Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lawrence of Appleton

Shortly before Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Boston textile merchant Amos A. Lawrence had the bad luck of having someone default on a loan. The collateral had been 5000 acres of land in the wilderness of Wisconsin. He decided to try and build a college on the land, thinking that would draw people to the area, and with them raise the value of the property to the point where he could sell it at a profit and be done with the Midwest forever. At about this time a Methodist minister named Reeder Smith came to Lawrence, hoping to get a loan to help start a seminary in Michigan. Lawrence convinced Smith to forget the seminary and start this school.

And so, in 1847 began the Lawrence Institute, later Lawrence University, later Lawrence College, now, once again, Lawrence University. (Their motto is, We finally made up our mind.) Amos Lawrence insisted that the school support religious freedom and not push any particular religious agenda. What is more, from its founding the school was a coeducational institution -- it was actually only the second school in the entire United States to be open to both men and women. (Oberlin College being the first.) Lawrence also boasts the first ashram on a college campus (1875), the first appearance of the Dalai Lama (1900) and the first university appearance of the Beatles, in 1963. (Their first song was, Love Me Do.)

And you're wondering, what does this have to do with Appleton?

Today's Famous Appletonian:


Greta Van Susteren, of FOX "News". (Yes, that's where that accent comes from.)

And yesterday's famous Appletonian was none other than Harry Houdini, otherwise known as Erich Weiss. Ken and Katie, well done!

3 comments:

Ken said...

The Lawrence University admissions office would like to secure the writing services of Jim McDermott, S.J. Thanks for the LU PR. One thing you may dig knowing is that Lawrence University was founded to provide "gratuitous advantage to Germans and Indians of both sexes". When we (check me out with the first-person-plural pronoun) first opened our doors, 13 of our 35 students were from the Oneida Nation. (Carrying on the tradition, we just hosted 75 Native American/Native Hawai'ian/Alaska Native students on our campus for a college crash course, College Horizons (www.collegehorizons.org).

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