In 1893, the Wisconsin legislature established a “normal school” in Superior to train school teachers. The Superior Normal School, which evolved into the University of Wisconsin-Superior, welcomed its first students in 1896. By providing trained, well-educated teachers, the institution helped the small towns and rural areas of the region to grow and prosper.
The school’s first class graduated in 1897. Three young men completed the “full course” and nine women and men met the requirements of the shorter “elementary course.” These early graduates were pioneers who first brought the benefits of public education to the region’s children regardless of their race, social status or economic standing.
Innovation and quality were hallmarks of Superior Normal School from its earliest days.
In 1909, the institution became Wisconsin’s first normal school to offer a full-scale training program for the then-new idea of kindergarten. In 1923, it was the first to offer a four-year program for high school teachers. In 1916, Superior Normal School earned accreditation for its academic programs. Today, UW-Superior maintains the longest continuous accreditation of any academic institution in Wisconsin.
In 1926, after training a generation of teachers, Superior Normal School became Superior State Teachers College and granted its first bachelor’s degree in Education. Arthur Dudley Samuel Gillett, the college’s first president, was a member of its first graduating class.
More Than Teaching
After World War II, the teachers college added undergraduate degrees in other academic fields. In 1950, it offered its first graduate degree, a master of arts in School Administration. The next year, the Board of Regents changed the institution’s name to Wisconsin State College-Superior to better reflect its broader role.
As the college’s enrollment grew substantially in the 1950s and ’60s, so did its physical size and academic programs. New buildings went up as the college added Business, Science, Music and Art degrees. The college started several graduate programs in education, including guidance and counseling, reading and school psychology, along with a Specialist in Education degree in 1965 to further the professional training of school principals, district superintendents and business managers.
In 1964, officials reclassified Wisconsin’s state colleges as universities and the institution was renamed Wisconsin State University-Superior.
In 1971, it joined the University of Wisconsin System and became the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
UW-Superior has continued to focus its academic programs to meet the needs of students and employers. In 1985, the school added a graduate degree in instruction followed by a graduate degree in Special Education in 1988. Since then, the university has added such innovative undergraduate programs as legal studies, art therapy and transportation and logistics management.