Opens for businessWhen asked how it felt to be standing in the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s new Swenson Hall on Thursday, former chancellor Julius Erlenbach smiled.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
When asked how it felt to be standing in the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s new Swenson Hall on Thursday, former chancellor Julius Erlenbach smiled.
“It feels great,” he said. “The deed is done.”
A dedication for the campus’ newest academic building took place Thursday in the three-story light well at the center of the structure. The building is named for Jim and Sue Swenson, alumni whose financial gift was crucial to securing state funding for the $32 million project.
The Swensons left quite an impression on the campus.
“In a manner of speaking, the Swenson family’s handprints are all over UWS,” said Chancellor Renee Wachter. Eighteen family members have attended the school and the Swensons provide annual scholarships for UWS students. Then there’s the building itself. At 144,000 square feet, Swenson Hall is the largest building on campus and the biggest construction project in school history.
“It is very unique; it is very functional,” said Jim Swenson. “And it truly is going to raise the bar of this university.”
The handprints of three generations of the Swenson family are displayed on a concrete slab inset into the building.
“We are so proud to have your name as a permanent part of our infrastructure,” Wachter told the family.
Along with Erlenbach, other key players in making Swenson Hall a reality were on hand for the dedication ceremony, including former Gov. Jim Doyle, State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Superior attorney Toby Marcovich, who served as both member and president of the UW-System Board of Regents.
“This is the heart of what Wisconsin is,” people who have done well coming back to help the community, Doyle said.
Long after students have forgotten the name of the former governor or the Swensons themselves, Doyle said, “they will come here with their eyes set on the future.”
Those students who will be coming through the door a week from now, five years from now and 15 years from now, he said, are what the new building is all about.
“I can tell you that Swenson Hall will have a big impact — no, make that a profound impact — on our campus and the way we teach and learn here,” Wachter said.
The building is home to six of UWS’ academic departments and features classrooms with flexible layouts and the latest learning technology, specialized labs for teaching and undergraduate research, faculty offices and student tutoring services and academic centers.
The recent spate of building projects — the new Marcovich Health & Wellness Center, Yellowjacket Union and Swenson Hall as well as a remodeling of the Jim Dan Hill Library — has “totally transformed” the campus,” said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range. With the addition of Swenson Hall, he said, the campus is more tight-knit.
“It brings everything together,” Milroy said.
David Miller, with the University of Wisconsin System, remembered being asked why they would prioritize a project on such a small campus.
“Our students in Wisconsin, those who come to UWS, deserve the same quality facilities, the same quality instruction, the same quality of life as anyone in Wisconsin,” Miller said. “Thank you for being part of it.”
The ceremony signals that the building is ready for service.
“It certainly is a wonderful, beautiful day for the University of Wisconsin-Superior,” Swenson said.