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For the first time, alumni representing the 50th reunion class will help celebrate commencement at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

“We typically have held our 50th reunion activities in conjunction with Homecoming each fall, but I think it is more meaningful and special to celebrate it in conjunction with commencement,” said UW Oshkosh Alumni Director Christine Gantner.

“After all, it is the 50th anniversary of the class of 1959’s graduation. I think it will be inspirational to our new grads to see these alumni returning to their alma mater to share their University pride 50 years later.”

50th reunion activities

Alumnus Gene Winkler, of Oshkosh, will be among the nearly two dozen representatives of the Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh class of 1959 to lead the procession of 2009 candidates for graduation at the 2 p.m. ceremony May 16 in Kolf Sports Center.

“It’s going to be a big day,” said Winkler, the 50th reunion committee chair. “I think it is kind of neat that we’ll be in Kolf. We had our graduation in Albee Hall.”

Besides the commencement ceremony, the 50th reunion weekend will include a bus tour of campus, a class dinner at Robbin’s Restaurant, a Golden Titan luncheon and a class photo.

“Also new this year is the class of 1959 class gift to support today’s students through scholarships,” Gantner said. “Members of the class contributed to the gift in honor of their 50th anniversary and the excellent education they received.”

Back in the day

Winkler, who majored in history, recalled that many of his classmates did their practice teaching in Swart Hall, which housed the K-9 campus school. Swart also was home to a small theater that could hold about 600 people — almost the entire student population at the time.

He also remembers that construction of Reeve Memorial Union was underway in 1959 and that there was just one dormitory on campus, which was designated for females only.

“So much has changed since 1959,” Winkler said. “It was a very small campus back then.”

Today’s graduates may be interested to know that in 1959, students didn’t have to buy their textbooks. Instead, they borrowed them for each semester from a lending library, located on the first floor of Dempsey Hall.

As the 50th reunion approaches, Winkler is looking forward to reminiscing about these and many other memories of campus life in 1959. “The best part will be seeing all these people I haven’t seen in 50 years,” he said.

Remember when?

  • In 1959, Wisconsin residents paid no tuition at the Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh; while non-residents paid $50 per year. Dormitories charged $6 per week for a student with one roommate.
  • In summer 1958, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Buckstaff donated the Buckstaff Observatory with its two telescopes to Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh.
  • Webster Hall — named after Emily Webster, who taught two generations of students in her 40-plus career as an English, Latin and mathematics instructor — opened in 1959.
  • The 1958 fall semester brought a record enrollment of 1,815 students, making Oshkosh the largest institution in the Wisconsin State College System that year.
  • President Forrest Polk retired in May 1959, following 40 years of service to the institution.
  • Ernest Friebel graduated as a member of the Class of 1959 at the age of 69, making him the oldest graduate of the University at that time.
  • The 4.0 grading system went into effect in the 1958 fall semester. Juniors and seniors got an automatic 1.0 added to their GPA.
  • The Class of 1959 watched as Reeve Memorial Union was built on the site of the first, smaller union. Unfortunately, the building wasn’t completed in time for the seniors to enjoy.
  • In 1959, one out of every 10 students at the Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh was married.
  • In 1959, 13 international students from seven countries — Belgium, Egypt, Hungary, Iran, Korea, Kuwait and Pakistan — attended the Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh.

Facts from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Archives

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