Faculty Member's Bequest

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

Jan. 31, 1997

Bequest Largest in UW-RF History

A former faculty member who found a home at UW-River Falls has bequeathed it the largest gift in the institution's history.

The bequest of $600,000 was presented from the estate of Louis Wayne Tyler, an English department faculty member who taught 19 years before his retirement in 1980. The Janesville native died in September 1995.

His friend and estate executor, former River Falls public schools English teacher Ben Hawkinson, said the estate may generate up to another $100,000 for the University after the estate is closed next summer.

The gift constitutes the largest ever to the University, with the major portion provided for unrestricted use by the UW-RF Foundation in assisting the University, and a portion dedicated toward scholarships.

It will be added to the Foundation's current $5.8 million in assets. The bequest will be used to generate interest to supplement the University's and Foundation's expenses.

Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau noted that Tyler's gift was a continuation of his dedication toward building a legacy of excellence in teaching.

"This endowment continues Wayne Tyler's own personal legacy by providing scholarships for the students he treasured and support for the faculty that he called his friends and colleagues.

"UW-River Falls is extremely grateful for this endowment. It continues to assert Wayne Tyler's positive impact on the University."

Tyler joined the faculty in 1961 after an academic career interrupted by service in World War II, and followed by work in the private sector and teaching.

Born in Janesville in 1914, Tyler began his college education at Beloit College before transferring to UW-Madison, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1935. He continued there for his master's degree, specializing in English and comparative languages, including Sanskrit, Greek and Old Norse. Tyler taught briefly at the University of Maryland before entering the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the war. He rose through the enlisted ranks and was commissioned as a warrant officer, performing administrative duties in Panama for most of the war.

After his discharge, he returned to his studies at UW-Madison to pursue his doctorate. He taught at the University of Akron, then left to work as a technical writer for the Goodyear Aircraft Corp. in Akron. He re-entered the classroom as a substitute teacher in the Akron and Cleveland public schools until his appointment at River Falls.

After his retirement in 1980, Tyler was granted faculty emertii status by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

English Professor Bernie Brohaugh recalled his years teaching along side Tyler as a colleague, whose courses included semantics, composition, and sophomore literature. He also served as adviser to the quarterly literary publication of student poetry and prose, "The Prologue."

"He found a home here. He had not been at other schools very long, and he didn't seem to enjoy them as much as he did River Falls. He always felt that he was more respected here by the faculty."

A somewhat shy person, said Brohaugh and Hawkinson, Tyler enjoyed his time with his friends, recalling his days as a student actor in productions at UW-Madison, or commenting on life around River Falls.

"He was a cultured, sophisticated person," recalled Brohaugh. "He conformed to the role of a professor. It could be said he enjoyed the finer things in life."

Hawkinson agreed, describing Tyler as "a wonderful letter writer." He compared Tyler's writings as similar in style and complexity to Samuel Pepy's, the 16th Century writer who chronicled the Great Fire of London.

Tyler's scrapbooks and letters that he accumulated during his military service and his life in River Falls will be donated to the Pierce County Historical Society, Hawkinson noted.

After Tyler retired, he remained in River Falls where he lived quietly and was best known for his elaborate Christmas decorating and his gardening. "In the English sense of the word, he lived for his gardening and his perennials," Hawkinson related.

Hawkinson recalled many visits to Tyler's residence, first as a student and then as a neighbor, who lived just a few homes away. Hawkinson described Tyler as an "erudite" conversationalist who also loved playing classical works on his grand piano. As Tyler fell ill in recent years, Hawkinson assisted him in managing his affairs.

After his death, Tyler left his own substantial inheritance and the proceeds of his estate to UW-RF. A collection of first edition books, pottery, china and household furnishings filled the River Falls Armory last fall for the estate sale.

The seven-foot grand piano was the only personal item that Tyler left as a gift. The piano was restored by the Foundation, which will soon place the $50,000 instrument in the North Hall Auditorium.

The bequest from Tyler, who had no immediate family, did not surprise Brohaugh or Hawkinson:

"He appreciated that kind of closeness that he had with his friends and colleagues here, and it warmed his heart," Brohaugh concluded.



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