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UW-Green Bay: From the Beginning

Chapter Two: 1950's - Fall 1966

 John M. Rose

“People have asked me why I have done things and why I get involved, and I have one simple explanation: You ought to leave the campground a little better than you found it.”

-John M. Rose, president of Kellogg Bank, 1951-1981
R.E. Small

“I think this is something the people of the community, both inside and outside the University, should be very proud of. It shows what a community can do if it doesn't sit back on its heels but gets up and does something. And for me, I think this is going to go down as the major accomplishment of my life.”

-Rudy Small, chairman of the Northeastern Wisconsin Education Committee and Citizens University Committee, 1963-1967; vice president of sales and senior vice president, Paper Converting Machine Company, 1957-1982

When Chancellor Weidner chose John “Jake” Rose and Rudy Small as the first recipients of the Chancellor's Award, he honored two longtime residents of Green Bay who had contributed to the early development of the University in unique and significant ways.

By 1965, when Gov. Warren Knowles signed enabling legislation for a new university, Rose already had a well deserved reputation as a mover and shaker in projects for community betterment. As president of Kellogg Bank, as an active member of numerous local government boards and committees, Rose had been a leader in bringing a potable water supply to the city, in county planning, sewerage and bridge development. With the creation of the University on paper, Rose turned his attention to making it a reality. Working behind the scenes, Rose helped Brown County acquire land to fill out the campus site. And with the new institution still no more than a set of architect's drawings, he spearheaded the first drive for private funds and laid the groundwork for the UW-Green Bay Founders Association.

Small worked up front, leading the charge in the political arena almost from the first day of a concerted campaign to locate a degree-granting campus in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The idea had been simmering for years. As early as 1958, Gov. Gaylord Nelson had entertained the possibility of a new regional university. By the 1959-60 academic year, 345 UW Center-Green Bay students jammed the classrooms of “Cardboard Tech,” a World War II ordnance building near East High School. Enrollment at the two-year campus had soared by 40 percent over the previous year. When center operations moved to a new $1.3 million building on Deckner Avenue in December 1961, about 500 students were enrolled. The Green Bay Center was the second largest of the eight two-year campuses operated by UW-Extension, and the fastest growing.

An era of explosive growth in higher education was well under way in every section of the country. And by 1962, the prospect of a four-year campus was being discussed in several Northeastern Wisconsin circles, at least informally. The Green Bay Press-Gazette suggested in an April editorial that if expansion plans were in order for the University of Wisconsin, officials might well consider expanding the Green Bay or Fox Valley Center into a four-year campus. The same editorial advocated that citizens encourage the idea: “Communities which are alert to possibilities and ready to present reasonable cases for consideration are also the ones least likely to be passed by.... In the long run, the expansion of some extension center into a third four-year university (in addition to Madison and Milwaukee) must be determined by the educational needs of the state or a particular segment of it. It is to help establish these needs, rather than to campaign for a needed institution, that local groups can help.”

Less than a year later, in a speech before the Lions Club, the Rev. Richard Mauthe of the Newman Center echoed the sentiments of the editorial, urging Green Bay citizens to organize support for a university. Dean Theodore Savides of the Green Bay Center predicted the overcrowding of that facility by 1965, and UW President Fred Harvey Harrington, in office less than six months, speculated that a degree-granting campus would “eventually” come to the Green Bay-Fox Valley area. Before the UW Board of Regents, however, he emphasized his opinion that the immediate need for junior-senior offerings was in the Racine-Kenosha area.

Harrington's conclusion was bolstered by citizen initiative in the region: A resolution on behalf of a Racine-Kenosha university was already pending in the 1963 Legislature. In May four Assembly members from Northeastern Wisconsin countered with their own resolution, without proposing a specific location or timetable. One of them was Harold Froehlich of Appleton, floor leader of the Assembly. The Fox Valley should have first consideration for a new campus, Froehlich argued, because of its growth and existing population. A university branch located in Northeastern Wisconsin could provide higher education opportunities to a 14-county region which at the time had about 3,300 students attending college in Wisconsin and elsewhere, more than three times the number currently enrolled from the Racine-Kenosha area.

The Brown County Board of Supervisors joined the campaign with another resolution to support the creation of a four-year campus at Green Bay. They also reactivated a building committee which several years earlier had spearheaded the development of a permanent home for the freshman-sophomore center. When President Harrington came to speak at a September banquet planned by Scholarships Incorporated of Green Bay and local UW alumni, the Press-Gazette suggested that the affair had been arranged partly “in the belief that it could be important merely to impress upon Dr. Harrington the high interest this community has in providing college training for its youth.”

If the dinner crowd of 200 expected some kind of commitment, they were disappointed. Impressed or not, Harrington repeated his assessment of the Racine-Kenosha area as top contender for a third four-year campus of the University of Wisconsin. Regents had already been sent to survey needs in the two Southeastern Wisconsin cities, Harrington said. But it might also be possible, he added, to send a similar group to Green Bay and Appleton, if it were requested.

Rudy Small was out of town the night of the banquet. Yet a week later he would find himself heading up the campaign for a university in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Small served on the board of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at the time, and John Somerville, a local architect, was president.

“John had appointed me chairman of the education committee, which essentially every year just meant getting some people from industry to agree to let high school students visit their plants to see what industry was like,” Small recalled. “I had accepted the job on that basis. But at a chamber board meeting after Harrington was here, John told me, 'Harrington says if we want a University of Wisconsin campus up here, we ought to do something about it. Rudy, you're chairman of the education committee—do something about it!'”

Small had worked his way through engineering school at Northwestern University. He was firmly committed to higher education and ready to act. His motivation was clear:

“We figured if we could get a campus up here, a lot of young people could get an education who would otherwise be denied because they couldn't afford to go to Madison or Milwaukee. That's really what aroused John's interest and mine.”

Chamber executive John Borgenson promptly established the Northeastern Wisconsin Education Committee (NEWEC) and appointed Small its chairman. A few days later Small, Somerville, Borgenson and Green Bay Mayor Roman Denissen called on Harrington in Madison. They had come with one question: What can we do to influence a favorable decision for a university in our region? Harrington's answer was equally direct, according to Small: Prove that you need it. Prove that it will be an asset in economic terms as well as educational terms, not only for students and their parents but also for taxpayers all over the state.

Small's committee—expanded to 25 to include representatives of De Pere, Appleton, Kaukauna, Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay—swung into action. The permanent members would be joined from time to time by residents of Marinette, Wrightstown and Brillion. In making a case for a new university, the group started its campaign with the state's Coordinating Committee for Higher Education (CCHE). The first requirement was a detailed report on higher education needs in seven counties.

“We got all the numbers and put them down: how many high school kids went on to college, how many went to Madison, where they came from,” Small said. “We figured out the centroid of the likely university population—the point to which the students in those seven counties would have to travel the smallest number of miles. And that point turned out to be in the Fox River just south of the Walnut Street bridge.

“That proved our contention that the university should be located somewhere in this area. And the numbers demonstrated that there was an enormous potential among the students who would be coming out of the high schools in the next 10 years.”

Somerville and Borgenson concentrated on the numbers. Other committee members worked to line up broad regional support for the three objectives identified by Small: to establish beyond a doubt the need and desirability of a university somewhere in the Fox Valley; to assist in selecting a site; to work for appropriation of the necessary funds by the Legislature.

By mid-December of 1963 the committee was planning for a public conference on prospects for the new institution. Before the year was out, CCHE members and UW regents received simultaneous resolutions for such a meeting, to be held in the spring, from the Chamber of Commerce, the city of Green Bay and a number of other communities. Meanwhile, encouragement came from the CCHE subcommittee on long-range planning. A study of present and projected population of college-age students now ranked Racine and Kenosha counties second in potential to Brown and Outagamie counties. On the basis of the study, the subcommittee report concluded that the Fox Valley “might be qualified” for a junior-senior level college program. A later CCHE staff report favored establishment of a four-year university in Northeastern Wisconsin by 1969. With strong inside support from Meyer Cohen of Green Bay, a CCHE member, the full committee approved the report and reversed earlier assumptions that the Racine-Kenosha campus would be established first.

The regents confirmed the change in priorities at their April meeting. They voted approval of the concept of adding two four-year campuses instead of one, asked for $120,000 in planning funds from the CCHE, and set 1969 for the opening of a Fox Valley school and 1971 for the opening of a campus in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Small's committee had already mailed invitations for the long-awaited conference in Green Bay. The gathering took place on May 14, 1964, at the Brown County arena. It was described by the Press-Gazette as “the most important meeting on higher education ever to be held in this community.”

The committee's data, collected and analyzed over several months, was buttressed by professionally prepared graphs, charts and illustrations. After the committee presentation, business leaders, mayors and county officials testified to the need for the university. They reinforced their statements with a slide show and printed materials documenting both the need for the university and the advantages to taxpayers of establishing a new institution in Northeastern Wisconsin, rather than adding to existing facilities.

“We had figured out all kinds of things,” Small said. “How much parents would have to pay for room and board by sending these kids to Madison. How much less expensive it would be for even a couple of years here. The cost of land that would be needed to expand campuses in Milwaukee and Madison, versus free land here.”

The meeting accomplished its purpose. Coupled with earlier efforts of individuals and groups, the abundant testimony moved the CCHE from agreement in principle to action. At its June meeting the committee voted unanimously to recommend to Gov. John Reynolds that a four-year university be built in the region by 1969.

The next step was to find a site. In August Reynolds named three state officials to a site selection committee: Howard Koop, a commissioner of the Department of Administration; James Galbraith, a state architect; and state planner Walter Johnson. In September the trio met with Small's committee to determine criteria for the site. Together they decided that the site should include at least 400 acres and contain “interesting topography.” It should be situated within 30 miles of a major population center and adjacent to a regional transportation system. It should have access to existing water and sewer lines and be suitable, in soil type and structure, for heavy buildings. The committee promised a final site selection by mid-November.

By the time the site selection committee met again, two weeks later, different communities had put forward 11 possible locations, including six within Brown County. After looking at all of them from the air, the committee decided they would choose a site and then recommend it to Small's group. If all agreed, the two committees together would present a proposal to the CCHE and eventually to the Legislature for final approval.

With site selection moving forward, Small appealed for solidarity in the quest for a university: “It is imperative that no disunity develop among communities in Northeastern Wisconsin,” he warned his committee in October. “We don't want to jeopardize the chance of getting the school in the Fox Valley by fighting among ourselves.” The call for unity would become a familiar theme in future correspondence and meetings.

Early in November Warren Knowles, a Republican, was elected governor; three weeks later the Reynolds-appointed trio and Small's group announced the selection of the “Larsen orchard site,” 402 acres at the interchange of Highways 41 and 54 on the west side of Green Bay. The city of Green Bay owned 110 acres of the total. The remainder was the property of the Larsen Company, a local food processor. Before the month was over, the Green Bay City Council voted unanimously to donate the portion owned by Green Bay.

Small's committee turned to the next order of business: winning an appropriation of $1.7 million for property acquisition and planning. But they soon discovered that the new governor was in no hurry to push the project. Knowles had suggested in a speech soon after he was elected that the higher education budget might be more profitably spent for expansion of vocational education facilities. And even before taking office he asked the Legislature to delay approving any new four-year campuses, pending the development of a master plan for higher education. The plan for a four-year campus in Northeastern Wisconsin, he told the CCHE, was “not a plan, but a dream.” The State Building Commission promptly withdrew the necessary planning funds from its budget request.

Small's Northeastern Wisconsin Education Committee responded by redoubling its efforts. In a new strategy, regional legislators joined forces with colleagues from Southeastern Wisconsin. Early in the 1965 session Sen. Gerald Lorge of Bear Creek and others introduced a bill asking appropriations of $2.4 million to establish both universities and instructing the governor to appoint a new site selection committee. Thanks to an all-out lobbying effort, the bill gained unanimous support of the Senate Committee on Labor, Taxation, Insurance and Banking and the backing of the Joint Finance Committee.

While Small and others hammered away through visits and correspondence, Gov. Knowles continued to resist.

“I certainly am not opposed to the creation of any additional educational facilities in your area,” he wrote in response to one of Small's frequent letters. “But I am seriously concerned about where the money is coming from.” Presenting his budget message to the Legislature in February 1965, Knowles failed to mention the proposal for the new universities. At the same time he asked for generous increases in operating and building funds for UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and the Wisconsin State University System and approved funds to create two new freshman-sophomore centers. The increases were justified, he said, by an expected increase in some 25,000 students at the existing four-year institutions during the next two years.

Backers of the new universities pounced on the Knowles proposal. During an Assembly Education Committee hearing on the Lorge bill, freshman Sen. Robert Warren pointed out the economic advantages of decentralizing higher education. Business and labor leaders, educators, state education officials and at least eight legislators joined the chorus, urging passage of the measure. When the bill came up for review by the Joint Legislative Education Committee, 300 supporters descended on the Capitol, including two busloads of Green Bay citizens. Among those who spoke in support of the bill were Lt. Gov. Patrick Lucey and UW President Harrington. On the same day, speaking to a joint session of the Legislature, Knowles acknowledged, “I have never taken the position that these are not necessary facilities. Supporters make out a very good case on the basis of population and other factors.”

Knowles was ready to compromise. Instead of two new universities, he suggested a progressive approach: adding third and fourth year collegiate instruction at one location in each region to supplement programs of the freshman-sophomore centers already in operation. He stipulated, however, that the localities pushing for the institutions should be asked to finance site acquisition and other planning expenditures in preparation for actual construction of the new buildings.

For all practical purposes the battle was over. A new bill authorizing third and fourth year instruction in the two regions was passed overwhelmingly by the Assembly and referred to the Joint Finance Committee along with an amendment that deleted all references to “new four-year institutions.” A second amendment specified that the third and fourth year institutions, when established, would be operated by the University of Wisconsin rather than the Wisconsin State University. Sen. Warren guided the bill through the Senate, where the measure as amended was finally approved in late July. Knowles signed the bill into law Sept. 2, 1965.

Rudy Small was the one individual “absolutely crucial” to the creation of the University, according to Sen. Warren, who more than once introduced his friend to others as “the father of UW-Green Bay.” Small, on the other hand, pointed to the key role played by Warren in convincing a reluctant governor and winning favorable action in the Senate:

“Warren was very close to Governor Knowles, and I know Knowles listened to him. Whenever we got into real difficulty, Bob would be there to support us, both in the beginning and later, when we were seeking approval of campus buildings.”

L. G. WoodIn the background, though, lay also the indispensable contribution of Small's employer, L. G. Wood, founder and president of Paper Converting. “He had more impact on this community than anybody realized, and he was about the quietest guy about it,” Small recalled. “When I first got into this and started spending some time at it, I told him,‘You know, this might be a bigger project than I thought. It's going to take some trips to Madison; it's going to take a lot of phone calls and business during the day and committee meetings at noon.’ He said,‘Rudy, that's important for this community. You do what it takes to get it done.’

“Wood's endorsement was important. While he himself didn't spend a lot of time on the project, he did many of the things I normally would have done during that period, and gave me the opportunity to work on the University. He had done other things similar to that, where his name was never mentioned, things that made the difference between something happening and not happening. He was a very, very influential person in this community.”

By the time Knowles signed the bill that in effect authorized the establishment of UW-Green Bay, the Green Bay Center was the largest freshman-sophomore campus in the state. With 931 students occupying facilities designed for 800, the building was bulging at the seams. Knowles lost no time in appointing a new site selection committee: Galbraith and Johnson from the previous panel, plus UW President Harrington and Glen Pommerening of the Assembly, a member of the State Building Commission. Once again Small's committee, still intact as a regional body, turned to the task of helping the new site selection group find a location for the campus. And once again communities in the region came forward with proposals.

The UW regents, meanwhile, announced some decisions about the character of the Northeastern Wisconsin institution. It would be developed primarily for commuter students, with dormitory space available for only 25 to 30 percent of those enrolled. The curriculum should focus on undergraduate studies, although master's degree work might be added later. The campus should be “reasonably accessible” to students in nine counties: Brown, Outagamie, Door, Oconto, Marinette, Shawano, Kewaunee, Calumet and Manitowoc. The site should contain at least 400 acres, to be acquired by the community and donated without cost to the state. The campus community should offer good support services and be sufficiently developed culturally to attract a competent faculty.

By the time site requirements were spelled out at a legislative hearing just before Christmas, the spirit of regional cooperation marking the early days had all but evaporated. As Outagamie County forces geared up for action, the Brown County committee presented a list of six sites for which they had already obtained options. Four had been proposed to the previous committee. A fifth lay on the east bank of the Fox River in DePere, and the sixth was a 535-acre tract north of Highway 54-57 that included the Shorewood Country Club as well as a parcel of farm land owned by the county. Small's group had narrowed the choices to four by the time the state committee came to town for an inspection tour in February 1966. When the tour bus stopped at the Shorewood site, five miles north of downtown Green Bay, not everyone ventured outside.

“We were up on the ridge where the chancellor's house is now, looking down,” Small explained. “It was raining, and the wind was blowing. It was cold and miserable. We got out to show the site to Harrington and Pommerening, while the driver took the bus to the end of the street and turned around. By the time it came back we were soaking wet. I thought, let's get these guys back on the bus before we blow the selection.”

The state committee spent half a day in the Green Bay area and half a day looking at Outagamie County sites. Their recommendation of the Shorewood location—“by far the most aesthetically pleasing site proposed in the Northeast”—was unanimous. But “the ruckus with Appleton,” in Small's words, flared up almost immediately.

The people in the valley agreed it was a fair process of selection,” Small commented. “They just didn't like the results.”

Outagamie County legislators argued that the Shorewood site would be too far away for students commuting from Appleton. Within a week after the site committee announced its decision, the Fox Cities Education Committee submitted a formal request to Knowles to nullify the action on the grounds that the bay shore site failed to meet established criteria, particularly that of accessibility.

The Brown County board, meanwhile, pressed forward to acquire title to the property that had been chosen and meet other stipulations of the site committee. They agreed to donate the portion of county land included in the site, ban all residential construction in the site area, turn over Green Bay Center facilities to the state, and grant permission for the state to buy additional property in the site area, if it would be needed in the future. On March 15, after both the State Building Commission and the CCHE had approved the site, the board voted unanimously to purchase the remainder of the Shorewood site as a gift to the state. The action marked the first time in Wisconsin history that a county had purchased and conveyed to the state the entire parcel of land for a degree-granting institution. Along with the county-owned property of the two-year center, the value of the gift would exceed $3.5 million. Soon afterward the Green Bay City Council fulfilled the final condition by declaring a zoning freeze within a one-mile radius of the site.

With the question of a site settled for the time being, state officials moved on to other matters.

In March the regents decided that each new university would be governed by a chancellor whose authority would be equal to that of the chief campus administrators at Madison and Milwaukee. In August the regents set the fall of 1969 for opening of the two institutions, and the Building Commission agreed to hire campus planners for both. The first campus planning report, in September, determined that four buildings would be needed initially at Green Bay, at a total cost of $10 million. Facilities would include a library, classrooms, instructional laboratories, offices for faculty and administration, spaces for student health services, utilities, roads and parking areas. Buildings would be designed to take advantage of present and future developments in programmed instruction, computer technology, information retrieval and electronic data processing.

According to the planning report, “The new campus will be strongly innovative and experimental.... The key figure will be the student in his role as learner. He, rather than the professor, will have the initiative and primary responsibility in the learning process. This implies independent study, self-pacing, credit by examination, open-stack libraries, and the widespread use of electronic teaching devices, which will be available day and night. By handling many routine training and information-imparting tasks, teaching machines will free professors for more meaningful intellectual contacts with students in lectures, laboratories, and formal and informal discussions.”

Daverman Associates of Grand Rapids, Mich., won the contract to design a master plan for campus development, including building locations, utilities, roads and walkways. And on Oct. 6, 1966, the regents announced the appointment of Dr. Edward W. Weidner as chancellor.

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