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Chapter Twenty: Fall 1987—Spring 1989

“In summary, the team believes that UW-Green Bay has organized its human, financial and physical resources adequately in order to accomplish its mission. Furthermore, based upon the evidence supplied in the self study and in the information gathered during the site visit, the team believes the institution is accomplishing its purposes.” - Accreditation review, North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, May 1988

The four professors and administrators who visited the campus for three days in March 1988 did not hesitate to recommend a 10-year renewal of accreditation for the University. The team's report praised the faculty as “vigorous and well qualified in their disciplines,” with morale that was “generally high.” It recognized the students as “highly motivated, serious, and supportive of the mission of the University.” Academic support functions were found to be “well organized, staffed by competent personnel and delivering high quality service” and the academic advising system “individualized, closely monitored and effective.” But the team also listed four areas of “concern”—all related to the academic program—that required attention. Progress in those areas would be the subject of a focused evaluation during 1991-92.

The conclusions of the report supported Outcalt's own assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses. He was already wrestling with the challenge of recasting the academic organizational structure.

“It became clear to me, at the beginning of the 1987-88 year, that there was need for a strong middle management in the academic area, and for a vice chancellor with real authority,” he recalled in a 1991 interview. “But the problem was that traditional academic organization—which would have been easy to bring in—would also have resulted in academic duchies, a splitting of the campus.”

Impetus for change had been spurred by a UW System mandate to revise and update the campus mission statement, a document largely untouched since its creation in 1973. By October 1987 a new statement was on its way to the central administration in Madison. But a frequent changing of the guard hampered other steps toward resolving organizational ambiguity. At that point the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs had been without permanent leadership for more than two years.

William Kuepper, vice chancellor from 1979 to 1985, had departed for a temporary assignment in Madison during Weidner's final year. During a leave of absence that stretched to 18 months, Kuepper served the UW System first as interim vice president for academic affairs and then as senior academic planner. Kuepper's replacement as acting vice chancellor was David Jowett of the faculty. When Jowett resigned in 1987 to return to teaching, the post was taken on an interim basis by John Visser, a former president of Emporia State University in Kansas. Visser agreed to stay to the end of the 1987-88 year. Soon after he took over his duties, a search committee set to work to identify and screen candidates for a permanent vice chancellor.

William Kuepper

The search faltered. After seven months the committee abandoned its efforts to fill the position. But before the end of the academic year, without a candidate in sight, Outcalt announced a reorganization of the vice chancellor's office. The changes, he said, followed several months of informal consultation and discussion, and reflected several principles:

  • The vice chancellor's staff would include three deans, each with supervision of a group of academic areas having certain common administrative challenges. Each dean would also have oversight of selected campuswide programs so that they would retain a campuswide perspective.
  • The dean positions would be named according to the following areas of line authority and responsibility: dean of arts, sciences and graduate programs;dean of humanities, social sciences and general education; dean of professional studies and outreach.
  • Incumbent Deans Robert J. Bauer and Leander Schwartz would continue in newly defined roles: Bauer as dean of professional studies and outreach and Schwartz as dean of arts, sciences and graduate programs. The third position would be filled later through an internal appointment.
  • Part-time administrators would be appointed for three areas of responsibility: international programs, faculty development and exchange; general education; and graduate programs.

In June 1988 Outcalt announced the appointment of Kuepper as interim vice chancellor. The search for a permanent administrator would be reactivated in the fall, Outcalt said.

“It is in the best interest of the University to forge ahead with the restructuring,” the chancellor commented. “Carrying out the necessary changes will be Dr. Kuepper's priority assignment in the coming year.”

July brought the appointment of Carol Pollis of the sociology faculty to the vacant post of dean of humanities, social sciences and general education. She would be the first woman in the senior administration. Schwartz left the administration to return to the classroom, and Donald Larmouth, of the communication and the arts faculty, replaced Schwartz as dean of arts, sciences and graduate programs. With the appointment of other professors to two of the part-time posts before Christmas, the revamped academic structure was all but complete. Michael Murphy, the new associate dean of general education and faculty development, and Ronald Stieglitz, associate dean of graduate studies, began their duties on Jan. 1, 1989. Joyce Salisbury, a historian in the humanistic studies unit, joined them in mid-January as director of international education.

Deans Robert J. Bauer and Leander Schwartz
Deans Robert J. Bauer and Leander Schwartz

Deans Robert J. Bauer and Leander Schwartz

And after a reactivated search that attracted 100 vice chancellor candidates, Kuepper won the position on a permanent basis, effective June 1, 1989.

“His performance (in an interim role) together with his record of previous accomplishments made him very competitive on a national scale,” Outcalt said, commenting on Kuepper's appointment. “We feel, too, that his credibility in carrying out the job at UW-Green Bay and at the UW System level has only been enhanced by his showing against a national pool of outstanding candidates.”

Kuepper's appointment completed the first major administrative reorganization to be undertaken in 14 years. The process internally had consumed almost four years, starting with an institutional self-study that was the first step toward renewal of accreditation.

To outside observers, the new order took visible form with the relocation of academic affairs offices to the eighth floor of the library. For the first time in University history, senior administrators and academic deans occupied the same floor of the same building. During the summer of 1988 Outcalt and his staff had moved from Wood Hall, and Kuepper and the three deans from Theatre Hall, taking quarters near the offices of Associate Chancellor Donald Harden and Assistant Chancellor Cyril Backes.

University watchers noted, as well, the successful conclusion during 1988-89 of long-termefforts to strengthen and broaden the credit curriculum:

  • Accreditation of the undergraduate social work program by the National Council on Social Work Education. The evaluation team pointed out as a special strength the field experiences offered with Northeastern Wisconsin human service agencies.
  • Addition of a Chinese language course to spring semester credit offerings. It was the first non-Western language to be taught at UW-Green Bay , and the first course in Chinese to be available in the area.
  • Establishment of an engineering program in collaboration with the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UW-Milwaukee. Starting in fall 1989, students completing two years of work in the Northeast Wisconsin engineering program at UW-Green Bay could be admitted to upper-level courses at UW-Milwaukee on the same basis as UWM students.
  • Initiation of a pilot program for interdisciplinary study of “great works” created from the Renaissance to the 18th century. The program was developed by David Galaty of the humanistic studies faculty and funded by a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Associate Chancellor Donald Harden and Assistant Chancellor Cyril Backes
Associate Chancellor Donald Harden and Assistant Chancellor Cyril Backes

University Business Office

As academic departments expanded opportunities for students seeking degrees, other units and individuals worked to reach another goal high on Outcalt's agenda: linking the University more closely to its community. Faculty members were often key players during 1988-89:

  • Joyce Salisbury launched an evening humanities series as host and guide for “An Evening With the Ancient Anglo-Saxons.” Other “evenings” during the academic year centered on the personalities and achievements of individuals from Diego Velazquez to Martin Luther King, Marcel Proust to Clint Eastwood.
  • Psychologist Per Johnsen presented the results of his research on attitudes about downtown Green Bay and its shopping mall during a breakfast seminar at a downtown restaurant. The information was gleaned from a survey of 200 shoppers interviewed by Johnsen and his students. It was shared with local officials, business leaders and interested citizens at one of four presentations arranged by the Office of Outreach and focused on the question “What's Happening Downtown?”
  • Ex-New Yorkers Lou and Eugenia Erdmann, newcomers to the theater faculty, escorted campus and community theater buffs to the Big Apple for a weekend splurge of Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway entertainment. The trip inaugurated annual theater tours that quickly achieved “must-do” status with scores of Northeastern Wisconsin residents.
  • Faculty and staff men and women from the Office of Outreach speakers bureau spoke before 84 different groups—travel clubs to nursing home residents, elementary school children to retired plumbers. Topics ranged from presidential elections and the media to street gangs. Program committees consulting the bureau's annual listing could choose from 500 titles and 140 speakers.
  • Faculty members Clifford Abbott and Orville Clark collaborated with two tribal languageteachers to produce a chapter of the volume The Oneida Indian Experience: Two Perspectives. Abbott, a linguist, had been working with the tribe for 15 years in a federally funded project to keep alive the Oneida language and oral traditions.
  • In the keynote address of a “Women take back the night” rally, sociologist Lynn Walter attacked the “Rambo mentality” that encourages crimes against women. Three hundred women, men and children turned out for the candlelight vigil and march in downtown Green Bay.

Conferences, workshops and seminars provided other opportunities for sharing University resources.

A number of first-time offerings targeted specific needs of a growing and changing region: a conference for health professionals and social workers on the health-care beliefs, practices and needs of the Hmong people; a workshop on economic development for American Indian communities; a one-day seminar on social trends in Northeastern Wisconsin, planned especially for human service workers; a seminar on small-business basics for young entrepreneurs, aged 15 to 30.

Other programs sponsored or hosted by the University continued successful traditions.

For children and youth, the link to the campus during the year might well have been a daytime performance of The Wind in the Willows, the fifth children's theater production to be staged in five years by students and faculty. Or a lecture-demonstration in a middle-school auditorium by a professional dance company that would perform the same evening in the University Theatre. Or a summer week of instruction and practice with other youth who had come to a UW-Green Bay music camp from every corner of the state.

For some, a UW-Green Bay connection meant a dinner-table tour of a foreign land in the Student Union or a basketball contest at the Brown County Arena. Others looked ahead to the day when a community-campus performing arts center would forge an enduring link between town and gown.

Public officials and private citizens, as well as members of the campus community, had dreamed of such a facility for at least 25 years. Half a dozen schemes had been proposed to provide a new building or renovate an existing one; all had fallen by the wayside. Then came a telephone call to Chancellor Emeritus Weidner on New Year's Day of 1987. On the line from Florida was Dr. David Cofrin, a native of Green Bay and a benefactor of the University. Cofrin had more than friendly greetings on his mind. He almost immediately brought up the subject of a conversation that had engaged the two men a year or two earlier, when Weidner was still chancellor of UW-Green Bay. Talking on that occasion about the “unfinished business” of a campus master plan adopted in 1968, Weidner had mentioned in particular a performing arts center. His vision, he told Cofrin, was of a facility that would be built on the campus but shared with the community.

There had been other conversations about the continuing efforts of individuals and groups to provide such a center in Green Bay. But until the telephone call from Florida, the two men had not again discussed the subject at length. Now Cofrin was saying, “Is there still some interest in the project? Write me a note about it. Let me know the current thinking on the subject.”

The note was written. And in mid-April Chancellor Outcalt could announce that Cofrin and his wife, Mary Ann, had made an initial pledge of $4 million to support construction of a performing arts center and promised an additional $195,000 for advance planning. Other funds for construction and maintenance would be sought through private gifts and a grant from the state, Outcalt said. The center would be located on the campus, but operated on behalf of the whole community.

Dean Robert Bauer was named by Outcalt to head an eight-member planning and steering committee. Other members from the University were Linda Erwin, director of arts and performances, and Jerome Abraham and Richard Sherrell of the communication and the arts faculty. Appointed from the community were John Gilman, Frederick L. Schmidt, Robert H. Schroeder and Nancy Stiles. Gilman was president of a group that had worked unsuccessfully to promote a performance facility in downtown Green Bay. Schmidt was president of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra board and Schroeder of the Civic Music Association board. Stiles had been active in theater circles in the Milwaukee area and in Green Bay.

By July the committee had developed and refined preliminary plans on the basis of suggestions from local arts groups and their own research. The main auditorium would seat 2,000 rather than 1,500 as originally envisioned, and would be the largest performance hall in Wisconsin outside Milwaukee. A dance studio would be added. Rehearsal space would be enhanced for use also as a recital hall, meeting room or reception area. The lobby would be designed to accommodate such events as chamber music concerts as well as arriving patrons and intermission traffic. The building would include an administrative center, lounge, workrooms and storage areas.

Progress on the performing arts facility hit a snag in December, as UW regents debated and eventually tabled a request to use the $195,000 in gift money to hire a planning consultant. But the matter was soon resolved. Because such a center had been included in the approved master development plan for UW-Green Bay, UW officials said, it would be appropriate to receive private and public funds for the purpose. A regent committee approved use of the funds at its February meeting. Two months later the State Building Commission added its blessing, clearing the way to hire Robert Lorelli, principal of a New York City theatrical design firm.

Events moved swiftly after that.

In April 1988, one year after the Cofrin gift was announced, the donors returned for a celebration. At a reception that marked the kick-off of a campaign for private funds, David Cofrin proposed that the center be named for Chancellor Emeritus Weidner. The suggestion was greeted with a standing ovation.

In September, Gov. Tommy Thompson announced that the Beckley/Myers firm had been chosen as architects for the center. The Milwaukee-based group had previously created a master plan for the Milwaukee theater district and designed a new home for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

In December the UW Board of Regents approved $5 million in state funding. The Building Commission pared the figure to $3.5 million. But by March 1989, when the regents formally authorized construction, the state's contribution was firmly attached to the new biennial budget. Gov. Tommy Thompson had assured his support. And a long-deferred vision was taking shape on the drawing board.

Nancy Stiles and David Cofrin at the fund-raising campaign reception for the Weidner Center

Nancy Stiles and David Cofrin at the fund-raising campaign reception for the Weidner Center