Main Body

1 The Milwaukee Center Emerges

No one planned the University of Wisconsin Centers–they just happened.  The story of the Centers gradual emergence is intricately tied up with the history of the University, of higher education in the state, and of Wisconsin politics.  Until 1964 the two-year centers were called Extension Centers, and they were operated by the University’s Extension Division. In 1964 the Board of Regents approved establishment of a separate Center System, headed by a chancellor who reported directly to the President of the University of Wisconsin.  In the 1970’s a merger of the State Universities and the UW doubled the size of the Center System to fourteen centers, by adding to the original membership four State University branch campuses and three two-year institutions previously attached to the UW-Green Bay. Born out of necessity, the University of Wisconsin Centers have played an important role in helping the University to carry out the Wisconsin Idea–providing educational opportunities to all of the citizens of the state.

Wisconsin’s constitution, adopted in 1848, provided that the state legislature could establish a state university “at or near the seat of state government.”  Because of the crush of necessary business to launch the state government, no immediate attempt was made to implement this provision. In 1850, however, the legislature authorized the construction and operation of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the capital city.  The task of establishing the institution progressed slowly. During the Civil War (1861-1865) the University received a significant boost when the state acquired thousands of acres of public land from the federal government under the terms of the Land Grant Act of 1862. Popularly known as the Morrill Act, after its sponsor U.S. Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont, the measure required any state which accepted federal land to provide four types of educational opportunities–agriculture courses, engineering courses, teachers institutes, and lecture series for general audiences.  The state could fulfill these terms either by adding the programs to an existing state college or by establishing a new land grant institution.

Both state and University officials agreed that the most logical and least costly way to fulfill the Morrill Act’s terms would be simply to add the courses to the University’s existing curriculum.  But their suggestion triggered considerable opposition from the faculty, who were firmly committed to the prevailing classical curriculum. Even if a student was solely interested in the practical knowledge of the agricultural and engineering courses, the faculty members insisted that he must first complete the classical program of study.  Only then would he be permitted to enroll in the specialized courses. This serious rift between the administration and faculty prevented Wisconsin from even beginning to fulfill its obligations for over two decades.[1]

Finally, in the early 1880s, the State Agricultural Society and the Wisconsin Dairyman’s Association forced the University to take action when they threatened to start a separate agricultural college because Madison had not responded to their needs.  William Dempster Hoard of Fort Atkinson, and ardent advocate of dairying, had instigated this forceful nudge. Such a move, if carried out, would have diverted from the UW the federal dollars distributed under the Morrill Act. Thus inspired, the university administration asked the legislature to appropriate additional funds for both on-campus and off-campus courses in agriculture.  The legislature enthusiastically responded with a $5,000 addition to the University’s regular budget, an amount which greatly surpassed any other state’s support for similar offerings.[2]

In November 1885 the University sponsored the first of many successful Farmers’ Institutes in Hudson.  The session was deliberately scheduled after the harvest season so that more farm families would be able to attend.  Railroads cooperated by offering reduced rates to the attendees. The Institute speakers extolled the advantages of farm life and offered practical suggestions for improving the quality of rural life.  Experts urged farmers to diversify their operations to cushion the adverse effects of competition and occasional crop failures. In addition, the college started a twelve week short course designed specifically for farm men and boys.  Offered during the winter, it cost $60.00. Although farm families enthusiastically responded to these initiatives, many University leaders in both the administration and the faculty remained skeptical; they believed that the institution had lost prestige by stooping to provide Farmers’ Institutes and short courses.[3]

The successful launching of the Farmers’ Institutes and agricultural short courses triggered demands that the University also provide courses for teachers and lectures for general audiences.  Although a chair of the Science and Art of Teaching had been established in 1884, the program had attracted few students because a cheaper and shorter teacher training program could be obtained at the state normal schools.    University President Thomas C. Chamberlain, who wished to strengthen the program, decided to try to use the Farmers’ Institutes’ approach in the teacher training field.  Accordingly, Chamberlain convinced the 1887 legislature to authorize the offering of a teachers’ institute in the summer, when teachers would not be holding school. In 1888 the first of many very successful summer institutes for teachers was launched in Madison.[4]

During the 1890-91 school year History Professor Frederick Jackson Turner offered a series of six off-campus, non-credit lectures in United States history.  Turner first presented his lectures in Madison, then subsequently travelled to nearby communities to deliver the same addresses. Reacting to the success of Turner’s series, the Regents, in June 1891 approved a limited “extension program aimed at a general audience.”  The Regents, however, provided no extra money for the program; it would have to be self-supporting. They also restricted the Madison faculty’s participation to weekends, so that the extension work would not interfere with on-campus obligations.[5]

The following year (1892) the University enticed Professor Richard T. Ely of Johns Hopkins University to come to Madison to supervise the extension work.  Chamberlain and Turner played large roles in convincing Ely to accept; they promised that they both would continue to support and work in the program. Ely and Turner worked especially hard but unsuccessfully to secure state support for the lecture series.  They also failed to convince corporations and wealthy individuals to sponsor the lectures in their communities. Thus the financial burden, $60.00 for six lectures, fell entirely upon local community groups–teachers, churches, and civic and social clubs–which sponsored the series. These organizations eventually ran out of money and enthusiasm and by 1900 the general extension program was in deep trouble.

At the same time that demand for the lecture series declined, the faculty intensified its attacks upon the General Extension operation.  Ely and Turner had decided to offer attendees the option of earning college credit by completing satisfactorily several assignments and taking an examination at the end of a lecture series.  But very few enrollees completed the requirements, adding weight to the critics’ assertion that the general audience attracted to the lectures sought entertainment, not education. And, they added, the University certainly had not been established to provide entertainment.[6]

The decline in interest in the general off-campus courses continued into the early 1900s.  Some of the more popular lecturers, like Ely and Turner, withdrew from the lecture circuit because they could not continue to handle full time duties at Madison and travel on weekends to deliver their speeches.  Audience interest also declined. Comments made about the courses reveal that many listeners found the material “above their heads.” Then, too, the University’s first avowed effort to cover the entire state stirred its competitors to action.  The state normal schools stepped up their services to teachers. Private lecture series companies often offered better-known speakers, which enabled the local sponsors to sell more tickets. If the UW wished to serve the entire state effectively, it would have to do more than merely send out a few of its more popular, regular professors.[7]

The revival of the General Extension Division occurred during the presidency of Charles R. Van Hise, who served from 1903 until his untimely death in 1918.  From the outset Van Hise expressed an interest in adult education but he, too, harbored doubts about whether the field was a proper one for a state university.  Several men gradually persuaded Van Hise that the University should serve all of the state’s citizens, not just those who could come to Madison to seek a degree.  One of these men, Governor Robert M. LaFollette, Sr, leader of the progressive wing of the Republican Party, insisted that the University must at least attempt to fill all the citizens’ higher education needs because they all contributed to its support through their taxes.

Frank Hutchins and Charles McCarthy also nudged President Van Hise to support a revived General Extension Division.  Hutchins, the first executive secretary of the state’s Free Library Association, understood well the citizens’ deep desire for education and information, and he quietly lobbied Van Hise to enlarge the University’s role in fulfilling this desire.  McCarthy, who had earned a Ph.D. from Madison, worked with Hutchins in the Free Library Association and later became the first head of the Legislative Reference Bureau Library. The more vocal and politically astute McCarthy wanted the University to provide practical education to industrial workers and their employers, in the same fashion that the Farmers’ Institutes gave farmers tips on how to improve their farms and homes.  McCarthy backed up his arguments with data secured through legislative surveys–one significant survey revealed that Wisconsinites spent $800,000 annually out-of-state for correspondence study courses. Surely, McCarthy contended, the University could offer better courses and keep the revenue in the state.[8]

During 1905 the Regents and the University administration decided to reinvigorate the moribund General Extension program.  President Van Hise led the way. In 1906 he announced what has since become known everywhere in the state as the “Wisconsin Idea,” the campus of the University should extend to the very boundaries of the state and serve every home.[9]  The University asked the legislature to appropriate $40,000 for the 1907-09 biennium for both agricultural and non-agricultural extension courses.  Many legislators balked at this large sum, but powerful lobbying by the Milwaukee Merchants and Manufacturing Association and by other lakeshore cities which had a significant industrial base boosted the measure through intact.[10]  At last, General Extension had found the type of political support that had sustained the appropriations of the Farmers’ Institutes and short courses.

Van Hise began immediately to assemble an administration for the General Extension Division which, unlike the agricultural extension program, never would be absorbed into one of the University’s colleges.[11]  Louis E. Reber, dean of engineering at the Pennsylvania State College, arrived in 1907 to become the first Dean of Extension.  Reber brought to the task solid academic credentials and a considerable amount of administrative and political experience. The latter was necessary because the Extension Division had to win continued legislative funding each biennium.  William H. Lighty, meanwhile, had applied for and secured the position as director of the fledgling correspondence study program. Lighty, who had graduated from Cornell, was acquainted with Richard Ely and others connected with the earlier unsuccessful efforts to create a solid general extension program.  Lighty used his contacts well; for instance, he worked carefully with Frederick Jackson Turner and other residence faculty to win their support for credit correspondence courses offered by Extension. This approach helped overcome some of the anti-Extension sentiment among the regular faculty.[12]

Dr. Charles McCarthy’s interest in securing industrial training for workers spurred him to work along another line, even while he continued to support the development of general extension courses.  From his post at the head of the Legislative Reference Bureau Library, McCarthy drafted a bill that authorized school districts to set up and operate vocational high schools. The bill included a provision that these vocational schools could contract with Extension for instruction and specified that Extension must provide a course in any part of the state if thirty people enrolled and a local agency agreed to underwrite the expense.  This clause later became the key to the emergence of the freshman Extension Center program during the depression of the 1930s. The 1911 legislature passed McCarthy’s measure, and a compulsory attendance law (to age 16) which assured that there would be a clientele for the vocational high schools.[13]

The revitalized Extension Division played an important role in carrying the Social Gospel of the Progressive Era to communities throughout Wisconsin.  For instance, better health was promoted via a great variety of lectures and newspaper clippings which could be requested from Madison. Extension and the Federal Children’s Bureau co-sponsored Better Baby Weeks, during which mothers received information about child development and had their infants’ weight and height compared to standard growth charts.  The Division also worked with the Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association in a campaign to reduce the incidence of this contagious disease. Practical correspondence courses were developed in subjects as diverse as credit management, home repair and dressmaking. In urban areas, Extension experts lectured about the dangers of smoke pollution from industrial plants and demonstrated the necessity for assuring a pure milk supply and sanitary bakeries.

In contrast to these successes, the Community Institutes–a project designed to “Americanize” quickly the various ethnic groups in the state’s population–failed within two years.  In this program, University professors made a half-day survey of a community; they returned later with advice on how to overcome ethnic or town/rural frictions. The scholars involved in the Community Institutes rapidly discovered that the true nature of a community cannot be perceived in one short visit, thus their advice often missed the mark by being far too general and too theoretical.[14]

Despite its considerable success, the Extension Division again became the target of criticism.  Some employers blasted the courses for workers, saying the men emerged from them too union oriented, insisting upon better wages and working conditions.  Contrarily, at first some unions had refused to endorse the workers’ courses because they felt the material was too academic.

On the political front, the ongoing contest between the Progressive and Stalwart factions of the Republican party automatically embroiled Extension in political battles.  Each bloc felt that its party line should be praised by people who received their pay from state appropriations. Some Regents even chimed in with criticism. For instance William Dempster Hoard feared that General Extension’s success would eventually detract from the agricultural outreach programs and he proposed putting limits on Extension’s role.  Other Regents resented Extension’s success in lobbying the legislature for its biennial appropriations. Even though the money was provided specifically for Extension programs, these Regents felt it should be placed in the total University budget and doled out by the Board. Needless to say, Dean Reber steadfastly resisted that suggestion. Fortunately, with the support  of its newly won allies throughout the state, Extension overcame the criticism and won the major political battles.[15]  But it, like the University, never was able to disassociate itself entirely from the political currents flowing in the state.

In late 1907, Extension Dean Reber opened a branch office in Milwaukee and put Kenneth Smith in charge.  Smith’s job was to coordinate Extension’s programs in the populous southeastern corner of the state, where about one-third of Wisconsin’s population lived.  Smith kept extensive office hours (8:30-12:00, 1:30-5:00, 7:30-9:00 Monday through Friday and 8:30-12:00 Saturday) so that he could advertise the courses, enroll the students, and supervise the instructors.  Very quickly an Extension “Center” emerged, much to the dismay of some University administrators and faculty who contended this branch college operation would sap the strength of the parent institution.[16]

It was here that the first freshman-sophomore center evolved.  The evolution began in the engineering and business correspondence courses.  These courses often were taken by a group of Milwaukee men in the evenings in their place of employment.  Naturally, they studied together and used the shops of their employers as their laboratory. Soon, because these classes were large enough to warrant it, the Madison instructors decided to visit their students occasionally rather than limiting their interaction to the mail.  Both instructors and students found these in-person sessions most rewarding, and their frequency increased. The instructors discovered that they could learn a great deal from men who applied the theoretical principles of engineering and business in their jobs. And the students no doubt enjoyed the question and answer sessions, the demonstrations, and especially the occasional opportunity to point out that a theory just did not work.  Quite soon, groups of students began petitioning Extension to provide instructors for all their class sessions. Once it became evident that these courses would be self-supporting, more and more were offered, both on-site and at the Milwaukee Center. Indeed, by 1910, Extension had to find quarters that would provide a larger classroom, in addition to more office space. This willingness of Extension to adjust to the needs and desires of its clients earned it broad support in Milwaukee.  Some civic leaders even suggested that Milwaukee had enough potential students to justify the establishment of a branch university.[17]

At the end of World War I, the flood of returning veterans who wished to utilize the benefits provided by both the federal and state governments accelerated the evolution toward permanent college credit classes at the Milwaukee Center.  In 1919, the U. S. government contributed an unspent $37,000 from its War Emergency Fund to Extension to initiate a program for veterans. In addition the state granted each former soldier a $30.00 per month “bonus,” if the man enrolled either in correspondence courses or in actual classes.  In Milwaukee, the University through its Extension Division set up day classes to provide two year vocational courses in Commerce, Engineering, and Building Design and Construction and a few regular freshman and sophomore college credit courses in the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science.[18]  In mid-1921 a state Senate committee investigated the effectiveness of the programs for veterans.  The committee report, issued in December 1922, emphasized that the work accomplished in Milwaukee was a bargain to the state.  And reports from Madison indicated that students who transferred from the Milwaukee Center to the residence campus performed on a par with those students who had enrolled directly at Madison.[19]

Not long after the college credit daytime classes began in 1920, Extension officials in Milwaukee received inquiries from the parents of non-veteran college-age students about whether their sons and daughters could enroll in these courses.  These parents noted that Madison lacked adequate housing for students during this post-war surge in enrollment and that they could save significant sums of money if their students could live at home while attending University classes.

When these requests were relayed to Madison, alarm bells went off.  Many of the resident faculty had serious reservations about the entire Milwaukee operation.  They considered the non-credit courses unworthy of the University’s label and were concerned that opening up the college credit courses to all applicants might reduce the number of students on the main campus to a potentially dangerous level.  (In 1921-22, the credit/day classes enrolled 258 students. Evidently the Madison faculty believed all of those students would be enrolled “on the Hill” if the Milwaukee classes did not exist.)[20]  President Edward A. Birge eventually referred this important question to the Board of Regents.[21]  In their August 1923 meeting the Regents failed to resolve the issue because the arguments on both sides were equally compelling, and they tabled the question.  But three weeks later, in a special meeting, the Regents authorized the Extension Division to hold day classes for freshmen and sophomores for all applicants “at the Milwaukee Branch.”[22]  Obviously, a very important step had been taken to make college credit courses in Milwaukee a permanent part of Extension’s services.

The surge in enrollment in the credit classes forced Extension to rent more space in downtown Milwaukee.  Having to move between widely separated buildings quickly proved a burden to students, faculty, and administrators, alike.  Fortunately, the state Senate committee which had reviewed the Milwaukee operation strongly recommended to the 1923 legislature that it appropriate money for the purchase of land and construction of an adequate building.  Several Milwaukee groups lobbied vigorously for the measure. After much debate, the legislators added $150,000 to Extension’s budget for the project. Much to their dismay, Dean Reber and his staff soon discovered that a suitable lot in downtown Milwaukee–the much preferred location–would be so expensive as to preclude construction of an adequate building.  They did find a school building, not too far from the Civic Center, which the city was willing to sell. With some remodeling, this structure could be made to work. But the appropriation measure did not allow the purchase of an existing building, so the Extension Division leaders pleaded with the legislature either to amend the bill to permit the purchase of the school or to provide sufficient funds to acquire a downtown site and to construct an adequate building.[23]  Before any decision was reached, a rather momentous change occurred in the University, and Marquette University publicly challenged the entire project.

In June 1925 President Birge retired.  The Regents launched a nationwide search and thought they had secured Roscoe Pound, the eminent dean of the Harvard Law School, as a successor.  Indeed, the press even announced the impending appointment and heartily approved. But just days later, Dr. Pound withdrew his name. Pound later explained that the major factor in his decision was what he had learned about Wisconsin politics, where the long-running battle between the LaFollette Progressives and the conservative Stalwarts had reached a new intensity.  Pound feared he would be viewed as the appointee of “a party” and that when the other faction secured control of the capitol, both he and the University would be in serious difficulty. Glenn Frank, the Regents’ remaining major candidate, however, expressed no fear of coming to Wisconsin. From the outset, he had been the favorite of Regent Zona Gale, of Portage. A renowned author, Gale had met Frank in New York City where he was the editor of Century Magazine, which had published several of her articles.  Gradually, Gale and Frank overcame the reluctance of those Regents concerned about Frank’s lack of a graduate degree or any academic administrative experience, and he received the appointment.[24]

While the appointment of a new president merely delayed the Milwaukee Center’s building plans, the challenge issued by Dean Edward A. Fitzpatrick of Marquette University threatened the building project and all of Extension’s credit classes. In mid-February 1925 Fitzpatrick wrote a long letter to state Senator Howard Teasdale of Sparta, the President Pro Tem of the Senate and a member of the Education and Public Welfare Committee, and carefully spelled out his concerns.  He recalled that the credit classes begun in 1919 had been described by the University “purely as a tentative measure.” Fitzpatrick asserted that the campaign to construct a state-owned building certainly suggested a permanent program because the credit class students would be the primary occupants during the daytime. Continuing, Fitzpatrick noted that the Extension operation and proposed building duplicated many of Marquette’s programs and facilities, a wasteful expenditure of public funds.  The Marquette Dean pointed out that his college was not exclusively for Catholics and that loan funds were readily available to students who could not afford the slightly higher fees ($87.50 per semester compared to $60.00 at the Extension Center). He also questioned whether the Milwaukee Normal School did not already offer “the substantial equivalent of two years of college work even for the prescribed pre-professional courses.” Near the end of his letter, Fitzpatrick raised the most serious question–was it legal for the University of Wisconsin to establish a branch “at Milwaukee or any place other than at Madison?”[25]

While University officials rebutted most of Fitzpatrick’s allegations themselves, they asked the state attorney general to render an opinion on the constitutional challenge.  They pointed out that the Milwaukee Normal School, upon an order from the state Normal School Regents, had recently ceased giving “junior college” courses and that Extension had only responded to the pleas of teachers and prospective teachers when it provided education courses in Milwaukee.[26] Dean Reber noted that the credit program actually cost the state nothing, as the students supported it with their $5.00 per credit fees.  He also denied that the University had any intention of establishing a full blown branch university in Milwaukee. The course offerings would continue to be limited to Engineering and Letters and Science, and to the freshman and sophomore levels.  In time, the Attorney General, Herman Ekern, ruled that the proposed Milwaukee Center was proper and legal, for it was “an extension of the work of all the colleges and in no sense constitutes the establishment of any new department or college.”[27]

Despite their success in winning the constitutional challenge and in refuting Dean Fitzpatrick’s allegations, the University’s leaders decided not to press further the building issue in the 1925 legislative session, for fear that it might jeopardize the biennial budget then under consideration.  An administration change in Extension further delayed a resolution. Dean Reber, who had led the Division skillfully through many political battles, retired June 1, 1926. He recommended as his successor Chester D. Snell, who was involved in extension work in North Carolina. After an interview and reference checks were completed, the Board of Regents appointed Snell.[28]

Snell made the Milwaukee building project a top priority.  He asked the 1927 legislature to appropriate sufficient funds to complete the plan.  The legislators responded rather quickly, allocating another $175,000. The building, sited on a downtown lot, opened for classes in September 1928.  The Capital Times described its virtues:  “Twenty classrooms and lecture halls, six large modern laboratories, and a well-equipped library will provide the day school with facilities for giving high school graduates from Milwaukee and elsewhere studies equivalent to two full years of University residence at Madison.”[29]  The students’ response justified all the struggle.  The fall 1928 day class enrollment was 391, an increase of 52% over the previous year.[30]

The Extension Division had worked very carefully with the residence departments at Madison to assure that credits from the Milwaukee Center would be fully transferable.  Consequently, Extension had only employed for the credit courses instructors drawn from the Madison faculty or persons approved by the residence departments. And it had attracted superior teachers by paying a premium salary for teaching in Milwaukee, in comparison with the compensation for teaching credit courses elsewhere in the state.  The follow-up studies of the transferees from the Center consistently demonstrated that they competed academically on a par with students who had enrolled directly at Madison.[31]

When the credit class program started in earnest in 1920 and more Madison faculty had to teach in Milwaukee, the only reliable method of commuting was the train.  Fortunately, several trains ran each day between the cities on both the Northwestern and the St. Paul and Milwaukee railroads. The trip normally took three hours, but a train from the north occasionally caused long delays at Watertown or Jefferson Junction, where the tracks intersected.   A professor with a morning class at 8 o’clock had either to go over the night before or to ride the early morning milk train which, because of frequent stops, took four hours to complete the journey. They usually went the night before and stayed in a hotel. Extension paid these instructors $425.00 per class plus reasonable travel expenses, which could include a hotel room in Milwaukee.  By comparison, those who taught an extension class in Madison, or a nearby community, received only $255.00 plus expenses.[32]

More and more instructors had to be employed to teach the every increasing number of credit classes in Milwaukee.  By the late 1920s, a fairly sizeable residence faculty had been created, especially in the English and Business Departments.  The development compelled changes in how the academic program was administered. For a few years, academic department chairmen in Extension had relayed communications between the Madison departments and their members in Milwaukee.  But as the numbers grew this procedure became increasingly cumbersome and ineffective at both ends. Eventually the Madison departments appointed departmental representatives in Milwaukee and communicated directly with them. These representatives, after vigorous lobbying by their colleagues, won appointment to their respective departmental executive committees, with the right to discuss and vote on Milwaukee faculty members personnel decisions.  Gradually, then, the academic chairmen in Extension relinquished their control over the university courses in Milwaukee.[33]

Despite the direct ties to the academic departments in Madison, those who taught for Extension struggled constantly to earn and keep the respect of their colleagues.  Even the most outstanding professors could expect odd glances and snide remarks when they taught in Milwaukee or anywhere off the Madison campus. Part of the problems arose, no doubt, from an inability of the skeptics to distinguish between the credit and non-credit courses provided by the Extension Division.  The lectures in entertainment and enlightenment arranged by the Instruction by Lectures Department were scathingly described as “the flea circus” and the term surely must have prejudiced some against anything offered by Extension. The instructors in the correspondence study program, especially, labored under a cloud.  Correspondence courses, according to some resident faculty, could not equal a university course delivered in person in Bascom Hall. It did not matter, apparently, that the correspondence texts were almost always written by Madison faculty and that all had been thoroughly tested in residence classes before being published.  Or that the texts and correspondence course procedures had been borrowed by dozens of other colleges and universities. The suspicion lingered, even after the UW, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan began to accept the correspondence credits at face value upon enrollment in a regular course of study on campus.[34]

The Extension Division and its Milwaukee Center had to remain flexible to serve a diverse and ever changing clientele.  Most of the students in the early years were adults who enrolled in non-credit vocational courses–courses which they hoped would enable them to earn more money.  The vocational high schools, however, gradually drew away most of these students after their establishment in 1911.[35]  Indeed, Extension eventually negotiated a gentlemen’s agreement not to compete directly with the vocational high schools; in return the vocational schools allowed Extension to use their facilities to conduct evening classes.  In 1920 teachers comprised the greatest percent of Extension students–and by 1925 teachers filled almost 75% of the seats in the on-site evening classes being conducted across the state. The University, through its Education Department, encouraged these classes in the belief that better prepared public school teachers would graduate better prepared potential university students from the high schools.  The students who enrolled in the daytime, college credit program at Milwaukee represented a cross-section of Wisconsin society. Many, as earlier mentioned, enrolled at the Center because they and their parents could save a sizable sum. The veterans, of course, often had families and jobs which tied them tightly to the metropolitan area. At the Extension Center they could test their abilities in college courses, while collecting the federal and state bonuses, and determine whether the required investment to move eventually to Madison would pay off.  One important aspect of university life was lacking in Milwaukee–a lively social life and the comraderie that develops among students living in dormitories. Extension’s leaders recognized this void, but the nature of their clientele made a solution difficult. Most of the students spent only a few hours each week at the Center to attend classes and do necessary work in the library, then they headed home or to jobs.[36]

As the twenties drew to a close, the University Extension Division could be proud of many accomplishments.  It had infused new life into the Wisconsin Idea for the University; had secured allies for its programs among teachers, civic groups, unions, and legislators; and had, to a considerable extent, won support for its college credit courses from the resident faculty in Madison.  The most notable achievement was the emergence of the Milwaukee Extension Center, housed in a state-owned seven-story building which bustled with activity. Here all sorts of activities were conducted: non-credit and credit classes, lectures for entertainment and enlightenment, and the rental of slides and motion pictures.  In just a few years, the Milwaukee Center would be the model for a rapid expansion of daytime, college credit classes in communities throughout the state.


  1. Frederick M. Rosentreter, The Boundaries of the Campus. A History of the University of Wisconsin Extension Division, 1885-1945. (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1957), pp. 16-17.
  2. Rosentreter, pp. 15-17.
  3. Rosentreter, pp. 17-26.
  4. Rosentreter, pp. 28-29.
  5. Rosentreter, pp. 29-30.
  6. Rosentreter, pp. 30-39.
  7. Rosentreter, pp. 39-42.
  8. Rosentreter, pp. 43-55, 65-77; George Clarke Sellery, Some Ferments At Wisconsin. 1901-1947, Memories and Reflections (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1960), p. 5; Clay Schoenfeld, editor, History Digest: The University of Wisconsin, 1848-49 to 1948-49, reprinted from the Wisconsin Alumnus, October 1948, pp. 13-14; "Six Men of Vision Started U. Extension," The Capital Times, January 31, 1956.
  9. Extension Division, Annual Report, 1948-49.
  10. Rosentreter, pp. 43-55; Maurice M. Vance. Charles Richard Van Hise, Scientist Progressive (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1960), pp. 108-112. Vance states that, "The Extension program would not have developed without Van Hise's support, nor could it have achieved acceptance without his active mediation." p. 110.
  11. The College of Agriculture of course provided a home for the Farmers' Institutes and short courses. Lorentz H. Adolfson, "University Extension at Wisconsin: Policies, Practices, and Problems," an address delivered to the New England Rural Sociology Committee, April 23, 1964, University of Wisconsin Archives, Series 42/1/1, Box 16, asserts that the Extension Division deliberately was not rooted in the residence departments because Van Hise and McCarthy feared that the residence faculty would kill it.
  12. Rosentreter, pp. 50-52, 65-66; Sellery, p. 5; The Capital Times, "Six Men of Vision Started U. Extension," January 31, 1956.
  13. Rosentreter, pp. 54-55, and endnote 32 on p. 188; Adolfson, "University Extension at Wisconsin: Policies, Practices, and Problems." Merle Eugene Curti and Vernon Carstenson, The University of Wisconsin, A History, 1848-1925, two volumes (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1949), II: Chapter 17, "The Wider Campus: Extension," discuss in some detail the revival of General Extension during the Van Hise presidency.
  14. Rosentreter, pp. 96-112.
  15. Rosentreter, pp. 56-64; Sellery, p. 5.
  16. Elisabeth Holmes, The Urban Mission Anticipated: A Biography of the UW Extension Center in Milwaukee (Milwaukee: Moebius Print Co., 1976), p. 4; Rosentreter, pp. 93-95.
  17. Holmes, p. 4; Rosentreter, pp. 93-94; "The Development of the Milwaukee Extension Program of the University of Wisconsin," UW Archives, Series 18/1/1, Box 307, Enlarging College Opportunity: Extension Centers file.
  18. Holmes, pp. 4-5; Chester Allen, University Extension in Wisconsin, 3 volumes, unpublished manuscript, 1955?, I: 122-125; Extension Dean Chester D. Snell to President Glenn Frank, April 2, 1931, Extension Deans' Papers, UW Archives, Series 18/1/1, Box 37, discusses briefly the initiation of freshman and sophomore courses in Milwaukee in 1920; University Extension Division, University Extension in Wisconsin, 1906-1956. The 50-Year Story of the Wisconsin Idea in Education (Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 1956), pp. 17-18.
  19. Holmes, p. 5; Allen, I: 130-32.
  20. Allen, I: 132.
  21. Birge had been named Acting President shortly after Van Hise's unexpected death in November 1918. His tenure ultimately stretched out several years, until Glenn Frank was appointed President in 1925. Lawrence H. Larson, The President Wore Spats: A Biography of Glenn Frank (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1965), pp. 49-50.
  22. Regents of the University of Wisconsin, Record K, 1921-23, pp. 433-34, UW Archives.
  23. Dean Louis E. Reber, "MEMORANDUM. Re. A Building for the University Extension Division in Milwaukee," September 21, 1925, Glenn Frank Papers, Series 4/13/1. Box 14. RE file, UW Archives; Allen, I: 10-13; "The Milwaukee Extension Center--A Bit of History," Extension Deans' Papers, Series 18/1/1, Box 307, Enlarging College Opportunity file, UW Archives.
  24. Larson, pp. 46-52.
  25. Edward A. Fitzpatrick to Senator Teasdale, February 18, 1925, Glenn Frank Papers, Series 4/13/1, Box 14, RE file, UW Archives.
  26. "MEMORANDUM. Day Credit Courses in Milwaukee Offering First and Second Year College Work," Glenn Frank Papers, Series 4/13/1. Box 86, Snell file, UW Archives. There is no date on this document but internal evidence suggests 1927. The unknown author (Snell?) is retracing the battle over the credit classes.
  27. Allen, I: 134.
  28. Allen, I: 134.
  29. The Capital Times, July 11, 1928.
  30. Chester D. Snell, "The University and the Adult," Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, July 1929.
  31. W. H. Lighty, Director, Department of Extension Teaching, to Dean Snell, June 28, 1927, Glenn Frank Papers, Series 4/13/1, Box 86, Snell file, UW Archives.
  32. Holmes, pp. 3-4; "Extension Classes Conducted by Members of the Faculty of the School of Education, September 1920-February 1925," Glenn Frank Papers, Series 4/13/1, Box 14, RE file, UW Archives.
  33. Dr. George Parkinson, Director of the Milwaukee Extension Center, "An Analysis of the Administration of the Milwaukee Extension Division of the University of Wisconsin, August 1951, E. B. Fred Papers, Series 4/16/1, Box 147, Extension Division file, UW Archives.
  34. Rosentreter, 78-95 passim.
  35. See page 9 for the founding of the vocational high schools.
  36. Rosentreter, pp. 78-95 passim.

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The University of Wisconsin Colleges, 1919-1997 Copyright © by Jerry Bower. All Rights Reserved.