It was founded in 1891 as a private institution, part of the national manual training movement, by the local businessman and philanthropist. When James Stout died in 1910, his wife, Angeline, agreed to donate the school to the state, which took over in 1911.
Thus, 60 years after the state takeover, as the 1971 merger moved ahead, the state had a small problem: What should it do about the name of the school in Menomonie?
How close did UW-Stout come to being named UW-Menomonie, or something else?
Following is an excerpt from “An Idea Comes of Age: UW-Stout 1891-2016,” a history book published by the university to mark its 125th anniversary.
UW System merger
The UW System was created Oct. 11, 1971, when the state’s two public university systems merged under one Board of Regents. The bill passed by one vote in the state Senate. It took nearly another three years, until July 9, 1974, to finalize the merger under a new Chapter 36 in the state statutes, with the two systems operating separately until that time.
The two systems were the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Universities. The former included UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, UW-Parkside, UW-Extension and 10 two-year colleges. The latter included the nine state universities that began as normal schools, such as Platteville, Stevens Point, and Eau Claire, along with Stout State, and four two-year colleges.
With the merger, the UW System became the third largest higher education system in the nation with more than 133,000 students, behind only New York and California.
The goal of the merger was to make public higher education in Wisconsin more efficient, more fiscally responsible and more accountable to the state and to state taxpayers.
The merger raised many questions and concerns at campuses around the state, including at Stout State University. About three weeks before the merger bill passed, Stout State President William “Bud” Micheels was interviewed by a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal and explained that outlying campuses such as Stout feared being overlooked in the big system and losing their identity.
“I have certain trepidations in regard to the conversion. I am thinking about a neighboring state with which I am familiar in which the campuses have a rubber-stamped concept. We do not want to become rubber-stamped, second-line satellites,” he said, making a veiled reference to the University of Minnesota, where he taught before coming to Stout State.
Micheels added, however, “We don’t expect this will happen. I have been trying to reinforce to students and alumni who happen to be on campus this semester that we will not be lost. Here at Stout we have uniqueness and strong tradition in terms of our specialties. We expect that this will be continued under the merger.”