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Centennial (re)makes history

History professors Robert Gough and James Oberly are writing a new history of UW-Eau Claire for it’s 100th anniversary in 2016.

With the last edition ending in 1976 and only covering the first 60 years, Gough said he plans to create a renewed version which covers the transformation of the university over a greater period of time.

“It’s going to be a comprehensive history. We’re going to try and cover the important stages of the university, going from a normal school to being a teacher’s college to being a state college to being a state university to being a part of the university system,” Gough said.

He said the history will not be all about administration but rather the whole evolution of Eau Claire including student lives, organizations, activities, athletics and it’s physical progression.

“We’re going to talk about the buildings, about the growth of the campus, the expansion of the campus, and the acquisition of Putnam Park,” Gough said. “So change, growth, development, elaboration and more buildings, climaxing with the Centennial Hall.”

Gough will be writing the history of Eau Claire from 1916 to the mid 1960s and Oberly will be writing from the mid 1960s until the present day. As Oberly starts his research in the ‘60s, he writes about the mass development of the university.

“The 1960s was a time of enormous expansion here. This was a pretty small, almost sleepy, state teacher’s college,” Oberly said. “It became a liberal arts college in the 1950s and then expanded into a regional state university. That’s the big story of the 1960s. That brought both a great deal of optimism and some resistance too.”

Oberly said the 1960s were a time of great advancements, bringing in new educational buildings across the river as well as the expansion of residence halls up the hill.

“There’s one whole story about growth in the 1960s and a lot of that is the physical campus itself,” Oberly said. “It was a pretty small campus with Schofield Hall, Zorn Arena, and what has now been knocked down, the old park school; the school of education, and a couple of residence halls on the lower level, Putnam and KT.”

There will be a series of events taking place in preparation of the centennial starting this year that will be drawing awareness to the event as well as providing information about the history of the campus. Alongside co-authoring the new edition of Eau Claire’s history, Gough is giving a series of talks to the alumni association about the history of the university with the most recent discussing the first president professor Schofield last Wednesday.

“I’m giving these talks to the alumni until September and this one is just a monthly meeting of the alumni association. Gough said. “The idea is that we’re trying to get a little attention, a little momentum, for the centennial celebration in a couple years.”

The book will be submitted for review and publication in 2015 and will be available in fall of 2016. However, the first edition that covered the original 60 years is always available for reading.

“You can read the existing book which is 1916-1976 which is in the library in the university archives,” Gough said. “This is all available online as well through the project of UW-Madison on the history of the UW System.”

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