UW Oshkosh Foundation purchases home as future residence for institution’s chancellors
The Foundation’s Board of Directors voted to purchase the property and closed on the sale of the architecturally distinct home on Friday, Jan. 25. The property has been owned by current Chancellor Richard Wells and his wife Christie Charbonneau Wells since 2001. While no date of leadership transition has been cemented, Chancellor Wells, 65, expects to retire from his chancellorship at UW Oshkosh within the next three to five years.
“The decision of the UW Oshkosh Foundation board to acquire the Alberta Kimball House from the Wells makes strategic sense for many reasons – all them benefitting UW Oshkosh and its home city of Oshkosh,” said Thomas Kell, president of the UW Oshkosh Foundation Board of Directors.
“This action enables the Foundation to offer our next chancellor a distinctive and quality house proximate to campus – a home well suited to host events that help advance the institution,” Kell said. “It also ensures our next UW Oshkosh leader will call the city of Oshkosh home -- a community in which the Foundation and the University are stakeholders, collaborating with both public and private partners and investing in the city’s future. It is not uncommon for University foundations to provide residences for their presidents and chancellors as a means to provide a long-lasting, friend-and-fundraising home base that will help grow their institutions.”
The UW Oshkosh Foundation is a separate, distinct nonprofit organization supportive of UW Oshkosh. Established in 1963, the Foundation was created to promote, receive, invest and disburse gifts to meet the goals and needs of UW Oshkosh. It consistently motivates donors to become increasingly involved in the development of the University.
For nearly a quarter century, UW Oshkosh has remained one of several UW System institutions without an officially-designated chancellor’s residence.
In 1912, after the death of its second owner, physician and surgeon C.W. Oviatt, the gray stone house still standing on the UW Oshkosh campus off Algoma Boulevard – the Oviatt House -- was purchased by the Oshkosh Normal School for use as a women’s dormitory. During the Great Depression, it became the school’s president’s home.
In the late 1980s, that ended. Oviatt House was purchased by the University and state when the property amassed a long list of costly and necessary renovations. It ceased serving as the chancellor’s residence; however the UW Oshkosh Foundation revitalized the property with sensitivity to its historic significance. In the early 1990s, the Foundation adopted Oviatt as its offices from which to coordinate all University fundraising, school scholarships distributions and other advancement activities.
Since that time, Chancellors John Kerrigan and his successor, Wells, have applied University of Wisconsin System-approved housing allowances toward their private homes. They have offered and used their residences to host numerous official University functions over the years.
Now, 23 years after the last official UW Oshkosh-owned chancellor’s residence (Oviatt) closed its doors, the UW Oshkosh Foundation has once again stepped up to help the University pursue a new direction. Kell said the UW Oshkosh Foundation Board of Directors appreciated the many events Chancellor and Mrs. Wells hosted over the last 12 years in Alberta Kimball House, demonstrating the tremendous asset that the residence is for UW Oshkosh.
“Through their hospitality in this significant, one-of-a-kind home, Chancellor and Mrs. Wells have provided UW Oshkosh a place to host countless and diverse celebrations for visiting alumni, legislators, officials, dignitaries, Commencement honorees, guest artists and award-winning students, faculty and staff,” Kell said. “This home’s proximity to campus has also proven, on a weekly basis, its great benefit to the University, situated just blocks away. Our board agreed that it was strategically important to secure this residence as our official Chancellors’ home for years to come.”
About Alberta Kimball House
The private residence of Chancellor Richard H. Wells and his family at 1423 Congress Ave. since 2000 (formerly the home of Miles Kimball Co. matriarch and beloved community philanthropist Alberta Kimball), the home’s construction was completed in 1969. It is a classic example of American Mid-Century Modernism. The house was designed by American architect/designer/writer George Nelson and built by the August Pitz & Sons Construction Company.