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Hove, Arthur (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 62, Number 15 (July 1961)

Elvehjem, Conrad A.
A University of the people and for the people,   p. 9

Page 9

          by CONRAD A. ELVEHJEM
                            President, University of Wisconsin
A University
       of the People
             and for
                   the People
T   WO GREAT FORCES converged a century ago
    to direct The University of Wisconsin toward the
 sort of institution it is today.
   On Commencement Day, 1861, the Alumni
      Association was formed "to promote by or-
      ganized effort the best interest of The Univer-
      sity of Wisconsin," as its constitution later out-
   On July 2, 1862, Pres. Abraham Lincoln signed
      the Morrill Act providing grants of land to
      Wisconsin and other states for colleges of agri-
      culture and mechanic arts.
   These two events, separated by a single year,
 reflected a sudden growth of America's convictions
 about the part higher education could play in the
 progress of society. _______
   Among the American pioneer leaders, there were
many who believed that democracy could prosper only
with an enlightened electorate. But the first public
education emphasis was on primary education, and
higher education was left for many years, to a great
extent, to private colleges, and students admitted
were, for the most part, the sons of wealth.
   But as the American way took hold and the west-
ward movement began, the feeling grew that colleges
and universities should, like the lower schools, be
open to all who were qualified, regardless of wealth
or station in life; that they could be most useful if
they included practical studies, particularly in agricul-
ture and engineering, along with the classical sub-
jects; and that institutions thus open in opportunities
and in subject matter professed would be of pri-
mary benefit to society and thus should be publicly
  The Alumni Association, from the beginning, be-
came the agency through which such public support
could be generated. Among its founders was one of
the University's first graduates, and throughout its
  history it has drawn its leadership from graduates who
  personally experienced the "lift" of its teachings,
  realized its social benefits, and sought to make
  these widely available to succeeding generations of
  young people.
     Although alumni, as individuals, were donors to
  Wisconsin in its early days, the idea of group alumni
  financial support-to provide those things which the
  state could not be expected to finance-did not de-
  velop for half a century. The first major group effort
  at alumni giving was not organized until the mid-
  twenties when the drive to help finance the construc-
  tion of the Memorial Union was undertaken.
    However, financial support, either through personal
  gifts or through legislative influence, never has been
  the major goal of the Alumni Association. Before
  this and above it has been the generation of pub-
-Tic understanding of the University and its needs
  and goals.
    The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and
  later the University of Wisconsin Foundation became
  the alumni agencies through which non-state income
  was provided the University. And despite many
  claims to the contrary, the Alumni Association has
  seldom in its history developed a formidable "lobby"
  to press the Legislature for state funds.
    In all of these efforts at University financing the
  Alumni Association has had a hand-or a "strong
  right arm" as the slogan has it-but its continuing
  contribution has been in keeping alumni abreast of
  University developments through club organizations
  and meetings, class reunions, and publications.
    It has been a two-way channel through which the
  University has been able to reach those whose inter-
  est in its welfare was great, and in the other direc-
  tion, to enable alumni to impress *their convictions
  upon the University.
    This is a goal of superlative importance to the Uni-
  versity and one which I, as an alumnus and adminis-
  trator, can endorse completely for the century ahead.
Wisconsin Alumnus, July, 1961

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