Single Largest Donation in UWL History

In January 2022, the Hyde Estate gifted UW-La Crosse a $2.2 million endowment to be shared between the English department and Murphy Library, a monumental tribute to where both Bill and Yvonne worked during their time at UWL. This donation surpasses that of Prairie Springs Science Center, making it the most substantial gift in UWL history. Read more about this unprecedented gift.

Yvonne Hyde standing on a beach in San Francisco.

We in the English Department want to express our deepest gratitude to the Hydes for their recognition of the merit of our department. That such beautiful, kind, and loving people saw fit to grant us this gift is a testament to the vision they had for us and the strength of our contributions to the UWL community.

From the English Department to the Hydes

A Tribute to Bill and Yvonne Hyde

Earlier in 2022, UWL received one of the largest donations in its history: a $2.2 million sum to be split between Murphy Library and UWL’s English Department donated by the estate of Bill and Yvonne Hyde. Considering this, it is apparent that the Hyde family displays a deep kind of generosity and adoration of the Library Services and English Department that can only be acquired by being directly and heavily involved in both areas. Their adoration for their jobs and fields they were apart of perfectly exemplify the age-old advice of “finding a job you love.” How much do you have to love your job to donate $2.2 million to it? The answer is: a whole lot. 

In the face of such generosity, we ought to ask ourselves what paved the way for the Hyde’s decision to gift both the English Department and Murphy Library this unprecedented sum. By seeing what they saw for the raw potential of Murphy Library and the English Department to flourish in the oncoming years we might learn how best to honor them as we move forward with this new financial gain. 

The Hyde’s roots in the UWL community certainly run deep; since their entrance into UWL faculty, Bill in 1956 and Yvonne in 1957, the Hydes displayed a devotion both to their own respective careers and to each other, which would eventually earn them the title of “UWL’s power couple.” They were both pillars of the community, no students nor faculty members were exempt from their kindness, an unkind word or raised voice never left their mouths. As a former colleague of theirs, Tom Pribek, described, “Bill & Yvonne genuinely were a team; they always attended department events together, and Yvonne always went out of her way to talk to everyone -- well, both were as friendly as people get.” Although they worked in close physical proximity to each other, Bill and Yvonne embarked on separate yet equally fulfilling career paths during their time at UWL. 

Prior to joining the UWL English Department as a professor in 1956, Bill Hyde earned his bachelor's at UW-Milwaukee, where he met Yvonne, and his master's at UW-Madison. As a professor, Bill Hyde had an air of formality around him, yet this demeanor was never considered stuffy or condescending but rather it was “respected, liked even” among his colleagues and students. He displayed an affinity for 19th century literature, especially Thomas Hardy, whom he wrote extensively about. However, his writing was not limited to simply essays and dissertations; Bill wrote several pieces for The Catalyst as well, reflecting on the ever-changing world that we have come to inherit. After rising to prominence in the English Department and occupying the position of Department Chair as early as 1971, Bill would eventually retire in 1992, a monumental 36 years of work in the UWL community.  

Similarly, Yvonne would pursue her own degree during the same time Bill was working towards his master’s, earning her bachelor's at UW-Madison before joining UWL’s Library Services in 1957. Although she often bounced around areas, contributing to where it was needed during her time as a member of the Library Services, it was in the last 18 years of her career that she would settle down in cataloging where some of her duties included withdrawing books, re-instating books, managing rare books, barcode problems, and “keeping library personnel happy.” Her perpetual kindness to students and colleagues alike made her a beloved figure in Murphy Library’s history, as she exemplified the philosophy of “people first, students/workers second” in how she carried herself and treated others. She would go on to retire in 1995 after 38 memorable years of work in the UWL Library Services.

Despite both of their retirements, Bill and Yvonne’s connection to UWL never diminished -- in fact, it would strengthen. Tom Pribek noted that both Hydes put in a significant amount of effort to stay in touch with their colleagues and friends at UWL, always attending banquets and parties for said colleagues until they were physically unable to do so. Furthermore, Yvonne continued to volunteer at Murphy Library after her retirement and the two of them made numerous donations to UWL; thousands of dollars given towards programs, scholarships, and learning opportunities. Their love and generosity for UWL spanned decades, half a century even, yet the devotion that they extended to UWL pales in comparison to the devotion they had for each other in their lives outside of UWL. 

Bill and Yvonne had a taste for the finer things in life, as exemplified by their penchant to dine out often and their love for travel. However, in this case the word "finer" does not necessarily mean expensive, but rather enriching. Even still, the couple maintained an enviously wholesome and fulfilling domestic life with each other. In the warmer months, Bill and Yvonne often spent time in their garden, growing both flowers (tulips, snowdrops, and daffodils) and produce (tomatoes, sprouts, red and green lettuce, and spinach). Any surplus of produce was often given to neighbors and friends of the Hyde family, yet again exemplifying their inclination towards generosity. Furthermore, although they frequented many restaurants in the La Crosse area, both were more than capable of navigating a kitchen, and Bill often made jams and pickled products from the food they’d grow or buy from grocery stores or farmers markets. A single glance at their life together and it becomes glaringly obvious why the Hydes were revered as UWL’s power couple, as they led a lifestyle that many of us would strive to have in our futures. 

The simplicity and humanness of their lives makes them more relatable and accessible to the average individual despite the achievements and popularity they acquired during their time in La Crosse. There are precious few people at UWL whose time spent here overlaps with the Hyde family and yet rather than feeling like distant, almost mythological figures of UWL’s history, Bill and Yvonne cultivated a lifestyle that any one of us could find solidarity in. How many times have any of us sat around inside after getting dressed up with nothing to go to the way Yvonne did on April 3rd, 1985? Although Bill and Yvonne passed away without leaving any children behind, we can think of UWL and its inhabitants as their proverbial children instead. Their dedication and absolute loyalty to their own communities within UWL extends even beyond death and with the $2.2 million they donated to Murphy Library and the English Department, there is now an opportunity for us to thrive in new ways we might not have considered before, to give our faculty and students the means to reach for new possibilities, to open our wings and soar ever higher in the pursuit of knowledge. 

 
Bill and Yvonne sitting together at a restaurant.
Bill and Yvonne laughing with each other at dinner.

UWL's Most Iconic Power Couple

Love for each other and the community

The Hyde’s joined our UWL community in 1956 and 1957, Bill in the English Department and Yvonne in Library services, with both spending almost 40 years working before their retirement. Despite their well-earned retirements, Bill and Yvonne never stopped contributing to UWL; between volunteer work and gracious donations, the Hydes established themselves as invaluable parts of our community in the English Department as well as in Murphy Library. Outside of campus, Bill and Yvonne led fulfilling and domestic lives with each other, sharing their love of life with their friends and colleagues as well. 

A Legacy of Giving

Funding for resources, presentations and more

A previous manifestation of the Hydes’ generosity takes form in the English Department Colloquium Series, renamed in 2002 as the William J. and Yvonne Hyde Colloquium Series. Our department receives annual funds from Bill and Yvonne Hyde to support professors who have signed up to present for the Colloquium, with the intent to foster new perspectives and practices among both colleagues and students. In true Hyde fashion, there are no stipulations for what kind of presentation topics can be done, professors have full liberty to decide what to present on as is exemplified by the wide variety of topics that have been presented on since the Colloquiums creation. 

Learn more about the Colloquium Series gift!

Colloquium Series flyer titled "Monuments We Don't Like: Should We Tear Them Down?"
Colloquium Series flyer titled "Habits of Mind, Movements in Writing: First-Year Writers as Learners"

Sharing Our Department

A new student worker and other opportunities

A different, unforeseen gift the Hyde endowment has granted us is the addition of a new research intern to our English Department. Our intern has allowed us to firstly spearhead the Hyde project and tribute, but has also given us the ability to start other projects within the department. With our new member of the team, we now can share and explore more about UWL’s English Department with the rest of our community. 

The Future of the English Department

What's next for us?

Although any drastic changes may not take place until next year at the earliest, both the English Department and Murphy Library are planning big things to enhance their respective communities. This unique gift allows us to consider things that we may not have been able to before as we work to develop and improve.

Bill Hyde standing with other professors outside at a department softball game in 1985.