UW-Stout History: An Institute Emerges

Lorenzo Dow Harvey

 

When James H. Stout arrived in Madison to take up his duties as a state senator, he continued his work in the field of education.

 

Shortly after joining the Senate, he was appointed 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 managed to attend Milton College, in addition to his teaching duties, and received a bachelor of science degree in 1875. While serving as principal at Sheboygan, 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. As a result, Harvey was elected to the state superindendency in 1898.


Due to the nature of their positions, Harvey and Stout often discussed questions on education. One of Harvey's special interests was the Stout training schools, and he took an active part in promoting them in Wisconsin and other states. When Harvey failed to be renominated for the state superintendency, Stout quickly offered him the directorship of the training schools. He used his influence on the local school board to have Harvey named superintendent of schools in Menomonie. Harvey was also made assistant cashier at Stout's bank so that his income would be the same as his state superintendent's salary. Harvey accepted the job in 1903.


Harvey brought to the Stout training schools a combination of dynamic leadership and professionalism that were to set the standard in manual training. Much of this was reflected in the bulletins that were issued following Harvey's arrival. In addition to the schools' course listings, the bulletins allowed Harvey and other leaders in the field to express their views on the goals of manual training in general and at Stout in particular. No doubt educators across the country looked forward to the bulletins, as they reflected the latest trends in an increasingly respected field.


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 schools "for the preparation of teachers of manual training and teachers of domestic science" were created. These training schools offered two-year certificates in manual training and domestic science.


The Stout training schools were already well-known in the state of Wisconsin when Harvey arrived, but in 1904, their reputation expanded on a national and international level. It was in that year that the schools entered an exhibit at the St. Louis World Fair. The exhibit won a gold medal, the only such medal awarded in that field.


Two years later, the training schools offered their first summer school. The courses were 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." The first summer school attracted 11 students in manual training and nine in domestic science.


Under Harvey's guidance, the manual training schools were rapidly expanding in terms of students (243 in 1908) and number of programs offered. Success, however, was creating a problem in differentiating between the schools that were being supported by Stout and those that were being supported by the city. In an effort to clear up this problem, Stout, Harvey and William Ribenack (Stout's private secretary) signed the articles of incorporation creating the Stout Institute on March 20, 1908. One of the main goals of the corporation was 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."

 Articles of Incorporation 

The creation of the Stout Institute crowned the first five years of Harvey's tenure. They had been innovative years and much had been accomplished. However, not all of Stout's and Harvey's experiments proved to be as successful as the two had hoped. For example, a trade school for secondary students introduced in 1908 proved to be short-lived. The Kindergarten Training School was discontinued in 1909, due to lack of administrative support.

The death of James Huff Stout in December 1910 was a great loss to the community as well as to the institute he founded. Stout died after a seven-month fight against kidney disease. In addition to his contributions to education, Stout was honored by people from Wisconsin for his work with libraries, hospitals, and the new field of conservation of resources.

Many feared that the Stout Institute would not long survive its founder. For many years, the institute had been running in the red; Stout paid for the deficits out of his own pocket. The senator's heirs, along with members of the Stout Institute Board of Trustees, asked the State of Wisconsin to assume the maintenance for the school in return for ownership. Fortunately, the concept of industrial education was gaining in popularity in Wisconsin at the time and the state agreed to assume control over the school in 1911.

 Harvey Hall

With the death of its founder, the future of the Stout Institute rested largely in the hands of Harvey. Much of what the Stout Institute would become was shaped by his philosophy. In many ways, Harvey was the ideal administrator for the development of the institute. He was a firm believer in industrial education and a leader in educational rights for women as well. In addition, he was an innovator in new concepts in education, such as psychology. As an educator, he was universally respected, although not always well-liked. A member of his teaching staff later stated: "His followers and adherents recognized in him a bold, purposeful, clear-headed commander and they fell in line, even though sometimes rebellious at heart."

Student life at Stout was somewhat constricted under Harvey, but perhaps no more so than at other contemporary institutions of higher education. For example, for many years, students were required to wear uniforms and had a 7:30 p.m. curfew. On the other hand, there were several scholastic, social, religious and ethnic clubs in which students could participate. It was also under Harvey that a student annual (1909) and newspaper (1915) were introduced.

Ray Hall

By 1912, enrollment at Stout climbed to more than 500, and it was apparent that the physical facilities at the institute had to expand. Through the efforts of Harvey and others, a trades building was erected in 1913 (now Ray Hall) and a home economics building (now Harvey Hall) was dedicated in 1917. The completion of these projects more than doubled the physical plant of the institute.

Even as the new buildings were under construction, Harvey began his campaign to bring a four-year degree program to Stout. After overcoming considerable opposition, the degree program was approved in 1917 in the areas of household arts and industrial arts. This approval resulted in the introduction of course work in history, sociology and several other liberal arts areas.

America's entry into World War I had profound effects on Stout. Enrollment at the institute dropped by more than half as many male Stout students answered the call to arms. On campus, men were required to take military drill, and women, Red Cross training. In 1918, a unit of the Student Army Training Corps was organized at Stout.

When the war ended, enrollment at the institute again began to climb. By 1923, the number of students reached a record level (589). Prewar activities and clubs also returned to campus. The Stout Institute, as well as the nation in general, was experiencing a period of unexpected growth and prosperity. Harvey had only a short time to enjoy the post-war life. He died June 1, 1922.

Upon his 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."

--Kevin Thorie 

Back to top