UWEC: Historical [and] Important

From a one-building college for teachers, the university has become vital to city’s success

Sawyer Hoff |

UWEC class of 1916
BLUGOLD BEGINNINGS. The entire first class of the what would become UW-Eau Claire, circa 1916-17. (UWEC photo)

It’s no secret that one of Eau Claire’s main attractions is our amazing campus and the people and activity it brings. Known as one of the most beautiful college campuses in Wisconsin, UW-Eau Claire offers a great deal to both its 10,000 students and the Eau Claire community as a whole.

In 1916, UW-Eau Claire opened its doors as the Eau Claire State Normal School. With only one building, 20 faculty members, and 159 students, its mission was to educate the region’s educators. However, two years of general education were also available to those who weren’t going into teaching. The school’s first president, Harvey A. Schofield, held his position for the next 25 years.

In 1927, the institution became the Eau Claire State Teachers College and began to offer four-year education programs. Bachelor of science degrees in education were added a decade later. William R. Davies took over as president in 1941. Among his initiatives were travel-study programs and welcoming international exchange students and faculty. In 1946 the campus attained 20 more acres of land on the bluff overlooking the original campus.

The university changed names once again in 1951 when it was authorized by the Board of Regents to grant bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in liberal arts, becoming the Wisconsin State College at Eau Claire. The campus laboratory, theater, education building, and field house were erected in 1952.

The campus expanded further when the City of Eau Claire gave the college the 200-acre Putnam Park and when the state purchased 23 additional acres for the upper campus. After Davies died in 1959, Leonard C. Haas became chancellor, and the enrollment and physical size of the university continued to grow. From 1964 to 1971, the school was known as Wisconsin State University-Eau Claire.

The institution officially became the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1971 when the Board of Regents gave university standing to the state colleges. M. Emily Hannah became the first woman to head a UW System institution when she stepped in as chancellor in 1981. Hannah pushed for a greater female presence on campus as well as including women’s issues in the curriculum.

Over the ensuing years, the construction of Richard E. Hibbard Humanities Hall, the new Davies Center, the Allied Health and Clinical Services Building, the Nursing Building, Centennial Hall, and other structures formed the campus we see today.

The kind staff, vibrant student body, and beautiful campus are just a few of the great things about UW-Eau Claire. As the university has evolved, its importance to the City of Eau Claire and its people hasn’t changed.

Explore the 100+ years of UW-Eau Claire’s history – including some amazing photos – on this website from the Special Collections and Archives Department at McIntyre Library.

Eau Claire 150th

Eau Claire 150th is presented by:

Market & Johnson
EST. 1948
2350 Galloway St.
Eau Claire, WI

Founding Stories

Founding Stories

Celebrating the respected and long-running local businesses that grew with this community through our 150 years