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Eugene Murphy and Murphy Award

A page within Murphy Library

Eugene Murphy

Eugene W. Murphy was a nationally known trucking company executive, a state college regent, and a civic leader in La Crosse. He was chairman of the Gateway Transportation Company from 1933 until January 1981 when the company was sold. He served on the Wisconsin State College Board of Regents, now the Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents, from 1951 to 1973. He was President of the Board from 1966-1969.

The Eugene W. Murphy Library was dedicated on June 12, 1969, and so named in recognition for his years of service to the University and the Wisconsin State University System. 

Murphy was also instrumental in getting North Hall, now W. Carl Wimberly Hall, built on the UWL campus in the early 1970s. Former UWL Chancellor Kenneth Lindner credited Murphy's support for the building in ensuring its construction despite opposition from state officials.

Eugene Murphy was also a trustee and president of the St. Francis Medical Center Advisory Board and a director of the Wisconsin Historical Society; he was elected Man of the Year by the Greater La Crosse Chamber of Commerce in 1960. Mr. Murphy died on March 5, 1987, at the age of 85.

Eugene Murphy Award Recipients

The Eugene W. Murphy Library Special Recognition Award recognizes those individuals or organizations that have made major contributions to the mission, programs, and purposes of Murphy Library. The list of award recipients features all of the past honorees and their contributions to Murphy Library.

2022 Upper Mississippi River Conservation

Image of award recipient with library staffAfter a hiatus due to the pandemic, the Eugene W. Murphy Library Special Recognition Award is back, and this year it honored the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee (UMRCC). Created in 1943 to promote interagency conservation cooperation on the Upper Mississippi River, the UMRCC’s membership includes natural resource managers from states that share a border with the Upper Mississippi River. Brian Nerbonne, UMRCC President, accepted the award on the Committee's behalf.  

The connection with Murphy Library began in 2017 after the UMRCC reached out about finding a permanent home for their own library of materials and the prospect of making those materials available online. After numerous meetings, discussions, emails and negotiations, 70 boxes of publications and research arrived at Murphy Library, and the project commenced. 

Fast forwarding to 2022, this partnership has yielded countless benefits for both Murphy Library and the UMRCC, not to mention UW-La Crosse, the research community and the general public. Not only have these benefits taken the form of access to unique and significant scientific, environmental, recreational and economic information related to the Upper Mississippi River, but over the last five years, the UMRCC has contributed over $18,000 to this project, ensuring the success of this collaboration.   

To date, over 90% of the collection has been digitized, with over 200,000 pages of scanned materials freely available online in the Murphy Library Digital Collections.   

Learn more about this unique collaboration and view the UMRCC collection on the Murphy Library website. 

2019 Dr. Bruce Mouser

Dr. Mouser was a dedicated scholar, prolific author, and professor in the UWL History Department from 1968-1996. After his retirement in 1996, he authored 15 books and 32 scholarly articles relying heavily on Murphy Library's Interlibrary Loan services and the Library’s resources in his research. In 2012, he donated the bulk of his extensive research materials and manuscripts, totaling over 12 cubic feet, to Murphy Library Special Collections.

Mouser is best known in La Crosse for his articles, books and public lectures on Black settlement along the upper Mississippi River. His biography of George Edwin Taylor, "For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics," was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2011. The book reflects on the historic presidential run of La Crosse resident George Edwin Taylor in 1904. Running against Theodore Roosevelt, Taylor was the first African American ticketed as a political party’s nominee for U.S. president. The book was nominated for several awards including the Pulitzer Prize in biography. In 2014, he also published "A Black Gambler’s World of Liquor, Vice, and Presidential Politics: William Thomas Scott of Illinois, 1839-1917." Mouser also extensively researched the life of George Poage using materials in Murphy Library Special Collections. Poage was a resident of La Crosse and the first African-American to win a medal in a modern Olympics at St. Louis in 1904. Mouser eventually decided not to publish his biography of Poage but instead offer it as an open access e-book through Harvard University.

2018 Dr. Les (Leslie) Crocker

Image of Les Crocker and library staff

During Dr. Crocker's employment as a UWL art history professor from 1969-2002, and the years since, Les has been an advocate for the library, encouraging people to contribute historic items, especially photographs, to Special Collections. Dr. Crocker donated many items from his own collections over the years, including books and historic photographs of La Crosse, architectural drawings from the 1870s done by Andrew Roth, and many of his own culturally-significant photos of La Crosse buildings and structures.

During his years teaching, Dr. Crocker's art history students used primary sources as they conducted extensive research on various aspects of La Crosse history. This resulted in well-researched, comprehensive papers, which Dr. Crocker gave to the library. These papers have proved to be useful research materials over time, sometimes being the only information Special Collections has on a La Crosse structure or building.

Dr. Crocker published two books on local La Crosse history, making extensive use of the resources in Special Collections and Murphy Library. The first book, published in 2012, is “Places and Spaces: A Century of Public Buildings, Bridges and Parks in La Crosse, Wisconsin.” This 350-page, hardcover book includes the history of 79 La Crosse buildings, sites, and structures, beginning with the first county courthouse in 1851. His next book was “We’ve Hung the Lantern: A Visual History of the First 50 years of UW-La Crosse,” published in 2013. It covers UWL history from 1909 to 1964, with nearly 225 images documenting students, faculty, and life on campus. A third book is planned, covering 1965 to the present. Dr. Crocker’s books are destined to become standard reference works on their respective subjects, and future researchers, as well Murphy librarians, will remain thankful for Dr. Crocker’s efforts.

2016 UWL History Department

Award Recipient

The History Department extensively and increasingly use the collections and expertise in Murphy Library, especially for research assignments and student projects that make use of Special Collections and the Area Research Center. Several of the projects, such as “Hear, Here,” which connects history to specific places in downtown La Crosse, were designed to include the larger La Crosse community.

Murphy Library’s Special Collections and Area Research Center’s collections are also used considerably by local middle schoolers for National History Day (NHO). The History Department, along with Murphy Library, was given a generous grant by the Wisconsin Humanities council for a project where UWL history students write Friendly Finding Aids (FFA) of manuscript and archival collections which are then used by eighth graders preparing for NHO. To prepare these FFAs, UWL history students visit Special Collections frequently during the semester to familiarize themselves with the official finding aid, choose a subsection of the collection to highlight in the FFA, and work with librarians to research and present an historical context.

Murphy Library and the History Department also experimented with an embedded librarian partnership in the last two years for two classes: one is an introduction to historiography and historical research, and the other is the capstone class for all history majors. Librarians who have participated in this experiment have observed that the time spent in the classroom over the semester is invaluable because a deeper research relationship can occur with the students, librarians can better understand how resources are used, and all parties benefit from the more detailed level of interaction.

2014 Anita Evans and Larry Lebiecki 

Evans - LebeickiAnita Evans and Larry Lebiecki are both long-time members of the UWL family. Together, they are being honored for their many contributions to Murphy Library, which include, in part, accomplishments in their professional roles on campus, notable service to the library, contributions of numerous photography collections of campus events, and generous financial contributions to the Murphy Library Endowment Fund as well to the University Foundation. One instance of their generosity and commitment to UWL occurred when Evans and Lebiecki were married. The ceremony was held on campus, and in lieu of gifts, people were asked to make donations to the Murphy Library Endowment Fund and the General Campus Endowment Fund.

Anita Evans acted as Electronic Services Librarian/Coordinator of Public Services at Murphy from 1987 to 1996. She was also Department Chair from 1994 to 1996. She became Interim Director in 1996 and Director in 1999 until her retirement in 2012. Anita oversaw the remodeling of a large portion of the first floor of Murphy Library from stacks to an open study space for students. This very popular space was renamed the Anita Evans Collaborative Learning Information Commons. In addition, Anita spearheaded the effort to get a coffee shop in Murphy Library, which opened in 2007. She also directed the commissioning of artist Michael Blaser of an original oil painting, August Moon, as a fund-raiser for the Murphy Endowment Fund.

Larry Lebiecki is an UWL alum, graduating in 1962. He came back to campus in 1968 and moved up the ranks until 2002 when he retired as Assistant Chancellor, Administrative Services. During his tenure as head of facilities, he oversaw projects such as the move of the Library from the Wing building to the new location, the renovation of the Wing Technology Center and the addition to the Murphy Library Resource Center in 1995. This last addition not only increased square footage, but the entire library was remodeled and the space redesigned and realigned to optimize how services were provided. He also sat on the Board of Directors of the UWL Foundation most recently in 2013-14.

Both Anita and Larry have contributed photographs they have taken of local and campus events to Special Collections. By doing so, they have permitted memories of our community, campus, students, athletes, and buildings to be preserved. 

2012 Dr. Chia-Chen Yu

Dr. Chia-Chen Yu, Murphy Award - 2012

Over many years, Dr. Yu has been a strong partner and advocate for Murphy Library on a number of fronts. She served many years on the Faculty Senate Library Committee, notably chairing the committee for three terms, first in 2001/02. As chair in 2006/07 and 2007/08, she had a central role in developing a proposal for library differential funding eventually approved by the student body. This led to significant Academic Initiatives funding to extend student access to e-resources and expand library hours beginning fall semester 2010. The result has been a major improvement in the library learning environment for students in all disciplines. During her years as chair, the Faculty Senate Library Committee developed resolutions passed by both faculty and student senates articulating the rationale for increased library funding for acquisitions. This campus support was a factor in UW System Board of Regents approval for UW libraries legislative funding as part of the 2009/11 biennial budget request. 

Dr. Yu greatly values students receiving information literacy instruction to develop research proficiencies. As a teacher she consistently has worked with librarians to build this important library component into her upper level Exercise and Sport Science classes. As the 2001/02 Chair of the Faculty Senate Library Committee, she was a proponent of integrating information literacy into the general education curriculum. The Faculty Senate Library committee during this year also worked closely with Murphy Library in exploring the possibility of a library coffee shop. This led to the introduction of the highly popular Murphy’s Mug several years later.

2010 Dr. John C. Gardner

Dr. John C. Gardner, Murphy Award - 2010

Dr. Gardner is a Professor in the Department of Accountancy. Since joining the UWL faculty in 1985, he has worked to strengthen the library reference collection in support of his discipline and has played a significant role in developing the library’s legal and accounting library guides. His efforts have ensured that accounting students and faculty have one of the best collections in the state. Dr. Gardner has advocated for the importance of the ability to conduct thorough legal research as an essential professional skill for accountants. He has been an active participant in the instruction program over several decades and was one of the earliest instructors at UWL to adopt the concepts that are now referred to as embedded librarianship. In addition, he was an early innovator of the problem based approach to learning, creating several problems each year that his students would work on in groups throughout their library instruction experience. Dr. Gardner has served as a library liaison on a number of occasions. He has utilized library resources in support of a rich scholarly publication history and has been a frequent donor to the library.

2009 Dr. James Putz

Dr. James Putz, Murphy Award - 2009

Dr. Putz is a professor in the Communication Studies department and is the course director of CST110, a course that reaches more than 2,000 students annually. Not only is Dr. Putz a tireless advocate for the importance of using library resources and citing them properly in his own classroom, in his role as CST 110 Director, he requires all CST110 instructors to include an information literacy instruction component. Because CST110 is a required course, this means that this is the most effective vehicle the library has currently for teaching information literacy skills in a systematic way.

Dr. Putz further made an important contribution to information literacy instruction in 2005 and 2006 when he co-chaired an interdisciplinary lesson study group consisting of CST110 instructors and Murphy Library librarians focused on studying and revising the CST110 information literacy lesson. The work of the committee resulted in effective revisions to the lesson, better communication between CST110 course instructors and librarians, and in publication of an article about the study in the March 2007 issue of the peer reviewed online journal, TeachingForum: A Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Librarians also presented the results of the study at the 2007Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference. More recently in fall 2008, Dr. Putz volunteered his freshmen students in three sections of CST 110 to take the ISkills test. The data gleaned from the test results will enable the library to learn more about the information literacy skills of our freshmen so that we can be better prepared to meet the needs of our new students.

2008 Dr. Richard Gappa

Dr. Richard Gappa, Murphy Award - 2008

Dr Gappa is a Professor in the English Department and teaches the children’s and adolescent literature courses on campus. He has been the primary force behind the development of a first-rate juvenile collection, which is housed in the Alice Hagar Curriculum Resource Center. For over 30 years he has worked closely with educators and education students to ensure meaningful integration of juvenile literature into classrooms and other K-12 education environments. He shaped the juvenile literature collection to meet the real needs of local educators, both professional and pre-professional.

2007 D. Timothy Gerber, Ph.D.

D. Timothy Gerber, Ph.D. Murphy Award - 2007

D. Timothy (Tim) Gerber, Associate Professor of Biology, has been a champion for the Alice Hagar Curriculum Resource Center (AHCRC) for several years. He has been instrumental in providing information for future science, math, technology, and engineering teachers and with librarian John Jax has developed lists for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) purchases to enhance the collections. In 2007 Tim was awarded a Paul Stry Foundation Grant for improving PK-12 teacher preparation using STEM resources. This grant funded $5,000 for purchasing library materials as well as funding a resource day for STEM teachers in the AHCRC. Tim has served many years as Biology Department liaison for collection development. He has been a member of the Faculty Senate Library Committee and has served as chair.

2005 Dr. Susan 'BOON' Murray

Dr. Murray, chair of the Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation is an advocate for information literacy and undergraduate research. Her work in the field of bibliotherapy, a developmental therapy based on guided discussions about literature, poems, and short stories, has had a direct effect on Murphy Library resources and programs. Through Dr. Murray's sponsorship, UWL undergraduates obtained an undergraduate research grant to support the design and evaluation of a bibliotherapy program for hospitalized children. Furthermore, Dr. Murray encourages learning by collaborating with Murphy Library so that students receive targeted information literacy instruction.

2004 Dr. Gregory P. Wegner

Dr. Gregory P. Wegner, Murphy Award - 2004

Dr. Wegner is a professor in the School of Education and has been a long-time active user and supporter of the library.  He is a recognized international authority in the field of educational history, particularly the educational system in Nazi Germany and has written books and articles.  In the process of doing research for these publications, he has used the collections and services of Murphy Library extensively.  Dr. Wegner is a great promoter of primary source materials housed in the Special Collections and Area Research Center (ARC). He consistently schedules time in the ARC for his undergraduate and graduate classes to introduce them to these materials. In addition, he has been the Regional Coordinator for National History Day since 1994. He has also worked to promote use of Murphy Library and Special Collections to students from area middle and high schools, increasing their exposure to primary materials in academic library collections.  Dr. Wegner, while serving on the Faculty Senate Library Committee, launched a survey on library use during January and May terms. The results helped the library determine hours and services for these two periods and led to funding for increased staffing and additional hours during those terms. He has supported Murphy Library Endowment efforts, donated materials for the collection, and has been an enthusiastic advocate for the library on campus.

2003 Dr. Dale L. Montgomery

Dr. Dale L. Montgomery, Murphy Award - 2004

Dr. Dale Montgomery, emeritus Director of Library Services, joined the university in 1977 as Director of the Library and Media Services. During his tenure he was instrumental in developing the Resource Center concept to consolidate the library, AV center, and other learning resources scattered around campus. The result was a $7.6 million building and remodeling project completed in 1995 after a decade of planning. Even when he held other administrative positions on campus beginning in June 1996, he continued to be a tremendous advocate for the library until his retirement in 1999. His other contributions include supporting the Murphy Library Endowment Fund and highlighting library resources as part of the Chancellor’s Inaugural Committee in 2001-2002.

2002 Dr. William J. and Yvonne M. Hyde

Dr. William Hyde, professor emeritus in the English Department from 1956-1992 has been a long supporter of the library. He played a key role in setting up the Billie J. Batchelor Trust Fund and has donated expensive reference books. Yvonne Hyde worked in the cataloging department of the library from 1957-1995.  After her retirement, she volunteered her expertise a couple of hours a day for about a year. Together, the Hydes have been active financial supporters of the Murphy Library Endowment.

2001 James A. Batesky

James A. Batesky, Murphy Award - 2001

Dr. James A. Batesky, Professor in the Exercise and Sport Science Department, has a long history of interaction with Murphy Library and has participated in the library instruction program for many years. He takes an active role in shaping library instruction sessions by collaborating with librarians. He is also a big promoter of information literacy. His other contributions to the Murphy Library include library liaison for his department and membership on the Faculty Senate Library Committee.


2000 Edwin L. Hill

Edwin L. Hill, Murphy Award - 2000

Ed Hill served as Special Collections Librarian and Directory of the Area Research Center (ARC) at Murphy Library for over three decades until his retirement in 1998. Under his leadership and vision the ARC developed into one of the preeminent centers in the Wisconsin State Historical Society’s network of regional depositories. In addition his contribution on campus and in the community have brought distinction to UWL and Murphy Library.


1999 La Crosse Public Library

La Crosse Public Library has been a true partner in providing educational opportunities to UWL community through its collections and services.  LCPL's resources complement and fill gaps in the collection at Murphy Library in such diverse areas as reference books, children's materials, popular materials including magazines, legal resources and government documents.  The Public Library Archives and UWL Special Collection Departments have defined complementary collection development responsibilities for the acquisition of local history materials and depend on each other's strengths.

1998 Charles Lee

Charles Lee, Murphy Award - 1998

His contributions include strong support of the oral history program and its interview mission, especially in the documentation of Hmong immigration and assimilation, innovative use of primary materials in the teaching of history, outreach to area schools and organizations, and assistance with the acquisition of collections for the special collections department.




1997 Douglas Connell

As a local historian and writer, Mr. Connell's works have increased our understanding of La Crosse history. He has been a major user of library resources for over 20 years, especially in the compilation of a comprehensive La Crosse newspaper index and in research on architecture and buildings. In 1992 Connell and Edwin Hill co-authored La Crosse in Light and Shadow: A Pictorial Recollection of La Crosse, Wisconsin which was published by Murphy Library. Income from the sales totaling over $5,000 at the time of the award goes to the library's Endowment Fund, thus providing further support for Murphy Library.

1996 Robert W. Bilby

His contributions to the library go back over many years. He has worked with the library and librarians on a variety of tasks: served on the Faculty Library Committee and was its chair, was a CUWL representative, worked with the librarians at the time of reorganization, helped on assessment. His contributions have stretched over a long time.

1995 Kay Cimpl Wagner and Lutheran Health System

An open door policy at Lutheran Hospital Library has greatly benefited UWL students who over the years have been assisted by library staff and have been able to make use of the hospital library's excellent journal collection.

1994 Stanley R. Rolnick

Active on the Oral History Program Board and worked on a detailed index and guide and served as interviewer; member Faculty Library Committee (1983-1986); utilized library primary and second source materials effectively in teaching; supporter of Library's Endowment Fund.

1993 Rex D. Fuller

Rex D. Fuller, Murphy Award - 1993

Leader in terms of his visionary use of financial resources in allocating CBA resources for the library to purchase, ABI/Inform and the station on which it runs and the station and partial year subscription for CCH.





1992 Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen

Financial support of the steamboat and river history collection: nearly $80,000 as of fall, 1992, plus additional contributions of money and photos, information from individual members.

1991 John I. Judson

John I. Judson, Murphy Award - 1991

Poet, publisher. Edited Voyages to the Inland Sea, an annual anthology of Midwestern poets, published by Murphy Library, 1971-1980. Helped build our poetry collection.





1990 Howard R. Fredricks

Howard R. Fredricks, Murphy Award - 1990

Responsible for 2,500 hours of interviews which have made ours the second largest oral history collection in Wisconsin.






1989 Laura L. Nelson

Collegial work with librarians in creative integration of library resources into class assignments.

1988 George R. Gilkey

George R. Gilkey, Murphy Award - 1988

Scholar, library user and supporter extraordinaire. Active in research and teaching in area of local & regional history; he was heavily involved in establishing our Area Research Center in 1965. Wrote a history of UWL.





1987 Ralph R. Dupae

Ralph R. Dupae, Murphy Award - 1987

Responsible for collecting steamboat photographs which has resulted in a world class photographic collection.






1986 Emerson G. Wulling

Emerson G. Wulling, Murphy Award - 1986

Sponsored student library competition. Donor to the library of some valuable books. Printed the first three volumes of Voyages to the Inland Sea, our annual ed. of poetry. Provided first substantial gift of money which led to the establishment of our Endowment Fund.