The University of Wisconsin celebrated Founders’ Day Tuesday — the day classes first began 170 years ago in 1849.
The Wisconsin Alumni Association celebrated Tuesday evening 5:30-8:30 at the alumni center by honoring Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Diversity Engagement and Success at UW-Whitewater LaVar Charleston with their Forward Under 40 award. Wisconsin Alumni Association Public Relations Director Tod Pritchard said in an email to The Badger Herald that the organization is eager to celebrate UW-Madison pride.
“The Forward Under 40 award recognizes Badger graduates who have positively impacted public good by living out the Wisconsin Idea,” Pritchard said.
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Students on campus Tuesday also were greeted by members from the Wisconsin Student Board of Alumni with cake in celebration of both 170 years of classes at UW and 150 years of female students at UW.
UW started in a small, two-story building rented to the university for free by the Madison Female Academy, 20 male students comprised of ages 10-22 years old took classes for about 38 cents a week — at the time, about the same cost as a carton of eggs, Pritchard said. He said the first chancellor, John Lathrop, began expanding the university in August 1851 by building North Hall, and five years later South Hall.
“The first students practiced remedial education,” Pritchard said. “The university started very simply and very slowly.”
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Pritchard said class content at UW’s start was limited — the first course catalog included only arithmetic, grammar, geography, Latin, penmanship, bookkeeping, geometry and surveying.
Today, students have the option to take 9,203 different courses and specialize in 232 undergraduate majors and certificates. The average class size, 30 students, is 50 percent more than the entire first roster of students.
“[The first class of students] wouldn’t in their wildest dreams conceive of the university we have today,” Pritchard said.