Warhawk Almanac: Founders Day

The newly constructed Normal School
The newly constructed Normal School.
Anderson Library Archives and Area Research, Anderson Library, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Whitewater, WI. 

On April 21, 1868, Whitewater Normal School (now UW-Whitewater) held its dedicatory service. The Whitewater community had been watching and waiting for the school to open since construction began in 1866.[1] The preliminary term, which began in April of 1868 saw 48 students enrolled in the normal department, that number went up to 105 when the school opened up again in September after Summer Break.[2]

The day of the dedication service saw many excited townsfolk and new students filling the large lecture hall long before the service began.[3] One student remembered that “the sound of the hammer was still echoing through the halls and the workmen rested from their labors, while citizens of the village and students who on the morrow would meet to begin the active work of the school, gathered in the assembly room.”[4] At three-thirty the service began and the people present heard speeches given by William Starr, the President of the Board of Normal School Regents, and Oliver Arey, Whitewater Normal’s first Principal and President. The Whitewater Glee Class then sang a dedicatory song proclaiming the merits and virtues of the Normal School.[5] This was followed by more speeches and then the service was concluded.

the register of the first students
The register of some of the first students to attend Whitewater Normal School.
Anderson Library Archives and Area Research, Anderson Library, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Whitewater, WI. 

The first class to graduate from Whitewater Normal did so in 1870 and was made up of only six students.[6] The school has grown and changed through the years, now almost 12,000 students attend the university.[7] Though much has changed, we still remember our humble origin and look back with pride to see all that we have accomplished.


[1] Albert Salisbury, “Historical Memoranda,” in First Quarter Century of the State Normal School, Whitewater Wisconsin, 1868-1893, ed. Albert Salisbury (Madison WI: Tracy, Gibs & CO., Printers, 1893), 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “The State Normal School. Dedicatory Services,” Whitewater Register, April 24, 1868.

[4] Charles Brockway, “Early Days at the Normal School,” in First Quarter Century of the State Normal School, Whitewater Wisconsin, 1868-1893, ed. Albert Salisbury (Madison WI: Tracy, Gibs & CO., Printers, 1893), 40.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “The First Commencement,” Historical Timeline, Retrieved from https://www.uww.edu/150/timeline.

[7] University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Historical Student Enrollment, retrieved from https://www.uww.edu/irp/university-data/enrollment.

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