Hyer Hall: Who is Frank Hyer?

One of my favorite buildings on campus is Hyer Hall, especially in the summer months when the ivy covers the building and the flowers bloom in varying shades of purple, white, and yellow. Hyer Hall is named after Frank S. Hyer, who was appointed president of the University in 1919. A Wisconsin native, Hyer attended Milwaukee State Teachers College (now UW-Milwaukee) and Ripon College. Before being appointed president of Whitewater, he was a teacher and administrator all over Wisconsin, serving in a variety of positions.

During his tenure as president, Hyer helped the University become the second largest normal school in the state. Between 1923 and 1925 enrollments reached nearly one thousand students. This also lead to improvements around campus. The East Wing addition, now Hyer Hall, was built in order to expand the Old Main Building complex and provide much needed space. Initially, Hyer Hall was intended to serve as an auditorium and this costly addition was completed in 1925 at the cost of $260,000.

His presidency is also marked by an event known as the Hyer-Cotton controversy. Professor Cotton attempted to host the Young Men’s Progressive Association campus, but President Hyer denied the use of the campus auditorium. Then, Professor Cotton, of the Public Speaking Department, invited more controversial speakers to campus for the Walworth County Open Forum. Hyer claimed Cotton was seeking publicity and sought to prevent the event. Cotton then accused Hyer of salary discrimination because of their differing political opinions.

The controversy split the community in 1926. The attorney general (and future governor) Philip La Follette sided with Cotton and the Board of Regents supported Hyer. Eventually, Cotton left the university and went to teach at Milwaukee State College (where he was fired in 1945 over a salary dispute).

Hyer remained president of the University until 1930. He left to become president of Central State College at Stevens Point (now UW-Stevens Point). The East Wing addition was named after Hyer in April 1967.

References: M. Janette Bohi, A History of Wisconsin State University Whitewater 1868-1968(Whitewater: Whitewater State University Foundation, 1967), 149-157; Richard Carleton Haney, Campus Cornerstones, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater: Biographical Sketches of the People for whom Buildings and Facilities are Named(Whitewater: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1997), 67-68.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *