Warhawk Almanac: The “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” of 1971

John Denver Performance, 1971, in 1972 Minnieska (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, 1972), 40.

Fifty years ago this week, the Warhawk class of 1971-1972 celebrated Whitewater’s first homecoming as the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. Just one week prior, the Wisconsin State University System officially merged with the University of Wisconsin System, forever changing Whitewater’s identity.[1] However, this momentous change did not affect the student’s enthusiasm. All homecoming activities continued as planned.

The 1971 homecoming week, themed “Poems, Prayers, and Promises,” started with a bang. On Thursday night, students, staff, and community members were treated to a concert performed by rising artist John Denver. Although Denver had not yet gained the popularity attributed to him today, his performance received two standing ovations and rave reviews.[2] In the following week’s paper, Royal Purple writer Ray Shaffer wrote, “Expect greater things from John Denver; you will not be disappointed.”[3] Shaffer proved to be correct.

Homecoming Collage, 1971, in 1972 Minnieska (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, 1972), 37.

Homecoming week continued with numerous university traditions and student activities. On Friday, Phi Chi Epsilon won the annual “Yell Like Hell” competition held at the pep rally. Later that day, the Warhawks competed in the yearly Bed Rally. Competitors in the Bed Rally had to race through six checkpoints where they had to complete an activity before they could move on. The activities included rollerblading, bobbing for apples, and even bagging a fish that had been released into the fountain. The Phi Chi Epsilon Fraternity and the Delta Zeta Sorority won the race.[4]

Nyberg, Terry. Hawk Halfback Jeff Hanaman pops through a gaping hole for a good gain Saturday. in the Royal Purple (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, November 2, 1971), 10.

Of course, the 1971 homecoming week’s main event was Saturday’s game against UW – Eau Claire. The game started in Eau Claire’s favor, but the Warhawks managed to catch up before scoring a record-setting field goal (44 yds) in the second half. The game ended with Whitewater claiming victory with a score of 19-14.[5] Some homecoming traditions have change over the past fifty years, but the Warhawk’s enthusiasm and determination for greatness remains strong.

[1] “Senate publishes controversial merger bill; WSU-W officially becomes UW-Whitewater,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.), Oct. 12, 1971.

[2] Ray Shaffer, “Intimate rapport marks John Denver’s concert,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.), Nov. 2, 1971. 

[3] Ray Shaffer, “Intimate rapport marks John Denver’s concert,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.), Nov. 2, 1971. 

[4] “Promises fulfilled with UW-W homecoming ’71,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.), Nov. 2, 1971.

[5] George Geise, “Warhawks erase early deficit, whip Eau Claire,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.), Nov. 2, 1971. 

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