Lawrence University celebrates 175th anniversary and ties to Appleton
APPLETON — Before Appleton became a city and Wisconsin was even a state, there was the Lawrence Institute.
In January 1847, the private college that would become present-day Lawrence University received a charter, marking the official start of the school. It was named after Boston merchant Amos A. Lawrence, who donated $10,000 to help fund it.
It was not until 1853 that Appleton incorporated as a village, then as a town in 1857. The town takes its name from Samuel Appleton, who donated $10,000 to the Lawrence Library.
From the start, Lawrence and Appleton have been linked.
This year marks 175 years since Lawrence began and the university celebrates the milestone this week with an event to welcome its 17th president – Laurie Carter – and taking time to reflect on all the ways the school has grown. and helped shape the city he calls home.
Although it may seem that the two simply exist in parallel lines, in reality they intertwine and intersect in large and small ways.
The university and the city enjoy a symbiotic relationship that has been fostered through decades of music, education, and other outreach initiatives.
“All of these bridges go from Lawrence to the community,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. “But if you’re not involved, they can be invisible.”
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Growing up with Lawrence in the garden
Growing up in Appleton, Mayor Jake Woodford said he never thought about going to college in his hometown. But when he took a closer look at Lawrence, he said, he realized having a high-quality university just down the street was “too compelling to pass up.”
After graduating from LU in 2013, Woodford worked with his alma mater’s administration, so he saw the relationship from both a college and city perspective.
While some colleges may have a strained relationship with their city or town, Woodford said Lawrence and Appleton have built a stronger connection over the past few years through increased communication, including quarterly meetings between college administrations. school and the city where they discuss the challenges they face.
“The community we know today as Appleton wouldn’t be what it is without Lawrence University, and I don’t think Lawrence University would be what it is without a community like Appleton. around her,” Woodford said.
Regularly, Lawrence leaves his campus and heads out into the wider community, as the citizens of Appleton engage in all that Lawrence has to offer.
It could look like residents attending a performance at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel or Lawrence students working at local public schools.
Other examples are the Lullaby Project, in which Lawrence students help mothers at Harbor House in Appleton write lullabies for their babies, and the Lawrence Community Girls Choir, which has around 300 girls each year and is the only choir of girls non-profit in the Fox Valley area. .
When he was a student at Lawrence, Woodford said he felt like the world was coming to him. Lawrence’s ability to draw people from across the country to his campus is one of his “unsung benefits” that enriches the intellectual life of the entire community, he said.
“The people who make up the Lawrence community also make up the Appleton community,” he said.
Pertl – who grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah – put down roots in Appleton thanks to a postcard he received years ago that led him to Lawrence for his undergraduate degree .
He said Lawrence has a way of opening people’s eyes to Appleton, whether they come to give a talk or perform in the chapel. Teachers have come, thinking of teaching for a year or two, but they stay longer because they find a home here.
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Lawrence and Appleton are ‘in this together’
Since Pertl became dean in 2008, he has tried to connect Lawrence and the Fox Cities more through music. But it’s not just by the audience watching a performance. One of the biggest intersections between the two is the annual Mile of Music festival in downtown Appleton.
At the Mile of Music, there are around 50 hands-on music events each August, from hip hop to ukulele to Mariachi lessons. The year before COVID, 7,000 people attended these events and created their own music during the four-day festival, Pertl said.
This is in addition to the 1,000 students of all ages who attend Lawrence Community Music School, which has been offering lessons since 1874.
As Pertl sees it, Mile of Music and Lawrence’s arts scene has helped Appleton see itself as a “hip, arts-and-music-savvy town.” He believes that Appleton, together with Lawrence, can be an epicenter of creativity and art.
But music isn’t the only way the two have layered.
In her role as chief of staff in the office of the university president, Christyn Abaray is at the center of Lawrence’s relationship with the city.
Beyond regular conversations and partnering with the city government, she said the Lawrence Career Center reaches out to local businesses to find landing spots for students after graduation.
Part of what makes the relationship work, Abaray said, is that what Lawrence is as an institution and what it wants to be aligns with where it is and what Appleton says it is. she wants to be.
“We’re in this together,” she said. “We don’t see Lawrence without Appleton.”
Lawrence University will celebrate its 175th anniversary and the inauguration of Laurie Carter as president with a Brighter Together picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on Main Hall Green. It is open to the public.