Milwaukee-Downer College legacy honored, preserved in renamed building

The one-time Jason Downer Commons now bears the name of long-time Milwaukee-Downer College trustee and benefactor Alice G. Chapman.

Lawrence University’s deep connections to Milwaukee-Downer College will be strengthened further by honoring Alice G. Chapman, a long-time trustee and benefactor of the former all-women’s college.

The original Jason Downer Commons, currently known as the Hurvis Center, is being renamed Alice G. Chapman Hall.

Located on the east end of campus, Chapman Hall is home to the Lawrence admissions office, the career center, the alumni and constituency engagement office and the film studies program.

“Renaming our building Alice G. Chapman Hall will underscore the valued connection between Lawrence University and the historic Milwaukee-Downer campus,” said Stacy Mara, associate vice president for development.

Highlighting the building is the beautifully hand-carved Alice Chapman Room, also known as the Teakwood Room. It was originally built by American artist and architect Lockwood de Forest in Chapman’s Milwaukee home and used as a music room. After Chapman died in 1935, the Teakwood Room was placed in Chapman Library on the Milwaukee-Downer campus in 1938 and used for receptions, poetry readings and chamber music.

The Teakwood Room, a distinctive feature of the Milwaukee-Downer College campus, was moved to Lawrence after the 1964 consolidation and is now on the second floor of Chapman Hall.

When the consolidation was announced, members of the Milwaukee-Downer community asked that their beloved room be preserved. The room was carefully disassembled and stored in a warehouse until 1968 when it was reassembled at Lawrence in Downer Commons.

“The Chapman name has long been associated with Milwaukee Downer College and it is significantly fitting to reunite Chapman Hall and the Teakwood Room to perpetuate Downer at Lawrence,” said Marlene Widen, a 1955 Milwaukee-Downer graduate and 2013 recipient of the university’s Presidential Award for exemplary leadership and actions have contributed to the betterment of the entire Lawrence community. “Chapman Hall will serve as the east anchor to another beloved part of Downer, the recreated Hawthornden on the west end of campus.”

Born in Boston in 1853, Alice Greenwood Chapman grew up in Milwaukee, where her father, T. A. Chapman, ran Chapman’s Department Store. She attended Milwaukee Female College, a predecessor of Milwaukee-Downer, and served on Milwaukee-Downer’s Board of Trustees from 1906 until her death.

Alice G. Chapman

Known as “an ardent lover of music,” Alice Chapman was an accomplished musician who also enjoyed composing. She was active with a numerous civic groups, including the Milwaukee Institute of Arts, the Visiting Nurses Association and the Children’s Hospital.

Chapman was a generous benefactor for Milwaukee-Downer, including a bequest that funded a new library building. After the consolidation with Lawrence, the Chapman Library became Chapman Hall and is now the Office of the Chancellor at UW-Milwaukee.

Originally completed in 1968, Downer Commons, which served as the campus’ primary dining center for 40 years, was named in honor of Judge Jason Downer, an associate justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1864-1867. He served as the president of the board of trustees (1866-1871; 1874-1878) for Wisconsin Female College in Fox Lake, a predecessor to Milwaukee-Downer College. When Downer died, he left a gift of $65,000 to the college and its name was changed to Downer College.

When the Warch Campus Center opened in 2009 and dining services moved there, Downer Commons was remodeled to accommodate offices and a state-of-the-art production studio for the university’s newly expanded film studies program, which was supported by a generous gift from the Hurvis family and the Caerus Foundation.

“Lawrence is exceedingly grateful for the Hurvis family’s flexibility in allowing us to make this name change,” said Mara. “Alice Chapman’s famous Teakwood Room has remained a constant fixture and notable highlight on campus throughout the life of the building. Alumni from Lawrence and Milwaukee-Downer associate the building with our Milwaukee-Downer history because of this special room.”

A production studio is part of the Hurvis Film Studies Center in the lower level of Chapman Hall.

According to Mara, Lawrence will recognize the generosity and dedication of the Hurvis family and the Caerus Foundation by continuing to associate the Hurvis family name with the film studies program, which was their original intent, but not the building itself. The southeast portion of Chapman Hall that houses the film studies program will display the name “Hurvis Film Studies Center” on the outside of the building, with additional Hurvis Film Studies Center signage inside.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.