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UW-Green Bay: From the Beginning

Chapter Fifteen: 1982 - Fall 1984

“Without the community's involvement in philanthropy, we would have been dead in the water... It's remarkable, because we were not a particularly popular campus for many, many years. Our curriculum was not well received locally; people were not happy with some things the administration had done. Yet 10 years after we opened our doors, these people were contributing very generously. And that's remarkable.” - Associate Chancellor Donald Harden in a 1991 interview
“There's an identity in this community, an identity that spills over into the University. So we have a number of inhabitants on our side... and a willingness to support local projects that is a hallmark of Green Bay.” - Chancellor Emeritus Edward Weidner in a 1989 interview

From the beginning, the University was a creation of its community.

It was a Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce committee that early in the 1960s spearheaded the drive for a degree-granting university in Northeastern Wisconsin. Some of the same business people provided the nucleus of a larger group that took up the task and expanded its reach. The Northeastern Wisconsin Education Committee, adding members from neighboring counties, carried the campaign forward as a regional effort. They enlisted the support of local government bodies, collected statistics to make a case with the UW Board of Regents and the Legislature, lobbied decision-makers in Madison, and compiled a list of possible university sites.

Weidner recruited community leaders for advisory panels even before he arrived in Green Bay. More than 200 men and women from all over the region would eventually serve on 15 different committees.

Small wonder, then, that early in the history of the enterprise University officials would turn to the community for financial support of projects outside the budget.

Well over a year before the new campus opened, the Green Bay Packers organization made one of the most visible contributions: a pledge of $24,000 to provide instruments and uniforms for a marching band. Conducted by Robert Bauer, that 130-piece band and color guard would later strut its stuff at Packer games in Milwaukee as well as at Lambeau Field. The Fort Howard Foundation and the Ansul Company of Marinette signed on early with funds for a two-way television network to link the University with the three outlying campuses. By April of 1969, Assistant Chancellor Paul Davis, on the job seven months, had organized a development council to help in his quest for unrestricted gifts. The Varsity Club was born the following June. In a few months Davis signed up 200 members who paid from $10 to $500 each to support the intercollegiate athletics program. The club concentrated initially on fund raising for grants-in-aid to soccer and basketball players already recruited for the first season of competition.

Paul Davis
Paul Davis

Private gifts and grants topped $100,000 for the first time in 1971. All but $5,000 was earmarked for projects identified by the donors.

The Johnson Foundation of Racine gave UW-Green Bay $21,000 that year and pledged $20,000 more to develop an environmental education curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. Locally, the Rosenberg Foundation financed summer scholarships for high school students who could profit from a head start on college-level study. The funds provided a three-credit course for each of 15 promising young people. Other Green Bay foundations and individuals contributed to scholarships, conference expenses and research projects; individuals presented books, equipment and art works valued at another $70,000. And four Green Bay businesses came forward as sponsors of AIESEC, an organization for the international exchange of undergraduate business students.

Gifts in the first few years would range from Wisconsin Public Service Corporation funding for a $153,000 study of water quality in the bay to the first accessory designed specifically for a campus building: a cantilevered, quadra-faced clock of walnut and stainless steel, presented for the library plaza by the Morley-Murphy Foundation. But only after Davis organized the Founders Association, late in 1973, did the University find a reliable source of much-needed unrestricted contributions.

Here was a channel for support available to those of modest means. The one requirement for membership was an annual contribution of at least $100. A corporate membership was pegged at $250 or more and a “chancellor's council” affiliation at $1,000 and up. Bidwell Gage, president of Bay West Paper Company, was elected the first president. By April 1974, 50 members had enrolled, and the new philanthropic association was halfway toward its first-year goal of $50,000 in unrestricted gifts.

Bidwell Gage
Bidwell Gage, first president of the Founders Association

It was a goal that would not be reached until the organization was 10 years old. But while the membership rolls expanded only gradually, the Founders Association prospered as a source of leadership and influence for almost all the significant philanthropic projects to follow.

When Davis left the University in 1980, Associate Chancellor Donald Harden took over major responsibility for private fund raising. By 1983, with 221 members aboard, unrestricted income of the Founders Association stood at $50,000, while total contributions exceeded $180,000. A healthy percentage went to scholarships: renewable merit awards for freshmen and one-time grants for returning adults, from unrestricted funds; 40 additional scholarships, including a number of memorials, designated by the donors. Sizable allocations went to the promotion of admission and enrollment and to annual awards of excellence—instituted for faculty in 1975, but recently expanded to include members of the academic staff. Venture fund grants went to faculty members for travel and conference expenses associated with innovative projects; special projects money supported such activities as an annual academic competition for high school students, and covered the expenses of six collegians invited to present papers before the Wisconsin Academy of Arts.

Cumulatively, over its first decade, the Founders Association supplied $2.1 million for University projects and activities for which other funds were not available.

Reflecting later on his first few years with the organization, Harden commented, “Many of the people who had worked on the initial development of the campus became Founders Association members very early. They contributed generously to the financial campaigns of later years, and they provided great personal leadership as volunteers. Comparatively speaking, the association has never raised a lot of money. But it has provided the base from which all these other good things in campus development have occurred.”

By 1983, the “good things” already made a lengthy list:

  • A gift establishing the arboretum. A $575,000 gift in 1975 from the children of John P. Cofrin to develop an arboretum around the campus periphery. Planning for a natural area along the campus boundary had begun in 1971; Weidner had formally proposed such a project as early as 1972. Construction of the arboretum as a memorial to Cofrin and his father, Austin Cofrin, began in 1978. Later gifts and purchases of land would enlarge the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum and its trail system to 165 acres.
John P. Cofrin
John P. Cofrin (left) and his father Austin Cofrin
  • Gifts of other facilities. A 1981 contribution of $50,000 by Randall and Catherine Lawton of De Pere provided a new, larger art gallery adjacent to the University Theatre. An exhibition of handformed paper in September 1982 was the first show to occupy the space. A month later, campus ministers Richard Mauthe and David Steffenson presided over the dedication of a new Ecumenical Center, built on private land between the Phoenix Sports Center and the student housing complex. A gift of $750,000 from the Byron L. Walter family trust to the Committee for a Campus Ministry provided funds for construction and furnishings.
Catherine and Randall Lawton chat with Chancellor Edward Weidner
Catherine and Randall Lawton chat with Chancellor Edward Weidner in the Lawton Gallery
  • Gifts of equipment. In 1974 the Fort Howard Foundation presented a 19-foot power boat. It was to be used primarily as a safety craft in the University's program of waterfront activities but would also be available for search and rescue operations by local authorities. A year later the foundation donated funds for boat-to-shore radio equipment.
  • Gifts of educational materials. A 1974 gift of 10,000 bird eggs, nests and scientific study skins from Oconto ornithologist Carl Richter, deemed priceless in monetary terms, initiated development of the Richter Natural History Collection. From Kenneth Bertrand, Antarctic explorer and geography professor, the UW-Green Bay library received out-of-print documents dating from the mid-19th century. Catherine Grassl donated her lifelong collection of advertising art to the Library of Congress. But it first made a stop at UW-Green Bay. With the blessing of the donor, a retired librarian, and contributions from Northeastern Wisconsin industries, large portions of the collection were copied on slides for the use of students in graphic communications.
  • Gifts of student aid. A 1981 award of $100,000 from the Byron L. Walter trust boosted endowments for family-named and memorial scholarships based on merit rather than need. The Arlene Walter scholarships were designated for continuing UW-Green Bay students.
  • Gifts to encourage faculty development. The Founders Association venture fund followed up, in a modest way, on the intent of an earlier, three-year venture fund grant from the Ford Foundation to support faculty members in projects fostering innovation in undergraduate education. In contrast to the small grants dispensed each year by the University's venture fund, the Frankenthal Professorship offered a $10,000 annual stipend for three years for the support of scholarship by a full professor. The first named professorship to be established at UW-Green Bay, it was awarded initially to James Clifton.
Siegfreid W. Frankenthal
The University's first named professorship bears the name of Siegfreid W. Frankenthal

Ten years of work through the Founders Association had built a sturdy base of community support, Weidner reasoned. With another record enrollment in the making, the time had arrived for the next step: a major campaign for capital funds. One day in spring 1983, Weidner, Harden and Kuepper met for breakfast. That morning they sketched the outline of a strategy that would soon launch a drive for $2.2 million.

“We had the potential to grow, that was clear,” Harden said, recalling the meeting at an east side restaurant. “Applications were up again—we were heading for our first fall enrollment over 5,000—and the apartments were full.” Harden pushed the need for student housing. Money to endow merit scholarships was Kuepper's priority. And Weidner—as faculty members faced a one-year salary freeze—spoke up for the establishment of additional named professorships to recognize and stimulate scholarly activity.

The trio adopted all three needs as campaign objectives, and Harden set to work. Previous experience with fund raising in the community had schooled him for the task ahead.

“From my involvement in the Boys Club campaign in 1974, I had begun to get some sense of the generosity that existed in Green Bay,” Harden said. “Later I headed the membership campaign for the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and got acquainted with a lot of people there.” After the chamber drive, Harden was enlisted to raise building funds for the Neville Public Museum and the Community Service Center. Both campaigns were managed by Goettler Associates of Columbus, Ohio. Working in the two drives alongside a number of Green Bay's business leaders, Harden gained what he called “a sense of what the volunteers were doing as well as an appreciation of the role of the professionals.”

Donald J. Long
Donald J. Long and James A. Temp, co-chairmen of the University's first capital campaign

By the summer of 1983 the Goettler group had been engaged to plan the University's first campaign for private funds; in March 1984 Weidner announced the appointment of campaign co-chairmen Donald J. Long and James A. Temp, both of Green Bay. Long was founder and president of Imperial, Inc., a national distributor of material for the transportation industry. Temp was managing vice president of the Murphy Insurance Division of Alexander & Alexander, Inc. Both were long-time members of the Founders Association and current members of the association's executive committee. By November, advance gifts of $1.85 million had been received in cash, pledges and gifts-in-kind. The donors included corporations, foundations, community individuals, UW-Green Bay employees and alumni.

And in November Weidner announced plans to construct four residence halls to house 240 students. The complex would occupy a 38-acre parcel of private land. It would be built, owned and operated by University Village Housing, Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation of local business people. Corporation officers were Robert Schaefer, president of the board of directors; Roy Downham and Donald Long, vice presidents; Jack Robishaw, secretary; and James Temp, treasurer.

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