MADISON — Thirty years ago this week, on Oct. 12, 1971, the statewide University of Wisconsin System was created by the merger of the Wisconsin State Universities and the University of Wisconsin.

On Thursday, the UW System will observe its “pearl” anniversary with a dinner at the Milwaukee Public Museum. More than 300 persons are expected to attend, including Lt. Gov. Margaret A. Farrow.

UW System President Katharine Lyall, speaking at the Board of Regents meeting at UW-Eau Claire last Friday, said “it took the efforts of many thousands of people to build this system during the past 30 years, [including] 83 Regents, 68 Chancellors, 46 UW College deans, and five presidents.” By conservative estimates, she added, “we have conferred degrees on more than 700,000 people, the vast majority of whom have stayed and worked in Wisconsin. This achievement alone has had a staggering impact on our state.” She also noted major increases in enrollment, facilities, federal research grants, and private fundraising.

“What have we built together?” asked Lyall. “A united, seamless university system that serves its students and the people of Wisconsin exceedingly well. A system that is accessible and affordable. A system that is the nation’s most efficient. A system that strives for excellence in every arena.”

Honored guests at Thursday’s “String of Pearls” dinner in Milwaukee will include two of the architects of the merger: then-Gov. Patrick J. Lucey and future-Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus who, in 1971, was president of WSU-Stevens Point. Also attending will be H. Edwin Young, the second president of the UW System, and a number of current and former regents, campus chancellors, staff and friends of the university.

The dinner is being underwritten by State Financial Bank, part of State Financial Services Corporation of Hales Corners. Regent President Jay L. Smith will serve as master of ceremonies, and music will be provided by the UW-Manitowoc Lakeshore Big Band.

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Kevin Boatwright UW System 608-263-2227