Posted 1:54 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow gives his opening remarks for the spring semester Wednesday, Jan. 19, in the Bluffs room of the Student Union. Gow announced the largest donation in school history — a $2.2 million estate gift from Bill and Yvonne Hyde, supporting the English Department and Murphy Library.

Gow’s address highlighted by largest donation in school history

The largest gift in UW-La Crosse history. 

That was the highlight of Chancellor Joe Gow’s opening remarks for the spring semester on Wednesday, with classes set to resume at the start of next week. 

“Sometimes, we know a gift is coming, and we have people working on it and shaping it,” Gow said. “Other times, there may be people who give you a gift, but you don’t really know it’s coming.” 

The $2.2 million estate gift from Bill and Yvonne Hyde falls squarely in the second category. 

Bill taught in the English Department from 1956 to 1992, while Yvonne worked in Murphy Library, mostly in cataloging, from 1957 to 1995. 

After Bill’s death in January 2015 and Yvonne’s death in April 2021, the couple left much of their estate to the UWL Foundation, setting aside $1.1 million for the English Department and $1.1 million for Murphy Library.

Billy Hyde taught in the English Department from 1956 to 1992.

This is UWL’s second large gift announced this week: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust, led by trustees Jay and Carolyn Scott, is giving the La Crosse Community Foundation nearly $500,000 for the construction of a research vessel for UWL’s River Studies Center.

“People like the Hydes and Jay and Carolyn Scott are powerful reminders that we are a UWL family,” Gow said. “They appreciate what we’re trying to do and how good we are, and they want to support it and keep it going for a long, long time.”

It’s still being determined how the Hyde estate gift will be used. Staff, faculty and administrators say the infusion of funding will have profound effects in the classroom and beyond. 

Karl Kunkel, dean of UWL’s College of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities, called it a "truly transformational gift that will take the very good work happening in our English Department to the next level of excellence."

Yvonne Hyde worked in Murphy Library, mostly in cataloging, from 1957 to 1995.

Said English Chair Kate Parker: “We were absolutely amazed to receive this extraordinary gift — a testament to the Hydes’ generosity and their long-standing commitment to the value of a liberal arts education. Their gift will immeasurably impact the department and inspire faculty and students and the communities we serve for years to come.”

John Jax, Murphy Library director, said the donation will create learning opportunities far beyond what the library's strained budget could usually provide.

"Ultimately, this gift puts the library in a great position to better support student success at UWL," Jax said. "We can work to improve about every facet of our unit, such as our services, event programming, space/facility, resource collections, technology, equipment, professional development and other things that will have tremendous benefit for UWL’s students, faculty, staff and the local community."

The Hydes were longtime supporters of UWL, and of the English Department and Murphy Library in particular. Over the years, they gave many thousands of dollars toward student scholarships, educational programming, the cost of guest speakers and learning materials, and more.

This latest example of their generosity comes as no surprise.

“In the history of UWL, few people have been as generous, supportive and impactful as Bill and Yvonne Hyde," said Greg Reichert, vice chancellor for Advancement and president of the UWL Foundation. "This endowment is a transformational gift for our English Department and Murphy Library, as well as a reminder of Bill and Yvonne’s unwavering commitment to our university and our students.” 

During his remarks, Gow touched on several other key issues ahead of the spring semester: 

  • Enrollment is, once again, looking strong. UWL is on track to meet or exceed the enrollment target of 100 transfer students for spring 2022. Additionally, UWL is welcoming back 54 “Return to UWL” grant recipients this semester. Return to UWL grants are awarded to students who paused their education during COVID-19 and are now enrolled to complete their degree. 
  • UWL’s COVID-19 Executive Policy Group will continue to monitor the pandemic while stressing the importance of masking, testing and vaccinations. The next few weeks, Gow said, will be crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the semester. “It may not be a typical semester, but once we get out of winter and get outside, people can start to have more of the normal college experience they come to us for,” he added. 
  • A proposal to name the Center for the Arts after Truman Lowe, a celebrated artist and distinguished UWL alum, continues to progress. A petition of support for the building dedication received hundreds of enthusiastic responses in the fall, Gow said. The UW System Board of Regents will vote on the proposal this spring. 

If you missed the opening remarks, you can view the video here.