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April 5, 1999

UW-RF to Launch 125th Anniversary Celebration


UW-River Falls will kick off a year-long 125th anniversary celebration during a ceremony on Wednesday, April 21.

The ceremony will begin at noon on the Commons outside of the Hagestad Student Center. It will be moved inside the Center in the event of rain.

"This is a special day for us, and we hope that our many alumni and friends throughout western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota will join us for this celebration," said Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau.

The decision to build the institution was made in April 1874 at the conclusion of an inspection visit by the Wisconsin Board of Regents. After surveying the community they announced that River Falls would be selected over many other communities around Wisconsin as site of the fourth Normal School. Its mission was to educate teachers for the northwest.

Its founding was particularly noteworthy because of the widespread cooperation that led to the Regents' decision. Thibodeau points out that the townships of River Falls, Troy, Clifton and Kinnickinnic, as well as community leaders, pledged $25,000 toward the Normal's construction, as well as the land to build it upon.

After opening its doors with a handful of faculty and 130 students in September 1875, the Normal evolved to become a State Teachers College, a Wisconsin State University, and now a member of the University of Wisconsin System. Its more than 500 faculty and staff offer over 40 bachelor's and master's degree programs to 5,800 students.

The ceremony will open at noon with a community-wide bell-ringing. It will be followed by remarks from Thibodeau, visiting dignitaries, and the reading of resolutions or commendations from Governor Tommy Thompson, the Wisconsin Legislature, and the River Falls City Council. The University Chamber Singers also will perform three songs: "Alma Mater," an early school song; the "Pledge Song" that was introduced at the 50th anniversary celebration; and the present UW-RF Fight Song.

Also featured will be the unveiling of the anniversary year's celebratory logo that will be used in all communications and in banners around the campus. Its theme, "Building on Tradition," is complemented by a doorway relief of Historic South Hall, the site of the original Normal School.

According to Thibodeau, the logo symbolizes the "tremendous opportunity for access to education that the University has represented for six generations of students."

Today, he added, UW-RF remains well above the national average, with nearly 63 percent of its students representing the first member of their family to attend college. Following the brief ceremony, those participating will be offered the opportunity to add their remarks to a giant "signature wall" in the Alumni Room of South Hall. The card will remain in place throughout the anniversary year so guests, alumni and students can share their thoughts about the University.

Also planned for display are artifacts that will be retrieved from a time capsule placed in the cornerstone of North Hall when it became the second building on campus in 1914. This year the University plans to construct a new time capsule that will be sealed at the conclusion of the 125th anniversary year. Thibodeau noted that the public is invited to join in taking refreshments following the ceremony.

The event also coincides with the University's annual "Unity in the Community" multicultural diversity day that features lectures, ethnic food and dance and music performances. For more information, contact Kevin Bertelsen at 715/425-3845.

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