The namesake of Detling Hall, Minnie Margaret Riess Detling, 1881–1952, held an unwavering belief in the promise of higher education at Wisconsin. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Letters and Science in 1905, with a senior thesis entitled “Realistic Tendencies in Anzengruber’s Dramas.” After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Sheboygan to help her husband, John Detling LLB’05, run the Vollrath Company, a manufacturer of stainless steel and aluminum products for the foodservice industry.
Minnie Detling was a lifetime member of the American Association of University Women, serving as the first president of the Sheboygan chapter from 1922 to 1925, and later as chair of the A.A.U.W. state fellowship committee. In 1950, the association established an international study grant in honor of her longstanding leadership.
Minnie Detling died on Aug. 13, 1952, at age 71. The following year, the university received $850,000 from her estate, one of the four largest gifts it had received to that time. Earmarked for post-graduate fellowships and scholarships for “needy and worthy” high school students, Detling also asked that a portion of the fund be used for medical research in amyotropic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gerhig’s disease, the cause of her husband’s death in 1948.
Dedicated in April 1966, Minnie Detling House “honors a devoted daughter of Wisconsin and reminds those who pause here of her faith in public education.”