Ask Abe: UW Prom

An Alum

When did the UW stop having a prom?

Abe

UW prom ended with a bang in 1959. Picture the A-line dresses; suits with shiny, thick lapels; and people dancing to music of Ralph Marterie and his Marlboro Men. Prom in ’59 was described as a “fever” with skits, clowns, cheerleaders, and French musicians. It was funded by the Wisconsin Student Association (WSA), the predecessor of the Associated Students of Madison. In addition to prom, WSA supported parents’ weekend, the campus chest drive, leadership conferences, the campus carnival, and homecoming. But as debt increased, prom was the first event WSA cut. Other contributing causes of prom’s discontinuation may have been a faulty prom-queen voting system and declining attendance. The 1959 prom debuted a new voting system designed to eliminate voter intimidation, and Rosemary Robertson ’61 was crowned the UW’s last prom queen. Campus tried (but failed) to keep the tradition alive with Summer Prom in 1960. By 1961, all traces of prom were gone for good, though the military ball and various student organizations have tried to keep the spirit alive through the decades.