Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is launching a year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary this weekend, complete with a virtual trivia contest, a live-streamed music recital, and the opening of an online merchandise store. It comes appropriately enough on the weekend of Founders Day, Jan. 15.

The celebration that will roll out over the coming months will mark an “incredible milestone,” President Laurie A. Carter said in a message to the Lawrence community.

“Since our founding 175 years ago, Lawrence has become a nationally ranked college of liberal arts and sciences and conservatory of music that attracts students from nearly every state and 40 countries,” she said. “With an alumni community 20,000 strong and counting, Lawrentians are shining their light in communities around the world.”

Follow along: See details, updates, and LU history on 175th webpage

We got merch! Shop now at the LU 175th online store

That light will shine especially bright this weekend, as Lawrentians across campus and around the world are encouraged to share their love of Lawrence on social media with the hashtag #Lawrence175.

It was on January 15, 1847, that Lawrence Institute was granted a charter, one year before Wisconsin became a state and six years before Appleton would be incorporated as a municipality. It was founded as one of the nation’s first co-educational institutions of higher learning, and in the ensuing years would see the establishment of a world-class music conservatory, a merger with Milwaukee-Downer College, and the emergence and growth of academic programs that now annually lands Lawrence on lists of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

The year-long celebration will be wrapped around three key weekends: A Founders Day launch on Jan. 14-15; a community celebration on May 14 that will include both the campus community and neighbors in the Fox Cities; and a culminating Blue & White Weekend on Oct. 7-8. In between, there will be a rolling series of engagement and storytelling opportunities to involve students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“Any institution getting to be 175 years old is impressive, but I think it is especially so for Lawrence because we started when Appleton as a municipality didn’t exist yet,” said Lina Rosenberg Foley ’15, the university’s archivist. “The state of Wisconsin didn’t exist yet. But we were founded here and we have continued to grow and thrive here. Appleton grew up around Lawrence. I think that’s very powerful.”

Unlike past quarterly milestones—175 years is known as a demisemiseptcentennial—this one comes with the opportunity for Lawrentians to celebrate together virtually. In addition to in-person gatherings, the year ahead will include a mix of remote and social media engagements, something that was but a dream when the sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1997.

“So often events like this are seen as a celebration of community, but I think there is a real opportunity to build community in that celebration and to define community differently,” said Matt Baumler, executive director of alumni and constituency engagement. “To thoughtfully include and connect students with faculty and staff as well as with alumni and our Fox Cities community partners, that’s what excites me.”

This weekend’s activities are set. Details of other events will be announced as the year goes on, with information shared on the new 175th webpage. The page includes considerable content on Lawrence’s history and will grow through the year. It features the newly unveiled Lawrence 175 logo, which will become familiar across campus during 2022. Lawrentians are encouraged to visit the 175th page often during the year as updates are added.

Among 175th developments to keep an eye on:

  • The online merchandise store featuring Lawrence 175 gear is now up. A variety of merchandise featuring the 175th logo will be available for purchase — shirts, blankets, glasses, mugs, winter hats, and more. The link will be housed on the 175th webpage.
  • A Lawrence 175th Birthday Recital will be held at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 in Memorial Chapel. Because of pandemic-related protocols, there will be no live audience. But the recital will be live streamed for all to watch. It’ll feature performances from Conservatory faculty and alumni, among them Karen Leigh-Post ’79, Matthew Michelic, Anthony Padilla, and Catherine Walby ’97. It will feature music composed in the mid-1800s, about the time of Lawrence’s founding, and music composed by Lawrentians. The live stream can be found here
  • An online trivia contest that will include nuggets of Lawrence history is being held at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, hosted by the Trivia Mafia alumni group. You can register a team at this link until 5 p.m. Friday.
  • All alumni are receiving 2022 Lawrence wall calendars in the mail as a reminder of the year-long celebration. The calendars also will be made available on campus to faculty, staff, and students.
  • Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are being encouraged on Jan. 14 and 15 to wish Lawrence a happy anniversary on social media, using the hashtag #Lawrence175. Take selfies. Wear blue and white. Show your Lawrence love across all of your social channels.

“The celebration begins Founders Day weekend, which marks that historic January 15 in 1847 when the Territory of Wisconsin Legislature granted a charter to Lawrence Institute,” Carter wrote in her message to campus. “That institute evolved into the university we know and love today. After visiting his namesake institution, founder Amos A. Lawrence shared with his wife that the institution was a ‘great and good work’ of which they could be proud. These words still ring true.”

Lawrence today remains what it has been for much of its rich history —an undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a renowned conservatory of music. Situated on 84 acres on the eastern edge of Appleton’s downtown, the campus now includes 60 instructional, residential, recreational, and administrative facilities. It is built on land purchased from the Menominee tribe, the ancestral homelands of the Menominee and Ho-Chunk people. And Björklunden vid Sjön, the 441-acre estate along the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, continues to serve as an educational retreat for Lawrence students and alumni.

With an enrollment of nearly 1,500 students, Lawrence continues to honor the vision of its founders and build on the heritage of excellence in undergraduate education. Let the celebration begin, 175 years in the making.

Note: An on-campus celebration for the campus community originally scheduled for Jan. 14 in Warch Campus Center is being rescheduled. Stay tuned for details and a new date.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu