historic purpose or to assume a new role. Swanson, due to his long association with the institution, chose to interpret his selection as chancellor to be an affirmation that Stout would retain its unique position in higher education. During his inaugural address, Swanson said: "Let it be known, that we do concern ourselves with the preparation of people to earn a living upon graduation. And let us further admit, with pride, that we do this because we specialize in fields which have need for our graduates, and because we do prepare people well to do their jobs."
That position was further clarified when the University of Wisconsin System requested that Stout prepare a mission statement to outline its role and goals. In part, the mission statement read: "the university should offer focused undergraduate, institution wide programs related to professional careers in industry, technology, home economics, applied art, teacher education and the helping professions with the goal of meeting statewide needs for specialized curricula in these areas."
The new chancellor and his staff had to face an entirely different kind of problem when the administration building was the scene of a student sit-in during the spring of 1973. Students participating in the sit-in demanded hearings for a non-tenured faculty member released by the university. For close to 30 hours, the students expressed their grievances to the chancellor, vice chancellor and other administrators. The protest eventually ended peacefully and efforts were made "within the system" to change the Board of Regents' policy on tenure.
A persistent and frustrating problem that the Stout administration faced through much of the 1970s and 1980s was that of enrollment caps. In the mid-70s, the UW System decided that due to changing demographics, the universities in the system must prepare for declining enrollments. As a result, colleges were forced to place a cap on enrollment. This worked well with several universities that were indeed facing a decline, but for Stout it meant having to deal with the frustration of turning away thousands of students.
The enrollment caps, in turn, meant that the resources allotted to Stout by the state were relatively fixed. Even so, during the Swanson administration the campus saw extensive development in its physical facilities. In addition to major remodeling programs, six new buildings were added: Applied Arts Building, Library Learning Center, General Services Building, Heritage Hall (Home Economics Building), Memorial Student Center and University Services Building.
During the Swanson administration, there were dramatic changes in many academic programs. The number of concentrations offered within a degree program expanded greatly, largely in response to the increasingly specialized needs of business and industry. However, the traditional programs of industrial education and home economics education experienced dramatic drops in enrollment during the 1970s.
The composition of the student body had also undergone extensive changes over the last two decades. During these years, the number of international, learning disabled, handicapped, minority and non-traditional students grew significantly. In addition, several hundred Stout students participated in study abroad programs.
In his address to faculty and staff at the opening of the 1987-88 academic year, Swanson announced that he would retire on March 20, 1988 - the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Articles of Incorporation that created the Stout Institute. During Swanson's administration, Stout solidified its growth, reaffirmed its special mission and prepared a firm foundation for future challenges. In that address, Swanson noted that: "Growth changed Stout, but beyond the statistics there were other social, educational and economic factors that profoundly influenced the university. The energy crisis, affirmative action, evaluation week, Title IX, minority recruitment, sexual harassment, OSHA, handicapped access and hazardous wastes were a few of the issues. Because Stout responded to those issues, it is a better place today. Policies are more efficient and fair. This does not mean that Stout is closing the door on further progress in those areas. It means that Stout has established a positive attitude to build on."
A screening committee searched nationally for more than a year before selecting a successor. In the interim, the UW System Board of Regents named Wesley Face the acting chancellor.
Face was no stranger to Stout. In his more than 30 years of service to the institution, he had been the chair of the metals department, a staff member on the American Industry project, assistant dean of the Graduate School, and vice chancellor. Through his professional involvements, his leadership extended beyond Stout. In his role as acting chancellor, he assured a smooth transition.
As the university moved toward its second century, Stout was strengthening its traditional connection to the needs of the marketplace. A proposed engineering program promised to raise the university's historic ties with industry to a new level. The newly-developed Stout Technology Park furthered the relationship, connecting the university's programs with the immediacy of the workplace.
The appointment of Charles W. Sorensen as the sixth head of the institution seemed almost a total break with the past. For the first time in more than 40 years, the institution would be headed by someone who had not graduated from Stout. Fryklund, Micheels and Swanson all had degrees from Stout and each had a strong background in industrial education. Harvey and Nelson before them, though not Stout graduates, had been leaders in industrial and vocational education. Sorensen was a historian. At first some people questioned if he would appreciate the university's distinctive role in Wisconsin's system of higher education. He soon made it clear that he came to the university with an understanding of Stout's heritage, and a desire to continue to update the institution's programs while maintaining its unique mission.
Sorensen was born in Audubon, a small town in western Iowa. The family moved to Davenport, Iowa when he was one year old, and then to Moline, Illinois three years later.
Generally, young men and women growing up in the Moline area in the 1940s and '50s did not go on to college. Most took jobs at John Deere or at one of the other manufacturing plants in the area. Sorensen confessed that he was not an ideal student. But after working for a summer, he decided there had to be "a better avenue to a better life."
He attended Black Hawk Community College, and earned a bachelor of arts degree in history and political science from Augustana College in 1964. After a brief teaching assignment in Colorado, he began graduate work at Illinois State University, earning a master's degree in 1967. He earned a Ph.D. in American history from Michigan State in 1973.
The foundation for Sorensen's administrative career was shaped at Grand Valley State College in Michigan. He began teaching there in 1970, and after several promotions, was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1979.
In 1984, he was named vice president for Academic Affairs at Winona State in Minnesota. Four years later, on June 10, 1988, the UW System Board of Regents appointed him chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Stout. He began serving in August.
In his inaugural address, Sorensen said he saw "no pressing need for a dramatic change in the mission of UW-Stout." However, he outlined the challenges he said he believed the university must meet to maintain its leadership role. Among the most important was a strengthened relationship between the university and business and industry.
With the construction of the Stout Technology Park, the university moved into a dynamic new era in economic development. Sorensen noted that the park was a continuation of Stout's record of public service to the private sector: "Since its founding, Stout has had a valued tradition of meeting industry needs. The technology park truly symbolizes that tradition; here the past comes face to face with the present and with a host of new opportunities for the future. It is our challenge to develop those opportunities so that they return the highest possible rewards."
Sorensen recognized that Stout had to make a special effort to bring minorities to its campus. A medium-sized Midwestern university, located in a fairly rural setting, doesn't guarantee students the opportunity to meet people with other cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Yet Stout graduates frequently work in setting that require an understanding of the differences among people. Increasingly, the university is involved with international relationships, including economic and educational connections with China, Turkey, Malaysia, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries.
In his inaugural address, Sorensen pledged his commitment to recruiting more minority students and staff, saying that it was not only a moral and ethical obligation, but an absolute necessity: "A diversified campus is a healthy campus in every respect - body, mind and spirit. Healthy because the real world - the world of work and the world we send our graduates to - is a world of many colors and many races. We must prepare our students for diversity."
Sorensen also called for new emphasis on skills that prepare students to manage change. With the rate of change in our world, he said students must have computational and communication skills. Graduates must be capable of critical analysis and creative problem solving.
Sorensen began his tenure faced with a host of challenges from within and outside the university. But the university has always faced challenges. It grew and matured through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the unprecedented increases in enrollment and programming during the 1960s. The university will meet its current changes, as it has in the past.
From the start, the goals of Sorensen expressed for the university complemented not only the mission of the institution, but the goals of the leaders before him: "Each succeeding chancellor has had his dream for Stout and I have mine. It is for a university where ideas thrive, where intellectual curiosity leads people to new experiences, where the love of ideas meets the need for practical application, where learning is real and where quality education is simply not a cliché."