Trio to reminisce about Boo-U’s early days at public history lecture

May 7, 2019

Declared a “dream come true” by a 1968 news headline, the opening of Baraboo’s university campus will be revisited by a trio of speakers Friday who witnessed its early days firsthand.

Aural Umhoefer, who served for 22 years as the campus’ second dean -- now known as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County -- has been digging through campus archives for material to share at “The Story of Us,” the last in this year’s lecture series, starting at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the campus library.

“This will bring back memories of the early days of the campus,” Umhoefer said. “I don’t really think one part of it is more interesting than the other -- the whole thing’s interesting.”

A 1960s map of Baraboo that shows seven locations being considered for the campus will be displayed, as will a program and photos from the original groundbreaking in 1967, which was attended by three Circus World elephants.

“That started a tradition, because when I was dean, we built the Lange Center and I also had three elephants come up from Circus World, and they had their little hard hats and their little shovels,” Umhoefer said.

Now a member of the Friends of the Campus Foundation, she has been involved with the campus since the beginning. Her presentation will focus on the institution’s building in 1967-68 and into its first year.

Umhoefer said Allen Paschen, who chaired the original building committee, and Joe Wankerl, a member of the commission that succeeded the building committee, will reminisce as panelists during the event. Current campus Dean Ed Janairo will speak at the end about the institution’s future.

Janairo noted the campus is lucky to have people like Umhoefer, Paschen, Wankerl and Gerald Stich -- an emeritus music professor who started teaching at UW-Baraboo in 1969 -- still here 50 years later.

More so than four-year universities, two-year campuses “belong to the community,” Janairo said. Boo-U originally was established by a partnership between Sauk County and the city of Baraboo.

“These two-year campuses arose out of local governments, local leaders seeing the opportunity to establish a university presence here and have a strong, important role in that university presence,” Janairo said.