University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chancellors and Presidents of the University of Wisconsin-Madison


Twenty-eight individuals have served as chief executive of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.* For more photographs and other materials about these leaders of the university, see the University of Wisconsin Collection.  Click on Search the Collection, and then either click on the photograph entitled UW-Madison Chancellors or enter the name of the chancellor in the search box. For a quick list of the presidents and chancellors see UW–Madison presidents and chancellors from University Communications.

The University Archives contains records from the administrations of all of the chancellors/presidents through David Ward, except for John Lathrop, Henry Barnard, and John Twombly.  The Archives includes oral history interviews with E. B. Fred, Fred Harrington, Robert Clodius, Robben Fleming, William Sewell, Bryant Kearl, Edwin Young, Glenn Pound, Irving Shain, Bernard Cohen, Donna Shalala, David Ward, and John Wiley.  In addition the Archives contains general subject files from the Chancellor's Office and many other materials related to the chancellors and presidents.

See Presidents of the University of Wisconsin System for information on the leaders of UW System, beginning in 1971.


John Lathrop

John Hiram Lathrop
Chancellor, 1849-1858

John Lathrop was elected the first chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in September 1849 and was inaugurated on January 16, 1850.  John Hiram Lathrop was born in Sherburne, New York on January 22, 1799.  He spent two years at Hamilton College then went to Yale where he received his undergraduate degree in 1819.  Lathrop came to Wisconsin from the University of Missouri where he had served as the first president since 1841.  Lathrop was responsible for establishing the academic setting at Wisconsin, and he recommended the university's seal with the words "Numen Lumen."   The regents and the legislature, however, were critical of the university's record of low scholarship and lack of practical training.  On July 27, 1858, Lathrop resigned and became a professor of moral philosophy, ethics and political science.  He remained as acting chancellor, however, until Henry Barnard's arrival in mid 1859. In August of that year, he accepted the presidency of Indiana University, where he stayed for only one year before returning to Missouri as a law professor.  In 1865 he again was elected president of the University of Missouri and remained in that office until his death on August 2, 1866. 

Henry Barnard

Henry Barnard
Chancellor, 1859-1860

The regents began wooing Henry Barnard in July 1858, and he finally accepted the offer of the office of chancellor on January 12, 1859. After several delays, he arrived in Madison in May but was not inaugurated until Commencement Day, July 27, 1859.  Barnard was born in Hartford, Connecticut on January 24, 1811, and graduated from Yale in 1830.  He also read law at Yale and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1834 but spent most of his life as an educator.  The regents hoped that Barnard, a nationally regarded figure who had founded the American Journal of Education, would oversee the restructuring of the entire educational system of the state, including more emphasis on the normal schools.  Due to travels and illness, Barnard was away from Wisconsin for over half of the time that he was chancellor and never moved his family to Madison.  He sent his resignation to the regents from Connecticut in June 1860, but they did not accept it until January 1861 when it became clear that he would not return to Wisconsin.  Barnard continued to be involved in educational issues throughout his life, including becoming the first United States Commissioner of Education in 1867.  He died in Hartford on July 25, 1900.


John Sterling John Whelan Sterling
Executive officer, 1861-1867

John Sterling was born on July 17, 1816, in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania.  He graduated with honors from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1840, and in 1844 graduated from the theological seminary there and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.  In 1846 Sterling moved to Wisconsin and accepted the position of professor of mathematics in Carroll College.  In February 1849 Sterling opened the preparatory department for the new University of Wisconsin. When the university officially opened in August of that year, Sterling and Chancellor Lathrop were the only faculty.  From the resignation of Henry Barnard in January 1861 to the inauguration of Paul Chadbourne in 1867, Sterling served as chief executive of the university although his official title was Dean of Faculty and Vice Chancellor (starting in 1865).   Due to the Civil War and bad financial straits, the University's fortunes were at a low during this period, and no one pushed to hire an actual chancellor until 1867.  When Chadbourne became president, Sterling returned to teaching mathematics and other subjects and continued to do so until his sudden death in Madison on March 9, 1885. Because of his extensive involvement in its development, Sterling was fondly referred to as the "Father of the University."


Paul Chadbourne Paul Ansel Chadbourne
President, 1867-1870

In 1866 the Wisconsin legislature passed an act to enlarge and restructure the university including its curriculum, faculty, and students.  The legislature also created a new corporation and a new Board of Regents.  One of the first pressing needs was to find a chief executive, now called president, for the reorganized university, and the regents settled on Paul Chadbourne.  Chadbourne was born in North Berwick, Maine on October 21, 1823.  He attended Phillips Academy and worked for several years before graduating from Williams College in 1848.   He graduated from the Theological Institute of Connecticut (later Hartford Theological Seminary) in 1853, and taught at Williams College, Bowdoin College, and was president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Amherst.  Chadbourne originally rejected the offer of the presidency at Wisconsin but finally accepted on June 22, 1867, and took office immediately.  Chadbourne was a strong administrator and laid the groundwork for the growth of the university in later years.  The Law School was established during his administration, and the first professor of agriculture was hired.  Chadbourne was an opponent of co-education, creating a separate Female College when the legislature mandated in 1866 that women be allowed to enroll in the University (women were admitted into the newly created normal department in 1863, but not into the university proper).  Ladies Hall, which originally housed the Female College and later was a women's dormitory, was named for Chadbourne.   Chadbourne resigned in June, 1870, and later became president of Williams College from 1872 to 1881 and then returned to the Massachusetts Agricultural College as president in 1882.  He died in New York city, where he had gone for business, on February 23, 1883.


John Twombly

John Hanson Twombly
President, 1871-1874

John Twombly was born in Rochester, New Hampshire on July 19, 1814.  After working at various jobs and mostly educating himself, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1843 and was ordained a Methodist minister.  During the next thirty years Twombly was a pastor at various churches in Massachusetts, an overseer of Harvard College (1855-67), secretary of the New England Education Society (1857-71), director of the American Institute (1868-70), and superintendent of the Charlestown, Massachusetts public schools (1866-70). The regents elected Twombly president of the University of Wisconsin on June 30, 1871, and he took office with the start of the school year in September.  During most of his presidency Twombly had good relations with faculty and students and was an outspoken proponent of co-education. The latter issue brought him into conflict with the regents, however, as did their reluctance to give him much real executive authority.  In June of 1873 the regents asked Twombly to resign, but he refused.  Over the next several months the conflict between Twombly and the regents intensified and the issue even was taken to the legislature.  Finally, on January 21, 1874, Twombly resigned.  He returned to the ministry, and served as pastor at several churches in the northeast.  He died on January 1, 1893, in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts.


John Bascom

John A. Bascom
President, 1874-1887

After the failure of Twombly's presidency, the regents turned to another Williams graduate, John Bascom.  Bascom was born in Genoa, New York on May 1, 1827.   He graduated from Williams College in 1849, then spent several years studying and working, finally graduating from Andover Theological Seminary in 1855.  From that year until 1874 he was a professor of rhetoric and English literature at Williams.  On January 21, 1874, the regents elected Bascom president, and he took office with the beginning of the spring term on March 31.  During Bascom's thirteen years as president, the university became a solid academic institution.  Bascom continued to teach during his presidency and was known as an excellent scholar and teacher.  He believed that the university should exert a strong moral presence, and he taught a special course for seniors on the importance of using their education to improve society. His support of prohibition and his belief that the regents should not be involved in day-to-day operations of the university brought him into conflict with that group.  In December 1885 Bascom indicated that he might resign in June 1886 to become effective one year later. The regents took this as a formal resignation and began the search for a replacement, although Bascom did remain in office until June 1887.  After leaving Wisconsin, Bascom returned to Williams where he taught sociology and political economy until his resignation in 1903.   He died in Williamstown, Massachusetts on October 2, 1911.  


Thomas Chamberlin

Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin
President, 1887-1892

Thomas Chamberlin was born in Mattoon, Illinois on September 25, 1843.   His family moved to Beloit, Wisconsin when he was three, and he graduated from Beloit College in 1866.  During 1868/69 he studied geology at the University of Michigan and then became a professor of natural sciences at the state normal school in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  In 1873 he joined the Wisconsin Geological Survey, and in 1882 John Wesley Powell appointed him as head of the glacial division of the U. S. Geological Survey, a post he held until 1904, concomitant with other positions.  In June 1886 the regents chose Chamberlin to succeed John Bascom as president, but Chamberlin was reluctant to leave his geological work and to get too involved in the regents' conflict with Bascom, so he made the appointment effective in June 1887.  He was the first leader of the university from the Midwest.  Chamberlin encouraged graduate education, attracted national caliber faculty to the university, and is generally credited with moving Wisconsin from a college to a university.  Although he was an effective leader, Chamberlin grew increasingly dissatisfied with his administrative duties, and in June 1892 he left Wisconsin to head the Department of Geology at the University of Chicago.  He continued his research in glaciology and was considered to be the country's leading glaciologist.   He remained at the University of Chicago until his retirement in 1918.  He died in Chicago on November 15, 1928.  

Charles Adams

Charles Kendall Adams
President, 1892-1901

Charles Adams was born in the township of Derby, Vermont on January 24, 1835, but his family moved to Iowa in 1856.  Adams studied history at the University of Michigan where he graduated in 1861.  He received a master's degree in history from Michigan in 1862 and began teaching there.  He eventually became a full professor of history and then dean of the School of Political Science at Michigan.  In 1885 he was chosen as president of Cornell University, where he had also taught courses. In May 1892 Adams resigned at Cornell, and in July he was offered the presidency at Wisconsin.  The regents made his appointment official on September 20, 1892, and he was inaugurated on January 17, 1893.  Adams continued to build on the foundation that Chamberlin established, attracting new faculty who were able scholars and guiding the large growth of the student population.  Adams developed good working relationships with the state and local governments, and these helped him secure funding for several important building projects on campus.  The State Historical Society of Wisconsin building, which housed the libraries of the society and the university, was constructed during his administration, as was a new law building, soils building, and the Armory (Red Gym).  Unfortunately, Adams developed serious health problems in early 1900, and he was on leave for most of that year and the next.  He resigned the presidency on October 11, 1901, but the regents postponed formal acceptance until January 1902.  In the meantime, Adams had moved to California hoping to recuperate, but he died in Redlands on July 26, 1902 


Edward Birge

Edward Asahel Birge
Acting President, 1900-1903

For most of 1900 and 1901 while Adams was ill, Edward Birge, dean of the College of Letters and Science, served as acting president, a position he continued in after Adams' death.  Birge did not campaign actively for the presidency, and he lost a close vote by the Board of Regents to Charles Van Hise.  Birge subsequently was named president following Van Hise's untimely death in 1918. 


Charles Van Hise

Charles Richard Van Hise
President, 1903-1918

Charles Van Hise has the distinctions of receiving the first PhD degree granted by the University of Wisconsin (1892, geology), being the first UW alumnus to head the university, and being the longest serving leader of the university. Van Hise was born on May 29, 1857, near Fulton, Wisconsin.  He received four degrees from the University of Wisconsin:  bachelor of metallurgical engineering (1879), BS (1880), MS (1882) and PhD (1892).   He joined the faculty in 1879 as an assistant in metallurgy and chemistry and remained with the university for the rest of his life.  Van Hise, who was then professor of geology, was elected president by the Board of Regents on April 21, 1903, at least partly at the urging of Governor Robert La Follette, and inaugurated on June 5, 1904 as part of the Jubilee 50th Anniversary celebrations.  Both Van Hise and La Follette, who had been classmates at Wisconsin and students of John Bascom, felt that the university should benefit the entire state, and Van Hise helped develop this concept into the Wisconsin Idea, including founding the university extension division.  Van Hise also oversaw a reorganization of the university in 1904 that included the establishment of a graduate division and the founding of the Medical School.  He led the university through the difficult years of World War I, including defending the university against charges of disloyalty and a falling out with La Follette over the latter's opposition to the war. During his tenure the faculty increased from 200 to 750, and the university's income quadrupled.  Van Hise died unexpectedly in Milwaukee on November 19, 1918, following what was considered minor surgery.  


Edward Birge

Edward Asahel Birge
President, 1918-1925

Reeling from the shock of President Van Hise's sudden death, the regents turned to the man who had guided the university during and after President Adams' illness, Dean Birge of the College of Letters and Science.  On December 4, 1918, Birge was named acting president.  Twelve days later the regents named him president officially, and he accepted on the condition that a search be conducted for someone who would hold the office for a longer term.  A halfhearted search evidently did take place, but on December 3, 1919, the regents asked Birge to withdraw his condition, and he did so.  Edward Birge was born at Troy, New York on September 7, 1851.  He attended Williams College, receiving a BA in 1873 and an MA in 1876.  He also studied at Harvard where he received his doctorate in 1878. In the fall of 1875 Birge became an instructor in natural history and curator of the cabinet at Wisconsin, and he became a full professor in 1879. He served as dean of the College of Letters and Science from 1891 to 1918.  Although faced with a greatly increased enrollment after World War I and a need for new resources, Birge was hesitant to make changes or push for more money from the legislature.  Birge retired from the presidency effective September 1, 1925, after 50 years of service to the university.  He continued his research, particularly on Lake Mendota, and is considered the country's first great limnologist.   He died in Madison on June 9, 1950.


Glenn Frank

Glenn Frank
President, 1925-1937

Glenn Frank was born in Queen City, Missouri on October 1, 1887.  He attended the state normal school at Kirksville, Missouri before entering Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1912.  After working for Abram Harris, the president of Northwestern, and Boston merchant Edward Filene, Frank was chosen as associate editor of Century magazine in 1919 and made editor-in-chief three years later.   He was known as a progressive and a charismatic speaker, and he had spoken in Madison in 1924.  In April 1925 Regent Zona Gale, whose fiction had been published in the Century, approached Frank about the presidency.  Support for Frank snowballed, although his appointment was opposed by the La Follette family. On May 20, 1925, he accepted the presidency, to begin in September.  At age 37, Frank was the youngest person ever appointed leader of the university, and the only one without an earned advanced degree or substantial educational experience.  During his tenure, Frank established the short-lived but influential Experimental College and expanded the short course in agriculture.  Although Frank was a staunch proponent of academic freedom and tenure, he never had the full support of the faculty, and his increasing criticism of President Roosevelt landed him in political trouble with Governor Philip La Follette and Senator Robert La Follette, Jr.  In March 1936 the Board of Regents, most of whom were La Follette appointees, asked Frank to resign.  He refused, which eventually resulted in a public hearing on his competency to be president.  On January 7, 1937, the Board of Regents narrowly voted to dismiss him.  After his removal, Frank became increasingly involved in Wisconsin politics.  In 1940 he sought the Republican nomination for the Senate seat held by Robert La Follette, Jr.  On September 15, 1940, two days before the primary election,  he and his only child, Glenn Jr., were killed in an automobile accident near Greenleaf, Wisconsin. 


George Sellery

George Clarke Sellery
Acting President, 1937

When the Regents removed Glenn Frank from the presidency in January 1937, George Sellery, dean of the College of Letters and Science and a critic of Frank, was made acting president, a position he held for only six months.  George Sellery was born on January 21, 1872, in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada.  He received his BA in 1897 from the University of Toronto and his PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1901.  In that year he also joined the faculty at Wisconsin as an instructor in history, becoming a full professor in 1909.  He served as director of the summer school from 1906-1911 and Dean of the College of Letters and Science from 1919 until his retirement in 1942.  He died in Madison on January 21, 1962, his 90th birthday.


Clarence Dykstra

Clarence Addison Dykstra
President, 1937-1945

On March 18, 1937, the Board of Regents named Clarence Dykstra, the choice of the La Follette family, as president to begin officially in July. Clarence Dykstra was born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 25, 1883.  He received his BA from Iowa State University in 1903.  Dykstra did graduate work in history and political science at the University of Chicago, taught for a year at Ohio State University, and then moved to the University of Kansas.  There he headed the newly created Department of Political Science, and he stayed at Kansas until 1918.  In that year he returned to Cleveland as executive secretary of the civic league.  He later held similar positions in Chicago and Los Angeles and in 1926 became a commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water.  He was also a professor of municipal administration at UCLA from 1923 to 1929. In 1930 he was appointed city manager of Cincinnati, Ohio and held that position until coming to the University of Wisconsin.  At first glance Dykstra seems an odd choice as president, but he was a skillful administrator and politician and managed to avoid any major controversies during his tenure.  In 1940 President Roosevelt appointed Dykstra as the first head of the Selective Service System, and in 1941 he became chairman of the newly created National Defense Mediation Board.  Consequently, he spent much of the war years in Washington, D.C., although he did manage to steer the university through that difficult time.  On October 28, 1944, Dykstra announced his resignation, effective in January 1945, to accept the position of provost at UCLA, where he stayed until his death in Laguna Beach, California on May 6, 1950. 


E. B. Fred

Edwin Broun Fred
President, 1945-1958

E. B. Fred was born in Middleton, Virginia on March 22, 1887.  He received a BS (1907) and MS (1908) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, then went abroad for his PhD, earning that degree from the University of Göttingen in 1911.   He taught at VPI for one year then joined the faculty at Wisconsin as an assistant professor in bacteriology in 1913.  Fred served in the Chemical Warfare Branch of the U. S. Army during WWI then returned to Wisconsin as a professor of bacteriology from 1918 to 1958.   In 1934 Fred was made dean of the Graduate School, and in 1943 dean of the College of Agriculture.  On  January 25, 1945, the regents chose Fred to succeed Clarence Dykstra as president, effective February 15.  During his administration student enrollment grew from under 8,000 to over 17,000, research spending grew almost eightfold, and the university added over 24 new buildings.  Fred believed strongly in the Wisconsin Idea, and he oversaw the growth of the university's extension program, which eventually resulted in the opening of the UW-Milwaukee campus in 1956.  Fred reached the university's then mandatory retirement age in 1957, but the regents asked him to remain until June 30,1958, to allow time to find a successor.  After retirement, Fred continued his research and government service.  Fred was both an able administrator and a leading bacteriologist.   He died in Madison on January 16, 1981.


Conrad Elvehjem

Conrad Arnold Elvehjem
President, 1958-1962

Conrad Elvehjem, then dean of the Graduate School, was chosen to succeed E. B. Fred on February 1, 1958, and he took office on July 1 of that year.  Elvehjem was born near McFarland, Wisconsin on May 17, 1901.  He received three degrees from the University of Wisconsin, a BS (1923), MS (1924) and PhD (1927) all in agricultural chemistry.  Other than one year spent as a National Research Council fellow at Cambridge University, Elvehjem spent his entire academic career at Wisconsin, starting as an assistant in agricultural chemistry in 1923 and becoming a full professor in 1936.  He chaired the Department of Biochemistry from 1944 to 1958 and served as dean of the Graduate School from 1946 to 1958.  His research centered on the biological function of vitamins and minerals, and he is best known for isolating niacin in the late 1930s.  During his administration the university expanded rapidly, and he oversaw the continued growth of the Milwaukee campus and the expansion of WARF (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) support for all areas of research on campus.   Elvehjem died from a heart attack while working in his office on the Madison campus on July 27, 1962.


Fred Harrington

Fred Harvey Harrington
President, 1962-1970

Fred Harrington was serving as vice president of the university when President Elvehjem died and had just accepted the presidency of the University of Hawaii, but the regents persuaded him to stay at Wisconsin as president, a position he had narrowly missed out on four years earlier.   He was inaugurated on October 20, 1962, in a ceremony also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Morrill Land-Grant Act. Fred Harrington was born on June 24, 1912, in Watertown, New York.  He received his BA from Cornell University in 1933 and an MA (1934) and PhD (1937) in history from New York University.  In 1937 he came to Wisconsin as an assistant professor in the Department of History.  In 1940 Harrington went to the University of Arkansas on a Guggenheim fellowship, but he returned to Wisconsin in 1944, became a full professor in 1947, and served as chair of the Department of History from 1952 to 1955.  Harrington was appointed assistant to the president in 1957, vice president of academic affairs in 1958, and vice president of the university in June 1962. After taking the presidency, Harrington decided that the university had become too large and complex to run effectively, and he reorganized the university in 1963/64, creating a central administration and administrations for the individual campuses (Madison, Milwaukee, and University Centers).* During his presidency two new four-year campuses were added to the university, Green Bay and Parkside, as were several two-year University Centers, and Harrington laid the groundwork for the merger of the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Universities, to come in the early 1970s.  He also presided over the early part of the difficult Vietnam War years at Wisconsin, including the Sterling Hall bombing. The disturbances on campus, along with increased difficulty in getting state appropriations and run ins with the regents, led him to resign the presidency in May 1970, effective October 1.   After leaving office, Harrington served as a Ford Foundation advisor in India and occasionally taught history at UW-Madison.  He died on April 8, 1995, in Madison. 


See Presidents of the University of Wisconsin System for information on the presidents of the central administration after Harrington.


Robert Clodius

Robert LeRoy Clodius
Acting Provost, 1963-1964

When President Harrington created separate administrations for the university campuses, he made Robert Clodius, who was then vice president of academic affairs, the acting provost of the Madison campus while a search was conducted for a permanent provost. Clodius served in that capacity from March 8, 1963, until Robben Fleming took office in September 1964. Thus Clodius was the first person to serve as head of the Madison campus under the new structure. Robert Clodius was born in Walla Walla, Washington on March 10, 1921. He received a BS (1942) and PhD (1950) in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He also served in the Navy for four years during WWII. Clodius joined the faculty at Wisconsin in 1950 as an assistant professor in agricultural economics and became a full professor in 1958. He chaired the Department of Agricultural Economics from 1960 to 1962, then became vice president of academic affairs from 1962 to 71. He retired from the university in 1990 and now resides in Rockford, Illinois.


Robben Fleming

Robben Wright Fleming
Provost then Chancellor, 1964-1967
Robben Fleming was born in Paw Paw, Illinois on December 18, 1916.  He received a BA (1934) from Beloit College and then attended law school at the University of Wisconsin where he received an LLB in 1941.  He served in the Army for four years during WWII, then worked for the Veterans Emergency Housing Program in Washington before returning to Wisconsin as head of the Industrial Relations Center in 1947.  In 1952 he left Wisconsin for the University of Illinois to become director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, a post he held until 1958, when he became a professor of law at Illinois.  In January 1964 the regents approved Fleming's appointment as provost (changed to chancellor in 1965) of the Madison campus, effective September 1.  Fleming served as chancellor of the Madison campus during the early Vietnam War days, and protestors blockaded his office during demonstrations against the Dow Chemical Company in February 1967.   On March 28, 1967, Fleming was chosen as president of the University of Michigan.  He served in that office until 1979 when he became president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  He returned to Michigan as interim president in 1988. Fleming died in Ann Arbor, MI on 11 January 2010.


William Sewell

William Hamilton Sewell
Chancellor, 1967-1968

William Sewell was Vilas Professor of Sociology at Wisconsin when Harrington chose him to succeed Robben Fleming as chancellor of the Madison campus.  Unfortunately for him, Sewell took charge of a badly divided campus, and he presided over a more violent protest against employment interviews by the Dow Chemical Company in October 1967 in which students were tear-gassed by police.  Sewell suspended the employment interviews pending a student-faculty study, but he never recovered from the turmoil.  He tried to resign several times, but President Harrington persuaded him to stay on until June 1968.  After his brief tenure as chancellor, Sewell returned to his primary role as a distinguished scholar and teacher.  Sewell was born on November 27, 1909, in Perrinton, Michigan.  He received his BA (1933 ) and MA (1934) from Michigan State University and his PhD (1939) from the University of Minnesota, all in sociology.  He taught at Michigan State University and Oklahoma State University before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1946 as a professor of rural sociology.  He chaired the Department of Rural Sociology from 1949 to 53 and the Department of Sociology from 1957 to 1962.  Sewell also directed the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, one of the longest running sociological studies in the country.  He died in Madison on June 24, 2001.


Bryant Kearl

Bryant Eastham Kearl
Acting Chancellor, 1968

Bryant Kearl was serving as vice chancellor under William Sewell when he was chosen as acting chancellor while a search was conducted for Sewell's replacement.  He served as acting chancellor from July 1 to September 12, 1968. Bryant Kearl was born on September 21, 1921 in Paris, Idaho.  He received a BS from Utah State University (1941), an MS (1942) from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD (1951) from the University of Minnesota.  In 1942 he came to Wisconsin as a teaching assistant in agricultural journalism and became a full professor in 1953.  From 1944 to 1946 he served in the US Navy.  He was chair of the Department of Agricultural Journalism from 1951 to 1963, when he became an associate dean in the Graduate School.  Kearl was vice chancellor under William Sewell and Edwin Young (1967-70) and again under Irving Shain (1977-83).   In 1983 Kearl became the first dean of the Division of Outreach, charged with integrating the University and Madison-based UW-Extension programs.  Kearl was very active internationally, and he helped establish many of the university's international programs. In 1987 he returned to teaching until his retirement in 1989.   He died in Madison on September 28, 1993.

H. Edwin Young

Hugh Edwin Young
Chancellor, 1968-1977

At a special meeting on September 13, 1968, the Regents appointed Edwin Young, then a vice president in central administration, as chancellor of the Madison campus, effective immediately. H. Edwin Young was born in Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, Canada on May 3, 1917.  He received his BA (1940)  from the University of Maine and his MA (1942) and PhD (1950)  in economics from the University of Wisconsin.  Young began as an instructor in economics at Wisconsin in 1947 and became a full professor in 1955.  During 1951/52 he was director of the university's School for Workers, and he chaired the Department of Economics from 1953 until 1961 when he became dean of the College of Letters and Science.  In 1965 he left Wisconsin to become president of the University of Maine.  In July 1968 Young returned to Wisconsin as vice president of the university and professor of economics, and in September he was appointed chancellor of the Madison campus. Young presided over the Madison campus during most of the Vietnam War era and the student protests in Madison. The University of Wisconsin System was also formed during his administration. Young was not particularly in favor of the merger of the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Universities, and he worked to insure that individual campuses retained as much autonomy as possible, even after he became president of the UW System in July 1977. He retired from that office in 1980.  He resides in Madison.


Glenn Pound

Glenn Simpson Pound
Acting Chancellor, 1977

Glenn Pound served as acting chancellor from July through October 1977 during the search to replace Edwin Young.  Pound received his BS from the University of Arkansas in 1940 and his PhD in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin in 1943.  He joined the Department of Plant Pathology at UW in 1946 and served as chair from 1954 to 1964.  In 1964, Pound was appointed dean of the College of Agriculture and continued in that position until 1979, presiding over a period of great growth in the college and the name change to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.  After his retirement from UW-Madison in 1979, Pound became an adjunct professor in plant pathology at the University of California, Riverside.  He died on July 6, 2010 at his home in La Jolla, California at the age of 96. He leaves a legacy as a transformational leader of one of the nation’s ranking agricultural colleges.



Irving Shain

Irving Shain
Chancellor, 1977-1986

On September 9, 1977, the regents named Irving Shain, certainly no stranger to the university, as chancellor, and he took office in November.  Irving Shain was born in Seattle, Washington on January 2, 1926.  He served in the US Army from 1943-1946, then received a BS (1949) and PhD (1952), both in chemistry, from the University of Washington.  He began teaching in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in 1952 and chaired the department from 1967-1970.  Shain served as vice chancellor of the Madison campus from 1970-1975 then went to his alma mater as provost and vice president for academic affairs from 1975-1977 before returning to Wisconsin.  The University Research Park was established during his administration, and he began student exchange programs with the People's Republic of China.  After his retirement from the university at the end of 1986, Shain joined the Olin Corporation as corporate vice president and chief scientist and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1992. He resides in Madison.


Bernard Cohen

Bernard Cecil Cohen
Acting Chancellor, 1987

Bernard Cohen served as acting chancellor during 1987 between the administrations of Irving Shain and Donna Shalala.  Bernard Cohen was born on February 22, 1926, in Northampton, Massachusetts.  He received his BA (1948), MA (1950) and PhD (1952) in political science, all from Yale.  Cohen taught at Princeton from 1951 to 1959 then joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin in 1959 as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, becoming a full professor in 1963.  He served as chair of the department from 1966 to 1969, associate dean of the Graduate School from 1971 to 1975, and vice chancellor for academic affairs from 1984 to 1986 and 1988 to 1989.  He retired from the university in July 1989 and resides in Madison.


Donna Shalala

Donna Edna Shalala
Chancellor, 1988-1993

Donna Shalala assumed the office of chancellor in January 1988, becoming the second woman to lead a major research university and the first woman head of a Big Ten university.  She initiated the Madison Plan to attempt to recruit and hire minorities and was a strong advocate for UW athletics.  Shalala received her AB degree in history from Western College for Women in 1962, served in the Peace Corps in Iran, and received her PhD from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1970.  She taught at Bernard M. Baruch College and Columbia University before becoming a director and treasurer of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, established to restore the financial health of New York City.  In January 1977 Shalala became assistant secretary for policy development and research of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter, a position she held until 1980 when she became president of Hunter College. Shalala was president at Hunter until she came to Madison. She stepped down as chancellor in January 1993 to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, a post she held for eight years.  In June 2001 Shalala became president of the University of Miami


David Ward

David Ward
Chancellor, 1993-2000

David Ward was born in Manchester, England on July 8, 1938. He received BA (1959) and MA (1961) degrees from the University of Leeds then earned a Fulbright Travel award to the United States in 1960 and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1963. Ward taught for one year at Carlton University and two years at the University of British Columbia before returning to Wisconsin in 1966 as an assistant professor in geography. He became a full professor in 1971, served as chair of the geography department from 1974 to 1977, and held the Andrew Hill Clark Professorship of Geography. Ward served as associate dean of the Graduate School from 1980 to 1987. In 1989 he became vice chancellor for academic affairs, and in 1991 he was also named provost, chief deputy to the chancellor. He became interim chancellor in January 1993, and was named chancellor in June 1993. In January 2001 Ward stepped down as chancellor, and in September 2001 he became president of the American Council on Education.  For more complete information on Chancellor Ward, see The Ward Legacy.


John Wiley John Duncan Wiley
Chancellor, 2001- 2008

John Wiley assumed the office of chancellor on Jan. 1, 2001. Wiley was born on March 23, 1942 , in Nashville, Tennessee . He received a BS (1964) from Indiana University and MS (1965) and PhD (1968) degrees in physics from the University of Wisconsin . Wiley worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1968 to 1974 then spent a year at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart , Germany. Wiley joined the UW-Madison faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in August 1975.  From 1982 to 1986, he chaired the Materials Science Program, a graduate-level, interdepartmental-committee program for masters and doctoral degrees.  From 1986 to 1989, Wiley served as associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, and from 1989 to 1994 he was dean of the Graduate School and the university's senior research officer. From 1994-2000, he served as the university's provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. On December 7, 2007, Wiley announced that would step down as Chancellor at the end of August 2008. For more complete information on Chancellor Wiley, see this site.


Biddy Martin Carolyn Arthur "Biddy" Martin
Chancellor, 2008- 2011

On June 5, 2008, the Board of Regents officially appointed Biddy Martin as the next Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, effective September 1, 2008. Born in 1951, Martin grew up near Lynchburg, Virginia, and received her BA degree from the College of William and Mary (1973). She also holds an MA from Middlebury College, and the PhD in German Literature from UW-Madison (1985). Martin joined the faculty at Cornell University in 1984 and in 1991 was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of German Studies with a joint appointment in the Women's Studies Program. She served as chair of the Department of German Studies from 1994-1997 and was promoted to full professor in 1997. In 1996 she became a Senior Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences., and from July 1, 2000 until her appointment at Madison, Martin served as Provost at Cornell. On June 14, 2011, Martin announced that she would be leaving UW-Madison later in the summer to assume the presidency of Amherst College. For more information on Chancellor Martin, see the Chancellor's web site.


David Ward

David Ward
Interim Chancellor, 2011-2012

On June 29, 2011, UW System President Kevin Reilly announced that David Ward would return to campus as interim chancellor following the departure of Biddy Martin. Ward will take office on July 18, 2011. It is expected that Ward will serve for approximately one year while a search is conducted to replace Chancellor Martin.


*A note about the administrative history of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:  From its founding in 1848 until 1955, there was only one campus of the University of Wisconsin.   During the first half of the twentieth-century, however, the University taught extension courses in cities throughout the state and had varying numbers of extension centers run by the University Extension Division.  The state of Wisconsin also had a separate system of state Normal Schools (later Teachers Colleges then Wisconsin State Colleges then Wisconsin State Universities). In 1955 the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was created by merging the University of Wisconsin Extension Center in Milwaukee with the Wisconsin State College in Milwaukee (the law creating the new campus was passed in 1955; the first classes were held in the fall of 1956).  UW-M, as it quickly became known, had a provost as chief academic officer.  In 1963/64 President Harrington decided that the University of Wisconsin had grown too large for its management structure and needed a central administration plus administrations for the campuses at Madison, Milwaukee, and the University Centers (two-year colleges which were outgrowths of the extension centers, now called UW Colleges).  There were nine University Centers at this time, and this restructuring removed them from extension and provided one chancellor for the combined centers.   The people in charge of the three campuses were originally called provosts, which was the title already in place at Milwaukee, but in 1965 their titles were changed to chancellor.  The actual distinctions between the central administration and the individual campus administrations remained murky for some time.  In 1969 the four-year campuses of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay and Parkside (Racine/Kenosha area) were created.   In 1971, after long years of trying and much controversy, the legislature created the University of Wisconsin System by combining the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Parkside, University Centers, and Extension) with the nine Wisconsin State Universities (Eau Claire, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior, and Whitewater).  The merger was not completed until 1974, but from 1971 on there was a president of the University of Wisconsin System and chancellors for the individual campuses. UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee are the only Ph.D. granting institutions in the system.

(1) In January 1965, the three provosts Robben Fleming (Madison),  J. Martin Klotsche (Milwaukee), and Lorenz Adolfson (University Centers) were made  chancellors of their respective campuses. 


Images are from the University Archives and Records Management Services photography collection, except for the photographs of John Wiley and Biddy Martin, courtesy of University Communications.  Sources used include:  The University of Wisconsin: A History  (vols. 1 & 2 by Merle Curti and Vernon Carstensen, vols. 3 & 4 by E. David Cronon and John W. Jenkins), Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1949-1999, available electronically through the University of Wisconsin Collection (click on Search only the full text); Arthur Hove, The University of Wisconsin: A Pictorial History, Madison, WI:  The University of Wisconsin Press, 1991; J. F. A. Pyre, Wisconsin, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1920.


David Null
Director, University Archives

Last updated: February 21, 2011

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