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History of the College of Education and Human Services

Oshkosh Normal School buildingFounded as a state normal school in 1871, this institution came into being as a tough-minded, practical response to the demands of an earlier era. In the years following the Civil War, immigrants streamed into the state and there was an urgent need to train qualified teachers to bring out the best in the new arrivals and their children.

normal school name crop-100.gifIn the early years, the Oshkosh State Normal School was Wisconsin’s foremost institution for educating teachers and the first such school in the nation to have a kindergarten. Rose C. Swart, a powerhouse in the model school department for half a century, introduced practice teaching in 1872. Tuition was free to all who declared their intention to teach in Wisconsin public schools.

Under President John H. Keith, one of the best-equipped gymnasiums in the nation was constructed. The school added domestic science and industrial education and, in 1912, gained the Industrial Arts Building—later named Harrington Hall.

In 1916, fire destroyed the main campus building; Dempsey Hall replaced it in 1918.

State Teachers CollegeAfter a fierce fight in the state legislature, President Harry A. Brown helped the school and others like it become a degree-granting institution. The school was renamed Oshkosh State Teachers College in 1927. By 1930, Brown’s dream of a model school building, the Rose C. Swart Training School, had become a reality.

Under the GI Bill of Rights, veterans flocked back to school. Making rapid transitions, veterans with still-fresh combat experiences returned to a placid campus little changed since the 1930s. It was not long, however, before both the mission and landscape of the school would expand significantly. As soldiers poured into the school and more high school graduates became the first in their families to attend college, the teaching college model became increasingly outdated.

Wisconsin State CollegeTo appeal to a growing population of college students, teacher colleges statewide were given the privilege to offer liberal arts programs. The new curricula would enable the schools to train students for a variety of occupations beyond teaching. A change in name to Wisconsin State College Oshkosh reflected the shift in the schools’ direction.

Under the leadership of Roger E. Guiles, the school’s postwar mission and course offerings broadened as the school entered the state university system. The College of Business Administration and the College of Nursing were added, and the School of Education became the College of Education and Human Services.

Wisconsin State University OshkoshIn 1963, Oshkosh State College began a graduate school, which transformed the one-time normal school into a fully-developed university.

In its centennial year of 1971, the institution merged into the Wisconsin system and became the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

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