Press Release from UW-Green Bay’s first Commencement, June 1, 1970

UW-Green Bay
Office of News and Publications
1567 Deckner Avenue
5 May 1970

From Pat Viets (414) 435-3211, Ext. 214

That the pioneer spirit is alive and well will be amply apparent when members of the Year One graduating class of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay stand up to receive their diplomas on June 1.

Many with graying hair will rise when the graduates’ names are read at the commencement ceremony, the first since UWGB became a degree-granting university last fall: nearly one-third of the senior class of 78 members is well over 30.

Half the group is married; the solemnity of the occasion will be brightened by the unusually large number of children- from tots to teenagers- who will be watching a parent receive a bachelor’s degree.

The 21-year-olds wearing mortar boards can hardly be called typical grads, either, in the sense of having spent four somewhat sheltered years at a tradition-bound college. Most of them began their education elsewhere, attended other colleges, or matriculated under the UW Center system. Now they will be alumni of perhaps the only school in the country planned from the start as an institution consciously focusing its philosophy and program on the problems of the environment.

For some, this ecological focus was the reason for continuing their studies at UWGB. For others, the University provided an opportunity near home to finish college work begun, in some cases years earlier, or to obtain a degree by the longer route of going to school evening and holding down a regular daytime job.

No generation gap exists on this campus, students of both age groups agree. The biggest difference between this year’s young graduate and his counterpart of a generation ago is that he is more caring, believes, Mrs. Joyce De Bauche, 44, mother of seven, who is completing a program for teacher certification.

“They worry more about other people. And most of them are terrific students – no false front, completely sincere. If you look no deeper than their clothing and beards, you don’t get the right impression.”

Mrs. De Bauche admits the exposure has caused her to see her own children in a different light. On two different occasions she and her oldest son were enrolled in the same class. The prospective teacher started back to school at age 40, “My family was pretty much on its own and ‘kaffee-klatsching’ wasn’t for me. I wanted more of a challenge.”

Idealism isn’t limited to the youngsters. Bernard J. Petras, 30, an employee of the Wisconsin State Reformatory, who has been working on his degree since 1964 with majors in social studies and psychology puts it this way: “My way of life is that a person is only as valuable as the effort he makes, or what he aspires to be,” he said. “My value lies not only in my being more productive personally; I want also to set an example for my children.”

He added that his wife felt his education has made a difference in terms of what he ow believes he is capable of doing. “going to school has cost me something, personally, in a lot of ways,” he notes, mentioning particularly loss of time spent with this wife and their four sons. “But I hope to realize returns.”

A pioneer in a literal sense is Mrs. Alice Yoder, 32, who managed to “open” three new colleges in her four years of undergraduate study. Sauk Valley College was just opening its doors in Dixon, Ill., when the newly-transferred Yoders arrived in town. Mrs. Yoder, whose youngest child was entering kindergarten that fall, enrolled on the spot.

The following year the Yoders were transferred again – to Weaton, Ill. – and again a brand-new junior college welcomed Mrs. Yoder. This was College of DuPage which opened with 5,000 students and no buildings. Mrs. Yoder recalls driving miles between classrooms in rented space in buildings scattered all over the county. Having progressed beyond junior colleges, Mrs. Yoder enrolled at North Central College at nearby Naperville, Ill. She found it to be her only contact with a traditional “ivy” type of institution, where she completed her junior year.

Then, last summer, the Yoders were transferred to Green Bay. Just in time, UWGB – newly organized as a four-year school – was ready and able to confer the degree. Mrs. Yoder, who has five children and maintains a straight A average, will teach language arts next fall at Franklin Junior High School, Green Bay.

Jobs are not as plentiful for this year’s June graduate, especially the one who wants to stay in the Green Bay area. Accounting is one of the fields for which graduates like Ronald Lodes are still actively sought.

Lodes, 30, “bummed around” at various jobs before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, then decided he wanted something better when he was discharged.

“I realized that anyone who is going to make it has to have a degree.” He enrolled four years ago at the UW Green Bay Center, and begins a job in the accounting field in Racine after picking up his diploma.

Do the graduates see themselves as pioneers?

A “Very much so!” comes from Susan Allen, 21, secretary of the Student Government Association. “It really has been a fantastic experience helping to put a university together. We feel close to the faculty…there’s been such good interaction at all times, and they’ve tried to help us a lot. It’s a thrill to be part of the first graduating class, but I hate to leave. Our class has been through so much together.”

Michael McDaniel, 22, thinks UWGB is “getting off to a good start. It will be quite a university after it gets a foothold. I like the standards for teachers, and the solid curriculum. It’s hard to judge right now whether the more diversified education offered at UWGB is better, but it seems to me to be more applicable to the outside world than the narrower system.”

Regardless of age, the outlook of the graduating seniors seems the same: a sense of achievement, a hope of contributing something worthwhile, and – what pioneers are noted for – a certain faith in the future.




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