Warhawk Almanac: Ambrose Health Center

Written by Ashley Bowe

Many students know of the Ambrose Health Center on campus, but few likely know the history behind its establishment. The health center opened in 1971, but its history starts in 1946 with Stephen Ambrose.[1] 

Photo of Stephen Ambrose
Stephen Ambrose[1]

Stephen Ambrose had always been interested in medical practice and botany, so after graduating from Illinois University with his undergraduate degree and M.D., he opened his own private practice in 1932. Upon the United States’ involvement in World War II, Dr. Ambrose entered the military in 1942. He was a Commander in the U.S. Navy and served as a physician in the Pacific Theater of Operations. After returning home from the war, Dr. Ambrose opened a private medical practice in his wife’s hometown, Whitewater.[2] 

The university’s student population started to skyrocket due to the baby boom following the end of World War II, “so in addition to his own private practice, Dr. Ambrose took on the additional responsibility of becoming the campus physician.”[3] However, Dr. Ambrose was not always readily available to students on campus. Dr. Ambrose was only available for a “one-hour sick call.”[4] At this time, there was no dedicated medical center on campus, so Dr. Ambrose’s office was in the east wing of Old Main. 

However, Dr. Ambrose resigned from his position before Old Main burned down. He served the University of Whitewater from 1946 until 1964 when he decided to pursue and devote himself to his private practice. On June 23rd, 1964, Dr. Ambrose was honored with a reception for the 18 years he dedicated to campus.[5]

Although Dr. Ambrose was no longer the campus physician, he did not completely sever ties to the university.  In 1966, two years after his resignation, Governor Warren Knowles appointed him to the University Board of Regents, on which he served until 1972. Not only was Dr. Ambrose a member of the University Board of Regents for Whitewater’s campus, but he also served as the representative on the Wisconsin State College Board of Regents, which dissolved in 1972 with the creation of the University of Wisconsin system.[6] In addition to his work at the university, Dr. Ambrose also served as the Medical Director at Fairhaven, a nursing home near campus, and was a member of the Walworth County Cancer Society.[7]

After the Old Main fire in 1970, there was no longer a place for the campus physician to attend to students. In response, the university built a dedicated student health center in 1971 and named it in honor of campus physician Stephen Ambrose. The Ambrose Health Center continues to serve students with physical and mental health concerns to this day. 

Dr. Stephen Ambrose played a significant role in Whitewater’s history, both on campus and off, and created an environment that continues to prioritize the health of Whitewater students. 

Photo of Ambrose Health Center
Ambrose Health Center[8]


Monday-Friday 8:00 – 4:30 pm


[1] Richard C. Haney, Campus Cornerstones: University of Wisconsin Whitewater Biographical Sketches of the People Whom Buildings & Facilities are Named (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1997), 4-5.

[2] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 5.

[3] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 5.

[4] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 5.

[5] “Reception for Ambrose,” The Royal Purple, June 23, 1964.

[6] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 5.

[7] Haney, Campus Cornerstones, 5.

[8] Dauntae Green, “UHCS Pandemic Stress Counseling,” The Royal Purple, September 6, 2020.

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