UW System Merger Oral History Project

Pre-Merger Information

Before merger, the Coordinating Council of Higher Education (CCHE) existed as a board meant to provide oversight to the two systems of higher education in Wisconsin. UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay and UW-Parkside campuses were one system and the other was the Wisconsin State University System.

Merger Information

The University of Wisconsin System merged with the Wisconsin State University system in 1971 to create today’s University of Wisconsin System. Governor Patrick Lucey pushed for Merger, stating cost savings as one major reason for the change. Other reasons for merger included concerns with duplication of programming across campuses along with concerns about equality between the two extant systems.

First Board of Regents, post-Merger (S03959). A photograph taken by Gary Schulz.

Impacts of Merger

The various impacts of merger are discussed at length by this oral history project’s narrator. Patricia A. Brady writes of one major impact in her book, A History of the University of Wisconsin System: “Overcoming initial organizational and leadership struggles, the System matured as an effective administrative structure supporting a remarkable range of academic, research, and service achievements at all UW institutions and providing high-quality educational opportunities for its students” (299).

These oral histories shed light on the creation of the UW System and provide insight into the thoughts of and attitudes towards merger, as it transpired. This compilation of interviews touched on a variety of events, topics, and problems that occurred within Merger; but, despite the diversity of experiences and opinions, there were several consistent themes and focuses throughout the interviews. First, the interwoven dynamic between state legislature and school administration is a prominent theme as faculty members like Fannie LeMoine and Donald Smith describe their relationship and efforts with the local and state government including Governor Lucey and Mary Lou Munts. Another significant theme was the national frame of reference of the individuals involved. With respect to budget, salaries, educational quality and opportunities, administrators, legislators and faculty compared UW-Madison and the UW-System at a local, regional, and national level to maintain the university’s high academic status. Last, another motif throughout the interviews was variance in opinions about Merger.


Brady’s book utilized many of the oral histories in this collection.

*Cronon’s link takes you to all his oral history interviews. One will need to click on the 2nd & 3rd View Item boxes to access the Merger interviews.

What follows is the list of individuals (and their oral history number) who have contributed to the project. Click on any hyperlinked name to access their oral history.


All interviews were conducted by Laura Smail and Martin Dowling, and this webpage was created by 2021 OHP staffers, Jennifer Donahoe, Emma Helstrom and Alec Kirkwood. This project was overseen by Troy Reeves, UW-Madison’s Oral Historian. For more information about this project or the Oral History Program visit the Oral History Program webpage or email Reeves (troy.reeves@wisc.edu).