This post was created by UW-Whitewater student Brendan Knoflicek.
This spring semester of my junior year of college I had the opportunity to work as a public history intern at the UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center in Andersen Library. I was tasked with working with the H. Gaylon Greenhill Collection, a former Chancellor of UW-Whitewater.
The Greenhill collection contains a variety of items in the scrapbooks and files. The scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings, photos, letters, and documents that display Greenhill’s and UW-Whitewater’s successes. The Greenhill file contains photos, letters, pamphlets, quizzes, and booklets more specifically related to Greenhill. Initially I was tasked with creating a historical note of the overall collection. This provides any researcher the necessary background information on the collection to determine its significance to their project. After the historical note, I was tasked with creating an exhibit on Greenhill. The main materials used for my Greenhill exhibit were the clippings, photos, and letters as they display Greenhill’s personality in the best way. I began choosing items as if it were a job interview. The main items selected were to show Greenhill’s talents and his traits he had as a person. However, it was not an easy task narrowing down successes of a self made man who’s lasting legacy was immortalized by naming UW-Whitewater’s arts building, the Greenhill Center of the Arts. H. Gaylon Greenhill was one of UW-Whitewater’s most successful hires in the school’s history, making it difficult to narrow down his successes for an exhibit.
Before Whitewater, Greenhill earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-River Falls and a masters and PhD from University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. While many remember Greenhill as UW-Whitewater’s Chancellor, Greenhill was initially hired as an associate professor of political science. The exhibit has two cases that are split into Greenhill’s achievements before becoming Chancellor (Case 1), and Greenhill’s achievements as Chancellor (Case 2).
Case 1 covers a time span from 1962-1991, where Greenhill had to establish himself as a top scholar and worked his way up to Vice Chancellor. In 1967 when Greenhill published his Labor Money in Wisconsin Politics 1964, which received praise from politicians and fellow academics. This piece displayed Greenhill’s talents and earned him promotions, first to the Dean of Summer School in 1967 and Extension Services and then to Vice Chancellor in 1980. As Vice Chancellor, Greenhill displayed his talents and skills that foreshadowed his later promotion to Chancellor. Greenhill became a familiar site in newspapers as he made many public appearances as Vice Chancellor where people began to see the more friendly and personable side of Greenhill. Since his graduation from UW-River Falls, Greenhill has had a successful career, for which he earned the Distinguished Alumni award in 1984 from the university. This award recognizes students who have made strides of excellence in their fields since graduation, which Greenhill had done up to that point.
The exhibit then moves to case 2, which is bigger than case 1 and displays Greenhill’s successes as Chancellor of UW-Whitewater. As Chancellor Greenhill was able to achieve more of his goals for UW-Whitewater, which required more space to display his accomplishments. Case 2 covers Greenhill’s years as Chancellor from 1991-2000. It begins with Chancellor Connor retiring after his seventeen years of service in 1991. Following Connor’s retirement announcement, many academics suspected that Greenhill was next in line for the job. Shortly after Connor’s retirement the UW System Regents backed Greenhill, leading to his selection as UW-Whitewater’s new Chancellor. For his opening remarks Greenhill gave an emphatic speech on an excellence standard he wanted UW-Whitewater to reach. In his speech Greenhill states that UW-Whitewater needs to hire top faculty members, which will then attract the top high school students. Greenhill would act on his own words immediately as he starting the building of the Irvin Young Auditorium building in 1991 and finished in 1993, showing Greenhill’s and UW-Whitewater’s motivation to achieve excellence. Chancellor Greenhill was seen often around campus as he interacted with the student body, as he participated in homecoming games with students and attended many of the football teams games. In 1994 Greenhill privately began creating an “Excellence Fund” that was set to raise ten million dollars and be used on renovating Warhawk Stadium, Hyer Hall, and the Connor University Center. The majority of the fund was allocated for student scholarships. When Greenhill announced the “Excellence Fund” to the public it was an immediate success. Though the ten million for the fund was reached by 1996, it stayed open until 1998 when it raised twelve million dollars. Students who received money from the “Excellence Fund” often wrote letters to Chancellor Greenhill and his wife thanking him for the opportunity they otherwise couldn’t have afforded. In 1999 Greenhill announced his retirement from UW-Whitewater. Greenhill’s retirement ceremony drew a large crowd as academics and politicians from Wisconsin attended. After retirement Greenhill and his wife Hannah donated $500,000 to Whitewater. In return the university renamed the Center of the Arts building, to the Greenhill Center of the Arts.
Working in the school’s archives was great because it has taught me skills I need to further my career in public history. I learned how to create historical notes for collections, how to organize collections, and how to label collections. The archival work was more interesting than I had initially thought, as I was able to learn a lot about a specific collection and place my influence on the collection by organizing it. When creating my exhibit I learned how to use Photoshop, how to organize an exhibit, and how to provide concise text for an exhibit. Photoshop allowed me to edit photos so they could be easily seen for any viewers.
Organizing the exhibit was especially important for case 2 as images between rows needed to be spaced out enough so viewers know they are separate, while images that were related needed to be closer together so viewers know they are connected. Creating short amounts of text was difficult sometimes as I wanted to provide more info on the images. After finalizing the exhibit I found a good medium of text that provided necessary information, while keeping it short and to the point. Overall working at UW-Whitewater’s Archives and Area Research Center in Andersen Library has provided beneficial experiences as I continue to pursue a career in public history.
The exhibit is located in the Archives and Area Research Center on the 1st floor of Andersen Library.