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Chapter Twelve: 1978—1979

“Right now the year 1978 may be too close for a proper perspective. But by the time another decade has gone by, I predict, we shall be looking back on the year as one in which the University took important steps from youth toward maturity, winning new respect from the community and strengthening its unique identity among the public institutions of Wisconsin.” - Chancellor Edward Weidner, Green Bay News-Chronicle , Feb. 24, 1979

The progress that could be measured by looking out a window was over.

After a decade of marking the start or completion of at least one new building every year, the bricks-and-mortar development of the University ended in January 1978 with the opening of a physical plant and stores facility south of the academic core and just off Circle Drive. Except for the expansion of student housing, the configuration of the physical plant would remain unaltered for at least another decade.

Now the process of building within moved forward, invigorated by a modest improvement in enrollment.

The fall 1978 report showed a continuing decline in full-time registrations, but a significant gain in head count, swelled by more than 300 students in graduate courses. Weidner was particularly heartened by the influx of new freshmen from the region: over a two-year period, 34 percent more from Brown County and 23 percent more from surrounding counties of Northeastern Wisconsin. The class of new freshmen was the largest in four years, and both the total enrollment of 3,715 and the 597 new freshmen exceeded head count projections for the first time in the University's 10-year history. Another statistic hinted at an improvement in retention: 70 percent of students enrolled in degree programs during the previous spring semester had returned in the fall. But it was too early to cheer. While head count continued to increase, the improvement in numbers came largely from part-time students taking one or two courses. Another three years would go by before FTE enrollment would recover to the level of 1974-75.

As 1978-79 began, building in the academic area was changing the dimensions of the curriculum.

The new all-university requirements were in effect. The regents had approved a major in accounting, effective the second semester. On the horizon, just a year away, were undergraduate majors in social work and environmental planning. The music program had won accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music. An introductory course in graphic arts provided the first building block for a minor in graphic communication. Through a cross-enrollment agreement with St. Norbert College, ROTC was added to the regular curriculum. And new courses in mammology and animal behavior strengthened the pre-professional program for aspiring veterinarians.

Men and women who signed up as the first Extended Degree students ranged in age from 31 to 70. The new program was planned especially for students seeking to complete undergraduate studies interrupted by job and family responsibilities. By pursuing an individualized curriculum combining formal classes with off-campus study, adults could complete requirements for the bachelor of general studies degree on a schedule of their own choosing. The UW-Green Bay program was one of three inaugurated at UW campuses; it was the first in the state to offer degree credits for prior learning through relevant life experience, employment, travel or volunteer service.

The maturing University was also providing new and improved services to an increasingly diverse student body.

Renovations converted part of the seventh floor of the library to a gathering place for international students. The child care center expanded to a year-around operation, adding a summer program open to all community residents. With a complete food service now operating in the Student Union, University officials prepared to mount another campaign for campus housing. This time around, instead of new dormitories, they concentrated on facilities that were already built: the privately owned Bay Apartments.

The University would seek to purchase the nine-building complex with a low-interest loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. By December the regents had granted tentative approval for UW-Green Bay to pursue the new strategy.

Admissions counselors were working overtime in the quest for visibility and community acceptance. When they took a few days off from trips to high schools around the state, it was only to welcome groups of prospective students to special events on the campus. Three thousand high school juniors and seniors from 14 counties, accompanied by parents and counselors, jammed the Phoenix Sports Center for the University's first career fair. And community volunteers, representing 200 occupational categories, answered the same questions over and over again: What did you have to learn? How did you get your job? How much money do you make? Do you enjoy what you're doing?

Energetic outreach programs also continued to target the over-25 population.

During well publicized visits to small-town libraries, an Office of Outreach counselor shared information, answered questions, soothed anxieties and quelled rumors about UW-Green Bay programs. Other outreach programs continued to build on previous successes. Sellout crowds sampled the cuisine and culture of Ireland, Poland, Scandinavia, Greece, Peru and Italy in a series of dinner-lecture programs that brought hundreds of first-time visitors to the University. A second Women in Business Conference attracted more than 200 women and men and established the gathering as an annual event. Some of the participants returned for a one-day exploration of “double duty lives,” billed as a conference for working homemakers.

The University's first summer institute for municipal clerks brought practitioners from 48 communities across the state. The two-week session included courses in administration, public policy and social and interpersonal skills. Three hundred voters turned out for an evening of spirited debate among four candidates for governor. Hundreds more “discovered” the library at an open house celebrating the addition of the one millionth bibliographic item to the UW-Green Bay collections: the original manuscript of The Prairie People , a critically acclaimed volume by faculty anthropologist James Clifton.

Faculty researchers, meanwhile, were making news as they confronted everyday concerns of people in the Northeastern Wisconsin community, from shrinking supplies of yellow perch—staple of the Friday night fish fry—to local mass transit.

With funds from the federal Sea Grant program, Paul Sager and a student team continued to investigate the effects on young perch of seasonal changes in the food supply. Microbiologist Alice Goldsby, in a long-range study of “swimmability” of the lower bay, headed a faculty team conducting water tests for the Metropolitan Sewerage District. Nitrite, a common preservative in meat products, drew the attention of one faculty study, PCBs of another. Before and after extensive cloud-seeding activities in a region of the state, Jack Norman analyzed soil samples for concentrations of silver. A local cold-storage warehouse provided the laboratory for student researchers testing the comfort of sleeping bags produced by a national manufacturer. The project was supervised by William Kaufman and supported by a private grant. Ronald Baba, David Damkoehler and David Littig collaborated in the most visible project of all: developing market strategies and materials, from bus stop signs to printed schedules, to “sell” Green Bay Transit service to more customers. A $55,000 grant from the city and the state financed three years of planning and work by faculty members and students.

Student success stories reported by the Green Bay media also helped to define the opportunities the University presented to individuals in different life situations.

Chet Wallace and Harold Compton, class of 1977

At the 1977 spring commencement two veterans of the Green Bay Police Department, Capt. Chet Wallace and Deputy Chief Harold Compton, walked across the platform to receive baccalaureate degrees. The same ceremony marked the triumphant climax to six years of study by Jan Peterson, disabled by cerebral palsy. A year later, Vera Schramm—mother of five and blind since birth—took her place among the May graduates. And the December 1978 exercises marked the end of the road for three Marinette County businessmen. Patrick Rudolph and twin brothers Ronald and Donald Rife, who had begun their studies at the two-year UW Center in Marinette, car-pooled for 16,000 miles over eight years to complete degrees in business administration at UW-Green Bay.

Steps toward maturity included, finally, fitting new programs into new facilities to counter a chronic complaint about the lack of student activities. Gerald Olson, dean of students, wasn't ready to promise overnight transformation to a party school. But the Phoenix Sports Center and Student Union offered the chance, he said, “to build new traditions—both big things like pep rallies and small ones like the build-your-own-sandwich specials.” After years in which student clubs operated in isolation from each other, activities were now coordinated under a three-branch student government structure: one group, the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee (SUFAC) to allocate student fees to organizations; the Student Senate, to set policies; and the Good Times Programming Board.

Richard Christie, director of student life programs, observed in an Appleton Post-Crescent  year-end report on education:

“What our students have available to them is pretty much in keeping with student activity trends nationwide. Political activism is practically invisible across the country. Students are into having fun during their free time. And that's the direction the bulk of our programming has taken.

“What we've been trying to do at UW-Green Bay—and what I believe we really saw come together for the first time this year—was to give students a chance to establish their own traditions here and to have some fun while they're getting an education. It's part of a school coming of age.”