On January 5, 1891, a small, wooden school opened its doors in downtown Menomonie, Wisconsin. The goal of the school’s founder, businessman James Huff Stout, was to provide through a private-public partnership a supplementary form of education—manual training—for boys and girls attending the adjacent city school. Manual training, a decade-old movement at the time in the United States, taught young people useful skills with their hands to prepare them for the rapidly changing industrial age. Stout learned about manual training when he lived in St. Louis, home of the country’s first such school, in the 1880s.
Menomonie’s two-room, two-story school was called Stout Manual Training School. Under James Stout’s leadership and largely through his financial support for 19 years, the school expanded in scope and many times in size, becoming the world renown Stout Institute. By the early 1900s it was educating teachers in the primary manual training fields, industry and home economics.
One-hundred and twenty-five years later, Stout Institute is University of Wisconsin-Stout, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, a proud member of the nationally respected University of Wisconsin System of higher education. UWStout has more than 9,500 students enrolled in 48 undergraduate bachelor degree programs and 23 graduate degree programs. Classes are held on a 125-acre campus that includes 45 buildings and in cyberspace — online.
The road from manual training satellite school to accredited university wasn’t always straight or without Wisconsin “potholes.” A fire burned down the second, much larger school building, briefly threatening its existence. The death of James Stout threw into question the school’s future financially, until his widow offered the school to the state. Political battles were fought in Madison to secure funding for new buildings and the permission to offer four-year degrees. The Great Depression and World War II tested the strength of the institution and its special mission. Rapid enrollment growth and turbulent times in the 1960s and 1970s brought numerous challenges and opportunities. A vitriolic no-confidence campaign against the chancellor in the 1990s became a turning point in school history, one that resulted in UW-Stout becoming in 2001 the first— and only as of 2016—four-year institution of higher education to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Through the decades of challenges and changes, Stout Manual Training School, Stout Institute, Stout State College, Stout State University and University of Wisconsin-Stout moved forward under steady, principled, impassioned leaders and dedicated faculty and staff remaining true to, but gradually expanding upon as the times demanded, the James Stout-inspired mission of blending hand and mind education. The career-focused model, which led to an elementary school division grand prize at the 1904 World’s Fair and which was retooled to deliver bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree programs in dozens of career fields 100 years later, is why UW-Stout has more lab space than classroom space and why more than nine of every 10 graduates on average historically have been employed within six months of earning their degrees.
The progressive iterations of James Stout’s idea, a manual training school for boys and girls, have come of age 125 years later as a fully accredited polytechnic university for men and women. Symbolic of that success and of the school is the Clock Tower that he, with support of townspeople, built in 1897. The 135-foot brick column, an iconic regional landmark and throwback to 13th century towers in Italy, still stands tall at the center of campus in downtown Menomonie, near where the first wooden school building was erected, as a bold statement about the importance of higher education and the value of training young minds and hands to meet the changing needs of society.
Posted by Dan Etten on 27th Dec 2016
Given as a Christmas gift. The recipient (my wife) seemed very happy with a book that could take her back to the place that helped determine both her career and future. Very well done.
Posted by Unknown on 25th Dec 2016
This is a big book. LOTS to read. I had hoped for more pictures, but realize that would drive the cost way up. I have only had time to page through and read short excerpts.
Posted by Nancy Erickson on 23rd Dec 2016
I bought this book as a Christmas gift for my husband. He was the first Stout grad to ever be drafted (seventh round) by a professional football team. He was class of 67 (the first year of the combined AFL/NFL draft) and drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs who had recently just been to the super bowl. He went to training camp, but thinking he'd be cut, he went back to start graduate school, the first class in vocational rehabilitation. He is in the Stout Athletic Hall of Fame that's in the field house so it's really not hard for the author to check facts.
Instead, the author wrote about several sentences about Glen Harke who had two tryouts with the Vikings in the decade before, and then the author also wrote one paragraph about that conference winning 1965 team while writing much more about preceding and succeeding teams. He also wrote a paragraph about a fourth round pick several years later.
It was a tremendous disappointment to find this error. As I thumb through, it seems there are several omissions. He names the Wisconsin Dairyland Queen, but misses other Stout milestones. A book is judged by the care put into the research. This missed the boat on an easy to find fact, so it does make you wonder what other things are missing or inaccurate. Did the author even walk down the hall of fame gallery and read about the inductees? There was also a pom pom squad that began in 1965 and lasted for more than 25 years until it became the dance team.
A huge volume, but maybe it could have been better researched with interviews from alumni who were witnesses to events worth noting.
Posted by Gary Marine on 22nd Dec 2016
If you grew up in Menomonie Wisconsin and/or attended the University of Wisconsin - Stout (or that same institution by any of its previous names), you will love this book. Over 500 photographs along with a complete history of the school. Hours and hours of great reading and viewing.
Posted by Peter Fulcer on 22nd Dec 2016
Being a 1960 Stout grad, prior to the computer/Internet era, and living in Virginia I found the book extremely informative. I have always been very pleased with the education I received at Stout, but was not able to keep up with the changing events. This publication fills in all the gaps.