James Huff Stout, UW-Stout's founder

By University Communications
March 30, 2015
James Huff Stout

Photo: James Huff Stout

If James Huff Stout were to return today to the institution he founded in 1891, he wouldn't recognize most of the campus; nor would he be familiar with the specialized majors offered by what is now University of Wisconsin-Stout. Yet, upon close examination of the university's current mission, he would undoubtedly conclude that the spirit of his forward-looking vision lives on today.

James Huff Stout was born and grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. He entered his father's lumber business at age 19, spent some years in Read's Landing, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C., and then settled in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where he resided for the last 20 years of his life. Today the name Stout is readily associated with the University of Wisconsin-Stout and with the Knapp-Stout lumber company. While Stout's principle claim to fame lies in his laying a foundation for a great university, his prominence in other Wisconsin and national affairs has largely been forgotten.

The neglect of these contributions was due in part to his own unassuming posture and seeming avoidance of public praise. During his residence in Wisconsin, he accomplished a great deal in educational change, the development of libraries, the "good roads movement," and in other progressive enterprises. He was a civic leader and served as a state legislator.

Admittedly, Stout was able to accomplish much of what he did by means of his wealth. The exploitation of the great white pine forest of northern Wisconsin yielded significant fortunes for the families involved in the Knapp, Stout & Co., Company. Stout used his money to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate.

UW-Stout is a monument to the man and his ideas -- the only institution in the UW System named for an individual.

Stout's Leaders

James Huff Stout
Founder, 1891–1910

Lorenzo Dow Harvey
President, 1903–1922  

Burton E. Nelson
President, 1923–1945  

Verne C. Fryklund
President, 1945–1961

WIlliam J. Micheels
President/Chancellor, 1961–1972  

Robert S. Swanson
Chancellor, 1972–1988 

Charles W. Sorensen
Chancellor, 1988–2014