Ask Abe: Memorial Union Plaques

An Alum

Whose names are on those wooden plaques in Memorial Union?

Abe

The answer lies in your question: the plaques are the memorials in Memorial Union — the names are those of alumni who died in military service. When fundraising for Memorial Union began in 1918, World War I was still raging, and Walter Kohler, the head of the fundraising committee, agreed the building should honor the fallen. When Memorial Union opened in 1928, it included four wooden planks listing the names of Badgers who had died in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. It was called the Gold Star Honor Roll in reference to a tradition that had arisen during the recent war: families would hang a banner in the window with a blue star for each member in service and a gold one for each who had died. The planks hang in Memorial Hall, which was the building’s original main entrance (though now it is little-used). After World War II, plaques naming fallen Badgers from that conflict were added. During Memorial Union’s recent renovation, a new, digital Gold Star Honor Roll was created to bring the list up to date. Some 910 alumni died in service between 1861 and 2006.