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  “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The passing of
Dr. Edward Weidner
1921 - 2007

Edward Weidner in His Own Words: Remarks, Speeches

Thanks, and a challenge, at the 1967 groundbreaking for UWGB

“Ladies and gentlemen – friends of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Exactly one year and seven days ago the remarkably hospitable and enthusiastic people of Northeastern Wisconsin welcomed some strangers to their shores – my wife, children and myself. It was a heady evening. Expectations ran high. At that time, I issued an invitation. I said, “There will be many occasions for us to work together in the months and years ahead. The community has contributed significantly to the founding of the new campus. But my message tonight is less one of thanks than one of invitation. Your work, our work, has just begun.’ Never has an invitation been accepted more graciously, more fully and more widely. The proof is in this ceremony today. The proof is the men and women all around us here at this beautiful campus-to-be.”

(Address at the November 1967 groundbreaking ceremony at the Shorewood site.)

UWGB a Communiversity

“We are meeting this evening at a time when many universities across the land are estranged from their communities… (Drugs, counter-culture, protests and a variety of ills real and perceived are blamed on those on college campuses.)… In the communities of Marinette, the Fox Valley, Manitowoc and Green Bay, quite a different condition has characterized town-gown relations the last three years. The home towns of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay invited the UW to their midst. They competed for the honor of being the headquarters of the main campus of UWGB. They have given generously of their own resources to provide the facilities that make possible a University of Wisconsin education in this region.”

(Address at Year One Convocation, October 1969)

On environmental studies

“Man and his environment must take its place as a fundamental aspect of the curriculum of every university that seriously concerns itself with the future of mankind… The (current environmental) crisis is rooted in attitudes that have allowed all of us, in our business, industrial, domestic and recreational activities, to do things that have had a cumulative, degrading effect on our environment…”

(March 26, 1970, Testimony in Washington, D.C., before the House Committee on Education and Labor)

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On campus unrest of the 1960s

“A changing university can only be effective in a changing community and a changing society… otherwise the process of bitterness, recrimination and violence recurs once again…”

(Commencement address, January 1969, at Northern Michigan University)

On teen-agers of the day, prospective college students

“They do have something to say to us, they have a message, which must be considered and evaluated and they must be allowed to participate, be listened to and respected… and they see right through us (older adults), especially our moral inconsistencies.”

(November 1968 talk to Brown County Council of Churches)

On recovering from head surgery after a car crash in 1983

“As an empirical social scientist… the good news is that indeed my brain is there.”

(September 1983 remarks to the annual faculty/staff convocation)

Remembering UWGB’s highly publicized early years… and spirit of innovation

“Well, we achieved a national and international reputation before we ever taught a student. That was a little embarrassing. We really had to get some reality there quickly in order to prove the case. But the reason for that was that there was a tremendous ferment in higher education in the 1960s… The fact is that I had a national audience before I even had a secretary. I was the only employee and I was told by the president (of the UW) that there were (virtually) no guidelines… Go ahead and do what you want. It was to be innovative.”

(Interview with University Communications, February 1986)

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On a messy situation (an early open house for upperclass students)

“It was a disaster, as far as making a mess… There was corn on the cob and beer (inside) the new buildings. There was butter and beer all over the hallways.”

(Recalling the 1970s, Green Bay News-Chronicle, June 1986)

On problem-solving emphasis

“If education is to enhance the problem-solving abilities of students, it follows that the concentrations or majors which students select should be related to problems. At the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, all students are required to take problem-oriented majors… (So) 100 percent of the students have problem-oriented majors, but the University gives them options… 90 percent of the students select a disciplinary co-major, as well…”

(July 1974 talk on educational innovation, at The American University of Beirut)

On his longevity

“I don’t really feel that ancient to talk about longevity, but I guess people have observed that I am still the one and only chancellor, after 18 years. As I often say, I am the best chancellor and also the worst chancellor.”

(Remarks to a news media roundtable, March 1984)

On dication, and issuing directives

“In those early years, I used to have alternating Tuesday staff meetings. One group one week, next group the next week and we had some in-between meetings as well. I was the greatest dictator of letters and memoranda. Oh, it was just amazing, and I was never happy unless the typists and the secretaries in my office had at least two or three dictabelts (a recording system using plastic belts and stylus) in reserve. Because I thought, ‘gee, I’m not doing my job.” Today (in 1984) I probably dictate about two belts a week. In 1968 it would have been two or three a day.”

(Reflections at that same media roundtable, 1984)

On his leadership team of Donald Harden, Bill Kuepper, Cyril Backes

“Now the four of us know each other very well and, you know, we can growl at each other without being unhappy… We can say to each other, you know, ‘you really booted that one.’… People make mistakes… and it’s important to have people around you who aren’t afraid to speak up and say negative things…”

(1984 media roundtable)

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On making a difference

“I was taught (growing up in Minneapolis) that you could make your own world. And if you can make your own world, then isn’t it a glorious world?”

(“Pragmatism Revisited,” a November 1983 lecture to students at the Ecumenical Center)

On being told by Vince Lombardi to pursue soccer, not football

“(While) Lombardi was not as optimistic as some others about soccer’s future in this country were, during the late 1960s, he did however believe it was potentially a good attendance sport… Overnight we became a soccer power… Without those players and coaches we could have never beaten the No. 1 team (a famous upset of perennial power St. Louis University in the program’s fifth season). Overnight, people in soccer knew all about the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.”

(Interview for Phoenix soccer media guide, 1986)

Early thoughts on UWGB innovations

“The main innovation here is not ecology or environment. It is the concept that we are a focused university, and a problem-focused university… (In traditional higher education of the 1960s), graduates were parroting their professors and becoming greater and greater specialists. Schools were ignoring those undergraduates who had no connection with outreach and research… The challenge was not to just junk the traditional majors, but to take traditional fields and see how each of them can be made socially responsible and responsive.”

(Interview with Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 1972)

Disappointment with “merger” in 1971

“In our case we need to be concerned because we have been distinctive – we have purposely tried to create an institution that was innovative, that would give our students the best education and modern educational know-how and technology could extend and I think we have been truly creative in the institution that we have formed. And it is no secret that there were at least nine universities if not perhaps 12 institutions in Wisconsin prior to merger who somehow wanted to ‘cut Green Bay down to size’… it’s quite obvious that other institutions have not understood the differences… Have you ever thought how easy it is to define equalitarianism as sameness?”

(September 1972 convocation address to the UWGB faculty and staff)

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  Photo: Weidner at podium.
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