Chancellor tells graduates: Founder provides lesson in grit

By University Communications
May 7, 2016
Chancellor tells graduates: Founder provides lesson in grit, determination

Photo: Spring Commencement at the Johnson Fieldhouse.

 A lesson in determination in the face of tremendous difficulties can be found in how James Huff Stout, founder of what would become University of Wisconsin-Stout, responded to a fire that burned down his fledgling institution in 1897, Chancellor Bob Meyer told graduates during three commencement exercises Saturday.

Meyer, delivering his fourth commencement address in Johnson Fieldhouse, recounted the story of how James Stout used his personal funds to build Stout Manual Training School just north of the present Bowman Hall. The 29-room building was finished in 1893.

James Huff StoutLess than four years later, first-term state Sen. Stout was in Madison when he received a telegram saying his beloved school was burning to the ground. Meyer held up a copy of the telegram that James Stout received. The telegram remains in the University Archives.

James Stout could have walked away from his innovative educational venture, Meyer said, but the local citizenry presented him with petitions asking him to rebuild. The new building — the present Bowman Hall with its iconic 135-foot clock tower — was finished in 1898, Meyer said, citing information from a new history of UW-Stout that will be published later this year.

“Hopefully, you will not be burdened with the magnitude of problems that plagued James Huff Stout when his beloved school burned to the ground,” Meyer told the graduates. “However, it is likely that in your professional and personal lives, you will be confronted by challenges, obstacles and setbacks that will require the same degree of grit, dedication and perseverance that James Huff Stout needed to keep his dream alive. I think many of us here today have all been there in some manner or another.

“I hope that my little history lesson shows that within every one of us, there is that wellspring of courage to face what appears to be insurmountable obstacles, to achieve when the odds look stacked against us, to find light in our lives when we are stumbling around in the darkness,” Meyer continued. “That is what James Huff Stout did in 1897 – and that’s why the university that bears his name, along with the building that rose out of the ashes, are thriving today.”

Chancellor Bob Meyer speaks during commencement.UW-Stout is celebrating its 125th anniversary throughout 2016. The history book Meyer referenced was written by Jerry Poling, UW-Stout assistant communications director.

A total of 1,114 undergraduate students received bachelor’s degrees in two ceremonies A total of 203 graduate students received master’s and doctorate degrees in an evening ceremony. The Graduate School ceremony featured UW-Stout’s first graduates from its first doctoral program, a Doctor of Education in career and technical education, as well as the first graduate from the Master of Fine Arts in design program.

Deans of the colleges presented the diplomas. Patrick Guilfoile, provost and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, welcomed the graduates and presided over the ceremonies. Mark Parsons, vice chancellor for University Advancement and Marketing, welcomed the graduates into the Stout Alumni Association.

Music was provided by the university’s Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra, directed by Aaron M. Durst. Choral selections were performed by the university’s Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir, directed by Jerry Hui.



Second Photo: James Huff Stout

Bottom Photo: Chancellor Bob Meyer speaks during commencement.