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Unexpected 101

At UW-Madison, you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some seem interesting right away, and others can surprise you. See which courses were way different than our Badger Insider readers expected.

April 08, 2016

First assignment: What did you not see coming?

Badger Insider readers reminisce on the classes that surprised them the most.

College is a time to push yourself: step outside of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and see how long you can run on coffee and minimal sleep. Which is one of the reasons why attending UW-Madison is so great: you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some classes seem interesting right off the bat — The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, anyone? — and some take you buy surprise. Badger Insider readers shared stories of which UW-Madison courses were way different than they anticipated.

1940s and 1950s: Handwritten essays, cursive preferred

Joan Chalmers Harris ’48

Shrewsbury, MA

Knew I would have sciences while majoring in physical education but did not realize how many. One surprise was anatomy in my sophomore year. 4 credits. It was held in the lab on the top floor of Science Hall, and we dissected human bodies to learn origins and insertions of muscles. I believe at the time the UW was perhaps the only school that held this course for anyone other than med students. The first time my partner and I worked on our cadaver was not to be forgotten. Chemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, kinesiology, physics and other assorted -ologies followed. Participation in all sports required with little or no credit given. I must have gone to college at the wrong time, as many classes were held on Saturdays. Challenge, yes, but that curriculum was the reason that Women's Physical Education was rated about the best in the country.

Betty June Fitch ’49

Goleta, CA

As an incoming freshman, I planned to get a degree in nursing. There were many older German-speaking people in Milwaukee, so my language choice was German. I stuck with the German, but when physiology kits were sold out, trying to work with a scissor on a frog leg was too much. (With the end of the war, the university had a bulge in enrollment in 1945.) Sociology became my major and enabled me to become a caseworker at Milwaukee County. I had enjoyed learning German, but all my clients spoke English.

William Schultz ’52, MS’53, PhD’58

Orange, CA

Music 85 and 87 — concert band and symphony orchestra — were amazing. "Something else" from engineering courses to help make the day.

Carol Chadwick Riley ’53

El Paso, TX

I transferred from another college in the middle of my junior year and needed two credits in addition to the five classes I would take spring semester. Without much thought, I chose Business Ethics in the School of [Commerce]. It would give me the needed credits. Was I surprised! Professor Fox made it fascinating: values provoking and lots of class discussion. It turned out to be my favorite undergraduate course.

Erling Thoresen ’53

Coconut Grove, FL

A friend of mine had entered the UW the year before I did, and he told me about the Integrated Liberal Studies program which had just been initiated (in 1948). I was interested and fortunate enough to be accepted into the program. We enjoyed teaching by some of the finest professors in their fields; and, because enrollment in ILS was limited to 300, had the advantage of being in relatively small classes. It was like being at a top-tier liberal arts college combined with the resources of a great university. It is hard to cite any one course as being most outstanding — all of them opened new vistas to my mind; but I view the freshman English course devoted to the study of semantics using Hayakawa's text as especially enlightening to a small-town boy from a narrow background like me. It is also clear that ILS attracted some exceptionally gifted students, and I think I learned much from my brilliant classmates.

Marilyn Grabin Putz ’54

Highland Park, IL

I wanted to major in physical education. I thought that I had no misconceptions about the assumed difficulty of this area of study, but when confronted with a 5-credit course in physics my first semester as a freshman, followed by other "simple" courses such as human anatomy (with the pre-meds), physiology, etc., my eyes became pretty wide. The "fun" stuff finally came during my sophomore year when we got down to basics and were offered courses in the various sports and others in how to teach each one. Actually, these weren't so simple, either. However, I made it; I learned a lot and I loved teaching after graduation. A degree in physical education from the UW was highly respected everywhere in the country at that time, and grads were sought out. Worth every drop of sweat and blood.

Dick Le Barron ’54

Edina, MN

When I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, my immediate goal was to be a radio announcer. I took a speech course entitled Radio, Television, and Society. I did rather well as a student and made a trip to the studios of WHA on campus. I walked in the door as said, “I would like to apply for an announcing job.” They laughed and said, “You and everyone else.” Then I switched to marketing and became a marketing major. I am now comfortably retired here in Edina, Minnesota, after spending my career as the vice president of marketing for Badger State Mutual in Waukesha for more than 30 years. It has been a wonderful life!

Next Time …
Didn’t get to see your name this time around? Never fear! For each issue, we ask our readers to submit stories. For the Summer 2016 issue, we want to know where you got the best late-night snack at UW-Madison. Topperstix or Juston Stix? Taco Shop or Taco Bell? The list goes on and on. Sure, we have our own favorites, but we’re looking to create the definitive list. Send your stories to, or share with us on social media at @WisAlumni using #BadgerInsider.


UW-Madison Students 1960s

First assignment: What did you not see coming?

Badger Insider readers reminisce on the classes that surprised them the most.

College is a time to push yourself: step outside of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and see how long you can run on coffee and minimal sleep. Which is one of the reasons why attending UW-Madison is so great: you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some classes seem interesting right off the bat — The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, anyone? — and some take you buy surprise. Badger Insider readers shared stories of which UW-Madison courses were way different than they anticipated.

1960s: All papers must be typewritten and delivered

Rita Herman ’60

Greendale, WI

I attended UW in the late fifties and my declared major was nursing but I had no clue which specialty I would pursue. As a sophomore we were enrolled in a course called “Fundamentals of Nursing” in which we spent about eight hours a week at University Hospitals getting comfortable with the hospital environment: talking with and interviewing patients, making beds, emptying bed pans, etc. At that time the treatment for patients with heart attacks was oxygen tent and no activity, which meant we did everything for those patients, including feeding them. In that process there was a huge opportunity for conversation and discussion of lifestyle change. I recognized after sophomore year that mental health/psychiatry would be my field. Even as I had clinicals in other areas of medicine in my junior and senior year, I found the communication skills and mental health teaching opportunities I utilized in that sophomore course served me well in those rotations as well but I wanted the concentrated practice so mental health/psychiatry was my niche and I never wavered.

Susan Schaffer '62

Menlo Park, CA

As an underclassman, I was privileged to take Art History 101 with James Watrous. The class met in a darkened room at 7:45am! I thought that would be a real challenge but Professor Watrous was illuminating. It was my first exposure to the art world and he made it wondrous. The course has stayed with me all my life. Traveling Europe to see the originals of many of the works he exposed me to has been one of the great pleasures of my life.

Janice Winter Yager ’62

Oakland, CA

From day one, I signed up for a specific science major. Oh yes, I had considered an English major, but dad convinced me otherwise. So I slogged through 30 semester hours of chemistry (inorganic, organic, quantitative analysis [nasty], biochem, clinical chem), physics, math, untold numbers of 5-unit “–ologies” -- botany, biology, zoology, physiology, histology, parasitology, hematology, microbiology — plus all the usual history, foreign language, and English classes required for a B.S. This program culminated senior year in a full-time internship at the UW Hospital, working mornings in the labs with afternoon classes five days a week. My dorm roommate was, of course, an English major; she enjoyed cozily reading novels while I trudged off through sleet and snow for yet another three-hour lab course. So what happened? Well, having acquired a solid science foundation at the UW (for which I have ever been grateful), I found that I actually enjoyed science. I eventually went on for a master’s and PhD in environmental health sciences at the University of California - Berkeley and a wonderful satisfying career that has resulted in considerable improvements in the occupational and environmental fields of human health.

Lynn Jindra Gadzinski ’63

Jefferson, WI

August 1962 ... Sweating out unbelievably long registration lines in the old Red Gym, I gave up on getting into the literature class I wanted and opted instead for the shortest line available to me: a philosophy course titled Belief, Knowledge and Truth. My head swam for six weeks and my quarter grade reflected it ... the first D of my young lifetime! Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. Once I learned that the key to the course was argument for the sake of argument, I sorted it all out and managed a B for my efforts.

Karen Holbrook ’63, MS’66

Longboat Key, FL

My favorite and most memorable course was Greek and Latin Medical Terms taught by Herbert Howe. My major was zoology and I knew I would go somewhere in the bio-medical field in graduate school and so I enrolled in the course. We bought a thin little dictionary "Medical Greek and Latin at a Glance" by Walter R. Agard and Herbert M. Howe (which I just pulled off my book shelf!). I learned the roots of so many words, and for each word there was a story and many examples. I learned a lot about language, never missed a class, and loved to come — even at 7:30 in the morning!

Robert Kuhl ’64, MD’67

Redmond, OR

I was in pre-med about 1962 when I took a psych course (sorry I don’t remember the prof’s name). He would start almost every lecture reading a newspaper clipping of some horrible event (that had an amusing twist to it). The students would break out in laughter. He, with no show of amusement, would ask, “Why are you laughing?” And then the laughter would almost instantaneously stop. It was an interesting demonstration of human behavior. I later graduated from medical school, but did not specialize in psychology.

William Sperber ’64, MS’67, PhD’69

Minnetonka, MN

As an undergraduate entering the UW in 1959, I undertook a double major in zoology and chemistry, thinking of a career in a medical field. Much to my chagrin, the zoology major required completion of a course in botany. WHAT? BOTANY?! I wanted to study animals, not plants. Within six weeks, that botany class changed my life. One-third of the class was about microorganisms and fungi, which, at that time, were considered to be plants. I was so enthralled with the microbes that I took several more classes in microbiology, and was accepted into graduate school by the Department of Bacteriology. I’m still working, forty-seven years into my enjoyable and productive career, as a research microbiologist and food safety specialist in the global food industry. My thanks to the College of Letters & Science for requiring a botany class in a zoology major!

Jake Moelk ’65

Carmel, IN

In the summer of 1964, I took a 2-credit course in discussion. As a math major, it was far afield from my usual classes of math and the sciences. However, I was not looking for a “stretch” course for the summer. I wanted to take advantage of Madison and Lake Mendota in warm weather for a change. I think the class had four or five groups set up to hold our discussions. The group would decide on a topic or was given a topic by the professor and when our turn came up, we would assemble in front of the rest of the class and, under the guidance of a moderator we chose from our group, we would hold a discussion on our topic and be graded both by the professor and the rest of the class. There was one black student in the class. She had already graduated from a school in the south and was preparing to enter the UW Law School in the fall. She was not in the group I was assigned to. This was in the middle of the Civil Rights fight and as I recall, a lot of the topics her group chose to discuss revolved around that struggle. As I remember, she was well informed and certainly had a perspective different from the rest of her group, but she did not dominate the conversation in any of her group’s discussions. Our final exams were discussions that were held in the old student union. I remember as I entered the room where we were going to give our discussions, there was a face that I did not recognize from the class, but I dismissed it and sat down. The subject that the group with the black student had chosen was mixed marriage. I was soon to find out that the new face — a white face — was the black student’s husband. The discussion was riveting. Much of it centered on the experience the black student and her white husband were having. Most of what I remember was the hurt that I felt from them. Her family did not want to see her when he was with her. His family did not want to see him when she was with him. They had few friends among their peer group. Their entire story was one of struggle to be accepted as a loving couple. I think about them often and hope they were able to make their dreams come true.

Priscilla Perry ’65

Berwyn, PA

Constitutional Law taught by David Feldman. Fascinating to see how the law works, how judicial rulings change over time, where the lines are drawn in gray areas.

Albert Erlebacher PhD’65

Skokie, IL

As a grad student in history, I had to take a minor outside the field. Since I had been a high school teacher, I decided to try a graduate course in educational psychology on counseling taught by Professor J.W. Rothney. My undergraduate courses in education (not at the UW) had not been a pleasant experience, and I was not looking forward to this one. On the first day of class, Professor Rothney opened the discussion by asking the students how would we counsel Hamlet (from Shakespeare’s play) if he came into the office. From then on, I was fascinated by the breadth and depth of Professor Rothney's knowledge and skill. A memorable Rothney line was, “Always have something positive to say about a student, even if it was ‘he bothers me better than anyone else in the class.’” Despite the fact that I continued to pursue history, I found him to be an engrossing teacher who provided a memorable experience.

Bob Schildgen ’65

Berkeley, CA

It was a class in English Romanticism with Karl Kroeber way back in 1964. I was majoring in English, and was enthralled by some elitist ideas about literature. Kroeber had a bit of a stutter, and one day he said that the Romantic Movement could be explained by "p-p-p-potatoes," because the cultivation of potatoes made it possible to feed a much larger population than before. In an instant, that simple revelation about the connection between concrete reality and literature overturned all my shallow, silly, snobbish views. This made me into a better, more searching, and down-to-earth writer. I became a journalist, and eventually managing editor of Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club. For the past 10 years I have been writing an environmental advice column and blogs for Sierra called Hey Mr. Green. Kroeber surely knew he was exaggerating, and no doubt realized that the potato wasn't the only cause of English romanticism, but sometimes overstating a case is best way to shock a young person into thinking differently.

Janet Katz Baylis ’66

Great River, New York

I always loved science in high school, especially my honors chemistry class. So when I was choosing my UW freshman classes, my brother (who had just graduated from the UW) encouraged me to sign up for Chemistry for Chemistry Majors. After I got a 4-credit D in the course, which put me on academic probation. I quickly became an English major!

Rick Frederick ’66

Loudon, TN

Dr. Lee Dreyfus, who became Chancellor at UW-Stevens Point and Governor of Wisconsin, taught the" History of Radio and Television" in 1960. After flunking the six-week blue book exam, he brought me into his office and asked what was wrong, and wanted to see my notes. I replied that there weren’t any notes, because I was mesmerized with his lectures and assumed I would just remember what was said. From that point on, he became my advisor and mentor throughout my life, continuing until his death. He was the reason I completed college and became a successful businessman, because he didn't give up on me and he took an interest and guided me during a confusing period in my life.

James Thomas ’67

Fond du Lac, WI

I arrived on the UW-Madison campus in 1963 determined to become a chemical engineer. But, I found my introductory course in economics more interesting than the chemistry. I quickly switched from engineering to letters and science with an economics major. One course I eventually took in that field was Risk Management and Insurance from Richard M. Heins, coauthor of the course’s textbook. “Interesting stuff,” I thought, but made no connection to a possible career. A few years later, as I was completing an enlistment in the U.S. Army, I pulled out that text and thought, “Maybe there’s a job in here that I might like.” I read about the position of “underwriter” and thought it fit me. The rest is history. I landed a job as an insurance underwriter and progressed through a rewarding career in the insurance industry, retiring four and a half years ago from my last position as CEO of a Wisconsin-based insurance company with some 250 employees and business across four states. The exposure that UW gave to me in subjects I had never thought about (first economics, then insurance) set me up for a successful and satisfying career. I also met my wife of 47 years at UW. What more can I say?

George R. Affeldt, Jr. ’68

Milwaukee, WI

Looking back as a life-long learner, the UW-Madison course that made the greatest difference in my life was the first inter-college conservation course in the spring of 1968. Moderated by Professor Clay Schoenfeld (Journalism and Wildlife Ecology), nearly every class was a professor from a variety of departments focused on the "new science" of ecology. I learned about the biology of environments, the mechanics of government and the law, and how the whole of nature is more than the sum of its parts. The awareness I gained in that class has stayed with me for nearly half a century and colored my forty years as a teacher, the organizations I join and support, and the candidates I vote for.

Tom Kennedy ’68, MS’73, PhD’75

Westport, WI

An intro course on parasites of domestic animals? How hard can that be? The first lecture, Dr. Arlie C. Todd, in all his professorial dignity, informed us that the beautiful Man O' War, that magnificent racing animal, had worms. Dr. Todd gave the entire lecture, in the true Socratic method, with one slide of that animal the entire period. He built the picture of the ubiquitous presence of parasites in that one slide. Dr. Todd played on my fascination with parasites and took me on as a work-study student for my last two years as an undergrad, corresponded about the parasites I experienced first hand as an infantryman in Vietnam and convinced me to attend graduate school after my Army tour. I received my MS (1973) and Ph.D. (1975) from the UW in Veterinary Science under Dr. Todd's supervision. He was a fascinating teacher.

Jeff Gorski ’69, PhD’75

Prairie Village, KS

It was the fall of 1965 and I was a new freshman taking a full load of classes and 18 credits. Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a scientist. Heck, as a grade-schooler I put on "shows" in my basement for the neighborhood kids. This involved things like "clock reactions," dropping iron filings onto candles, and other tricks I could do based on the combined contents of my several chemistry sets. Well, this dream almost never happened because my first six week grades were pretty dismal — a D in calculus, an F in German, a C in introductory biology, a C in introductory chemistry, and a D in English. Obviously, I was shocked and greatly dismayed by these grades. To say the least, they were quite an awakening experience. Well, since I went on to graduate suma cum laude in chemistry and then to earn a PhD in biochemistry, I somehow turned things around and ended up with a B average for my first semester after all. What did I do? Well, it involved quitting the fraternity on Langdon I had pledged in the first weeks at Wisconsin (no time to be member and graduate in a scientific discipline) along with a renewed emphasis on improving my study skills and, in the end, a lot of nights and weekends booking it to bring these grades up. In this way, this experience, my educational Waterloo, was a do-or-die moment when I learned whether I had what it takes to be a basic scientist. By the way, I received a letter from the College of Letters and Science in about the end of November, which stated that, referencing my failing six week grades, I needed to improve my performance or I would risk going on probation the next semester. Needless to say, if I had waited to respond until I received this letter, it would have been way too late to turn things around academically. However, I have always kept this letter in my safety deposit box because it is a tangible reminder of my individual academic "turning point" — the courses that changed my life forever. From that time onwards, I had no real problems with coursework since I had now developed a winning strategy and approach to success that would serve me throughout my subsequent nine years of undergraduate and graduate education at UW!!

Charles Hurlbut ’69

Prince George, VA

After taking Sociology 101 as a freshman in the fall of 1963, I knew what academic path I wanted to follow. I ended up majoring in what was then called rural sociology. I enjoyed it so much that I took nearly every rural sociology course open to undergraduates. A rural sociology major was required to take 18 credits, but because of my fondness for that course of study I took 35 credits, plus nine in sociology and three in social work. I had no idea what I wanted to do professionally and didn't make up my mind in that regard until some time later (I ended up completing a career as an Army officer), but there was no doubt as to what my passions were academically. I never had any regrets and am thankful for the many outstanding professors from whom I had the privilege to learn.

Larry Lark MS’69, PhD’71

Shawano, WI

Professor Robert Moser, Department of Educational Administration, changed my career direction after I took his Administrative Behavior graduate course. I changed from my original pursuit of graduate counseling and went on under Dr. Moser's advisor ship to complete my PhD and become a school administrator — a vice principal at Madison East High School, principal at DePere High School, and superintendent of schools at Wrightstown. Dr. Moser was the biggest influence and role model in my life, inspiring me to complete my PhD and a successful career.

David O’Donnell ’69

Saint George, UT

The scene: the beginning of the spring semester in 1965. I was looking for a 3-credit class that met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11 a.m., in central campus, with some potential interest. Found it: Russian Economics (I believe it was a 600-series class), in North Hall. I showed up first day with about 20 students — all my seniors and with brief cases! All seemed to know each other. Bell rings — no professor. He slides in at 11:10 a.m. In a heavy Russian accent, "Sorry I'm late. Just flew in from Moscow.” Obviously, he knows most of the students. They all introduce themselves. He comes to me, a sophomore in political science. His response? "Oh dear, you may have some trouble in this class." He goes over a huge reading list and adds, "And, of course, you will need to browse through Marx and Lenin." Bell rings at 11:50, and I mad dash to South Hall to get in the drop line!

Next Time …
Didn’t get to see your name this time around? Never fear! For each issue, we ask our readers to submit stories. For the Summer 2016 issue, we want to know where you got the best late-night snack at UW-Madison. Topperstix or Juston Stix? Taco Shop or Taco Bell? The list goes on and on. Sure, we have our own favorites, but we’re looking to create the definitive list. Send your stories to, or share with us on social media at @WisAlumni using #BadgerInsider.

UW-Madison Students 1970s

First assignment: What did you not see coming?

Badger Insider readers reminisce on the classes that surprised them the most.

College is a time to push yourself: step outside of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and see how long you can run on coffee and minimal sleep. Which is one of the reasons why attending UW-Madison is so great: you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some classes seem interesting right off the bat — The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, anyone? — and some take you buy surprise. Badger Insider readers shared stories of which UW-Madison courses were way different than they anticipated.

1970s: Students may finish assignments in the new computer lab

Tom Wallendal

Pulaski, WI

Physical education: Circus Acrobatics at the Nat, about 1975. Juggling, unicycles … The big event was a performance at the first (or second) Earth Day on the Union Terrace.

Ian Gilson ’70

Shorewood, WI

I was a UW zoology major and premedical student in 1969, when I took an advanced genetics course, where each week faculty would discuss their research. One day Dr. Howard Temin (a future Nobel laureate) presented his discovery of an enzyme called "RNA dependent DNA polymerase," which could create DNA from an RNA template, a controversial concept that ran counter to the prevailing orthodoxy that DNA to RNA was the only pathway. He had found this in several animal cancer viruses, and claimed that this would be found in human cancers and supported the concept of a viral cause of human cancer, a revolutionary and exciting concept. Since that time, this type of virus (a retrovirus) has never been shown to directly cause human cancer, so his prediction was wrong. However, in 1983, this enzyme, and the retrovirus that made it, was found to be the cause of a new human disease — AIDS — which was totally unknown in 1969. Shortly after that, I began to take care of AIDS patients in my medical practice, and this enzyme, now called "reverse transcriptase," is the key to the highly successful treatment I now routinely prescribe for this formerly deadly condition. This has always reminded me that it is impossible to predict the true impact of new scientific discovery.

Donna Wagner Backus ’71

Eau Claire, WI

For me it wasn't a class that changed my life, but junior year abroad in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. When I started college, I don't think I even knew that junior year abroad programs existed — maybe the Freiburg program didn't exist in 1966? At any rate, studying abroad was a life-altering experience in oh so many ways. I have never regretted taking advantage of that eye-opening experience.

William Rauwerdink ’72

West Bloomfield, MI

My friend Bruce and I took a class "Music in Performance" (as I recall the title) which was a one-credit course that required one-hour time commitment per week (N.B. no homework of any kind). Believe we took this class twice. Basically the class consisted of the professor providing a brief overview of the music to be heard that day and then the musician(s) performed. Then the class was over. Graded as an automatic "A", it helped the GPA. More importantly the class met in the Humanities Building late on Friday afternoon. So, when the class was completed, Bruce and I could conveniently hit a bar or two after class. Was one of the best classes I ever took.

Bob Segalman PhD’72

Sacramento, CA

How a Teaching Assistant’s Odd Remark Changed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Policy
You never know what is going to influence your career. Barry Guitar was a teaching assistant in an introductory course in speech pathology and asked me to come talk to the class about my experiences living with a speech disability from cerebral palsy. At the time, 1969, I was a second-year student in the PhD program in social work.
Barry introduced me by talking about how difficulty communicating can be a barrier in many areas of life, particularly talking on the telephone. (That remark led to a series of events, which, among other things, led to the UW-Madison awarding me a second doctorate, this one honorary). Barry‘s remark struck me because not being understood on the phone had always caused me problems. That was a time on campus when students were demonstrating about equality especially for women and people of color. It crossed my mind that changes in our society could also make life better for people with speech disability. From then on, I kept my eyes open for an opportunity to help make such a change for our group.
That opportunity came in 1989 when I was appointed to represent people with speech disabilities (PSD), on an advisory committee at the California Telephone Access Program (a statewide program for people with all disabilities). Through the course of events that I described below, I was eventually able to play a major role in developing and implementing an assistive telephone service (called Speech-to-Speech [STS]) that now enables many Americans with speech disabilities to be understood on the telephone.
At that time, I used a Teletype-like device (called a TTY) to access the telephone through a relay operator. Through this relay service, TTY users (mainly by people with hearing difficulties) can type to a relay operator who calls hearing people for them. There is a similar service in every state. While on that committee, I discovered that if I dialed the toll-free relay number that hearing people use to call TTY users, the operators could understand my speech. This was because all the operators were young people with excellent hearing, as people with excellent hearing can understand many speech disabilities.
It came to me that many PSD had limited hand movements so they could not use the TTY, but they could be understood by these operators. They would be able to use such a service regularly if they could talk rather than type. To try out my idea, I persuaded the relay administration to do a test whereby a small group of PSD could call these operators with their own voice and the operators would make phone calls for them. Most of the PSD in the test had never used the telephone before and were previously forced to rely on family and caretakers to make phone calls for them. STS gave them much independence. They could call their own taxi, make doctor appointments, and even order a pizza.
The test was very successful and STS became part of the state relay. Over the next few years I persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to require every state to provide STS. My challenge now is to find ways to inform people with speech disabilities from Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson's, ALS, etc. of the availability of STS. Few PSD know about STS. Such people need to be informed that we can call 711 and ask for STS in order to make a phone call. If they need help using STS, they can email me at the STS user’s website ( and I will help them. I did not try to make money on STS, you can either help improve the world or you can make money, but you cannot do both. I am pleased that in my personal effort to use the telephone, I initiated a nationwide service that can help thousands of PSD. Even though, because of aging, I no longer speak well enough to use STS, I am happy that many other PSD can.

Susan Fischer ’73, ’79


I started my undergraduate career at UW-Madison in 1969-70; it was a tumultuous year on campus to say the least. Back then, girls were mostly going into nursing or education with a few scattered here and there in other majors, but it was clear that the gender roles were in place academically as well as in the general culture. I just assumed education was to be my path although I was enrolled in L&S. The second semester of my sophomore year, I was racing around doing the assignment committee dance across campus. As a sophomore, there were precious few courses left for those who were undeclared majors. I needed a Tuesday/Thursday at 9:55 am for 3 credits to get me up to 15 credits; the only one I found that was available was Intro to Physical Geography with Professor George Drury, so I signed up ignorant to content but desperate to fill the schedule. Well, I fell in love with the science of measuring meandering streams, glaciation, and basic earth science to which I had never been exposed.
Concerned about what to do with a degree along those lines, I explored across all the colleges and discovered the natural resource degree with a soil science option in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. After the initial attempt by a CALS associate dean to move me to the very honorable Horticulture Program (he told me "all the girls like horticulture"), I told him I was more interested in physical geography, which was not the same as horticulture. So with a sigh, he assigned me to a most wonderful and supportive mentor one could ask for, Professor GB Lee of the Soils Department. Eventually I learned that I enjoyed soil (and plant) taxonomy and spent 2+ years in Indiana as a soil scientist helping to map the soils of the state. While I chose not to stay in the field as a soil scientist, I continue to enjoy reading about and hearing about soil science. All of this as a result of needing to fill a 9:55 am slot for 3 credits in 1970-71. And that is kismet for which I continue to be grateful.

Barbara Guenther PhD’74

Evanston, IL

Cyrena Pondrom's riveting course Modern British Literature and the Unconscious led me to move, as a PhD candidate, from Area IV (19th-century literature) to Area VI (20th-century literature — a move that could be negotiated only because Area IV covered Romantic Literature and Area VI covered, among other writers, the neo-Romantic poet George Barker, who became the eventual subject of my dissertation.

Jeanne Traxler ’75

Brookline, MA

I went to the UW without knowing exactly what I would study, but I thought I would either be a Hebrew teacher or something in science. I had advanced placement in Hebrew and took several bacteriology courses and then, because I needed a PE credit and had wanted to study some dance, I took Ellen Moore's beginning dance class. I found that the deep physical, mental, and emotion challenges of her course just spoke to me. I thought that of all the careers I could have, dance would be the most varied and interesting: creating art, teaching all ages, running an organization (dance company), the need for constant study and physical conditioning. (And I liked the idea of being my own boss.) So I became a dance major and, 40 years later, I am still at it! I run Moving Experience, Inc., a small dance organization that has a professional dancer lecture-demonstration company (Peanut Butter & Jelly Dance Co)*, a program of after-school classes for young kids, and a youth company (SMALL FEETS) that does performances in the community. And it all started with that one class...

*I even started doing lec-dems at Wisconsin; my roommate had a connection at St. Rita's, a school for the deaf and we did a sign language dance in a composition class. I thought it might be nice to show those dances at St. Rita's (and for them to show us their dances). It was a great exchange and I have been doing lec-dems ever since.

Robert Danforth ’76, MS’79, MA’81, PhD’95

Roseville, MN

I was a declared Social Work major in 1972, when I took Anthropology 100. In this course the teaching assistant brought to our discussion section a tray of projectile points and other stone artifacts made by prehistoric American Indians in Wisconsin. This experience connected directly with my interest in North American Indians, and the fact that as a child, I found similar stone artifacts and a few pieces of pottery at the confluence of the Crawfish and Rock Rivers in Jefferson County. The TA explained what was known about the tray of artifacts she brought to the class. Right then and there I knew I should go with my heart and not my brain, and the gradual shift from a Social Work Degree to a BA in Anthropology was underway. Later student meetings with professors "Kitty" McCllelan and Department Chair Baerris confirmed that this is what I should do. Eventually, I went on to complete the BA and MA in Cultural Anthropology, and a PhD minor in Anthroplogy (Education Major), and I myself became a teaching assistant for one year of Anthropology 100, and eventually the instructor for four semesters of Anthropology 353 Indians of the Western Great Lakes — one of my favorite undergraduate courses I took from Kitty McClellan. All of this took place at the UW-Madison. Who knew this small town guy would end up majoring in something called anthropology.

Pete Harings ’77

Tucson, AZ

The year was maybe 1977-78, I was finishing up my BBA in marketing/management, and had an elective class to fill. The class was called "Physics for Poets," and promised to explain the secrets of the universe without all the math, although Calculus was required. That class did nothing less than change the entire way I looked at the universe. By the end of the class I understood, on a theoretical level, the power behind E = mc2, the need for special relativity, and why time really was relative, among other things. I still have my all my notes and tests from that class, and it spawned a lifelong interest in why things are the way they are.

Dan Langer ’78


Since taking a bookkeeping class in high school, accounting was my pursued curriculum at the UW, even though I would be the first of three generations of Badgers not to pursue a career in pharmacy. However, an auditing course taught by Professor Rittenberg sharpened my focus further and led to a several decade career in a blend of audit, accounting and general/financial management experiences, including the opportunity to audit major organizations in over 28 markets. It also led me straight back to the UW in 2010, an outstanding place to work with fantastic opportunities, challenges and, first and foremost, people.

Diane Pflugrad Foley ’78, MS’85

West Hartford, CT

Harold Scheub forever changed my perception of the entire continent of Africa and the art of storytelling. I'm sure every student lucky enough to take his class, The African Storyteller, would agree.

Gary Chester ’79

Kinnelon, NJ

I earned a B.A. in journalism at the UW, but it was the elective courses that I appreciated most. The course I did not see coming was a course in jazz history, Black Music: 1920 to Present, taught by the celebrated jazz bassist Richard Davis. Each semester Professor Davis emphasized a different instrument in jazz music, so you could repeat the course (I did). He provided valuable insight into the true original American music form. Professor Davis was part of that history, having recorded with giants such as Sarah Vaughn and Eric Dolphy. Some of the biggest names in rock even sought him out — Professor Davis performed on one of the tracks on Born To Run with a certain rock musician from New Jersey. After graduating, I went to see Professor Davis perform in Manhattan several times and he always had a smile for me when I spoke with him between sets.

Mark Levin ’79

Burbank, CA

It was early September 1976; I was a sophomore in the communication arts’ radio, television, and film department with a focus on becoming a television director. I was looking for classes in the theater department that would expand my production skills when I came across a course entitled Introduction to Stage Lighting. As I had only limited experience in this field, I felt that it was important to develop some rudimentary knowledge of the subject matter.
On my first day of class, I met the professor, a portly man in his early 40s with wild curly hair, a larger than life personality, and a loud and unique laugh. As the class began, this gregarious man went to a portable chock board located in the middle of a black box theater in Vilas Hall and drew a picture of a ladder. He proceeded to give a lecture on what he referred to as the “Ladder of Life” theory. He pointed to the chalkboard and said, “You are here near the bottom of the ladder. As you climb up, be kind to everyone you meet, as eventually you will fall off the ladder and one of these people may be able to grab onto you and pull you back on.” I was confused. What does this have to do with stage lighting? The answer to that question and life itself is everything.
As the semester continued, we were required to do projects that were very different. We would watch, draw, and write detailed descriptions of sunsets as well as the light that is in and outside of our apartments during a 24-hour period. He challenged us to tell a story and supplement a musical work using only light, shadow, color, texture, movement, direction, and levels of illumination. At the same time, we were learning the basic bells and whistles of the technology and the organizational process of pre-production, production, and post-production. Then came the “Ladder of Life” lecture again.
Who was this professor and where did he come from? To my amazement, I discovered he was the son of a minister from Connecticut and student of Stanley McCandless (who is considered the father of modern stage lighting). He was an internationally known Broadway, dance and opera lighting designer with credits that included the New York City Opera, Martha Graham Dance Company, Broadway plays and musicals, the Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, two presidential inaugurals gala celebrations on television, and numerous regional ballet, opera, and theater companies. He received his BA and MFA at the Yale School of Drama and was the design assistant to two of the pioneers in the lighting field: Jean Rosenthal and Tharon Musser. The professor’s name: Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr.
Gilbert treated his students as family. He thought of himself as the mother and we were his children. He attracted people from disciplines beyond technical theater world. These included students from the schools of electrical engineering, physics, business, and music as well as dancers, directors, actors, film and television production. Gilbert took many of us with him to work as his assistant or intern with various production companies. Gilbert showed you both the theory and the reality of the art forms and business we were about to enter. We were pushed to learn from our mistakes and think beyond the box. However, he always reminded his students that “G-d is the greatest lighting designer,” so keep your work in perspective and keep your eyes opened to the world around you.
Gilbert changed my life and my direction. I continued my major in the area television and film production and theory while taking six more semesters of classes under his tutelage. At the end of my senior year, I asked him if he could help me focus on my career plans. Gilbert told me to meet him at 5:30 p.m. at his office. Prepared for a serious discussion, I showed up early. As I entered his office he said, “Don’t sit down, we are going to a movie.” He took me to see Animal House, then to dinner at the Edgewater. After dinner, we discussed the direction he thought I should travel in life.
That was in July of 1979. 36 years later, I am still working as a lighting designer and director of photography for television in Los Angeles. Gilbert was not just a teacher and a mentor, but a pathfinder and philosopher who truly changed my life and direction as well as the direction of many of the students who were exposed to him during his brief life. Unfortunately, Gilbert passed away in 1983 at the age of 47. Three years later, I had the honor of being nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Within the two Emmy categories for lighting, five of the nine nominees were people that were students of Gilbert’s at the UW. You could truly feel his influence in the room.
Over the past 36-plus years, my work has been honored with a Primetime Emmy, six Primetime and seven Daytime Emmy nominations, an Ace award, and four ASLD awards. Every time I am nominated for an award or receive an accolade I think of Gilbert, feel his presence, hear his laugh, and listen to his voice; “Remember, G-d is the greatest lighting designer. You don’t even come in a close second.” Then, I hear him give the “Ladder of Life” lecture again.

Next Time …
Didn’t get to see your name this time around? Never fear! For each issue, we ask our readers to submit stories. For the Summer 2016 issue, we want to know where you got the best late-night snack at UW-Madison. Topperstix or Juston Stix? Taco Shop or Taco Bell? The list goes on and on. Sure, we have our own favorites, but we’re looking to create the definitive list. Send your stories to, or share with us on social media at @WisAlumni using #BadgerInsider.

UW-Madison Students in Lecture 1980s

First assignment: What did you not see coming?

Badger Insider readers reminisce on the classes that surprised them the most.

College is a time to push yourself: step outside of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and see how long you can run on coffee and minimal sleep. Which is one of the reasons why attending UW-Madison is so great: you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some classes seem interesting right off the bat — The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, anyone? — and some take you buy surprise. Badger Insider readers shared stories of which UW-Madison courses were way different than they anticipated.

1980s: Assignments on floppy disks accepted

Cindy Rzeszut Krueger ’81

Eagan, MN

I arrived in Madison fully intending to pursue a degree in accounting, but somewhere during my first course in accounting I decided calculus and chemistry were more interesting than balancing columns in my accounting class. An advisor told me about industrial engineering and I changed majors. The one unexpected course that I was required to take in my new major was Math 431 Introduction to the Theory of Probability. I thought this would be fairly easy — after completing three semesters of calculus, how hard could this be? To my surprise, it turned out to be the hardest class I took in college. I came to college with my $39 TI-30 calculator (the bonus features included sine and cosine) and I sat next to students who had $500 HP calculators with magnetic strips that could do much of the calculating for them. I would watch students finish an exam in less than 15 minutes and I was doing everything by hand and needed the full hour!! I was never so happy to pass a class in my entire life!!

Judy Baumgartner Lukach ’82

Sheboygan, WI

Being in the School of Pharmacy with a very specific syllabus/timeline left very little time for fun electives. I managed to squeeze in a food science course my fifth and final year, mostly because I love to eat food and it seemed like easy credits! But the course taught me how the properties of recipe ingredients affect each other and the final product quality. This one class and its abundant useful information fueled my lifelong love of baking and cooking, providing me with a relaxing hobby and my family with wonderful food!

Mary Beth Gaik ’83

Valley Village, CA

My women’s studies courses proved to be such a profound, life-changing experience, that they are directly reflected in my personal mission statement and core values. Because of my UW women’s studies classes, I have an awareness of my body and mind, and I make proactive choices in my personal health and the health of my relationships. I am aware of women’s issues around the world, and help to advance the role of women when it has been within my circle of influence to do so.
I was reared in rural Wisconsin. My parents moved out of the working class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago and established a resort in a bucolic lakeside vacation destination. Ours was not an educated family. My mother did not go to high school — her father died, and it was her duty to take care of the family. Thus, it was understandably her paradigm that work was more important than education.
I had no reference for work in corporate America, and I was quite provincial. But when I purchased my women’s studies textbooks not at the University Book Store, but at A Room of One’s Own bookshop on the mall, I was awakened to the risks and effort of owning and running a small business. In this day of dwindling small businesses, I support them whenever it is possible to do so.
Our final assignment in Biology and Psychology of Women was to write something about ourselves. I chose to write about the influence of an alcoholic father on his daughter. I was only able to find one article on the Internet in the campus library (this was 1983), so I had to do my own research. I interviewed doctors and psychiatrists. I attended Al-Anon meetings (at that time, the only AA program specifically designed for those affected by the alcoholic). I listened, I took in, and I participated.
Researching this paper in real life (not in text books or on the Internet) was the catalyst for my interest in life-long learning, and of personal growth, self-awareness, and a quest for emotional intelligence. I had no expectations that the answers came from books, but they were certainly a start.
With a view from these lenses, I wrote my final paper in the History of Journalism about advertising and propaganda directed at women during World War II; first to get women into the work force, and after, to stay home with their new Frigidaire and leave the jobs for the men.
It was then I learned that my own mother was a “Rosie the Riveter!” During the war, she worked in a tank assembly plant. Her small figure and delicate hands were instrumental to climbing inside the tank and screwing the bolts in place.
I asked my mother if she liked her job. She said she loved it. I asked her why she left her job. “Well, because the men coming home from the war needed the jobs.” It never occurred to her that her work was not only just as important as theirs, but also that she was certainly capable of working in the plant that was now producing the Frigidaires — all part of the industrial revolution that grew the work force after the war. The propaganda worked on my mother, but it didn’t work on me. Innately, I knew I could be anyone and do anything.
My senior year at Madison I was an intern for Columbia Pictures. After graduation in 1983, I moved to Los Angeles and began volunteering for Women in Film. I joined a small but influential steering committee and created the Luminas Award, honoring the writers and directors who created multi-dimensional, non-stereotypical portrayals of women in film and television.
Our work was a carrot, not a stick. We watched and critiqued numerous shows and movies. We honored Stephen Spielberg for The Color Purple, Gary David Goldberg for Family Ties, and an extensive array of domestic and international projects. For the first time, writers and directors were aware of how they were writing women characters and had a benchmark from which to germinate them. We changed the history of how women characters are developed, which has continued to advance with our culture.
While in Los Angeles, I found the Women’s Yellow Pages, sought out the publisher, and landed a job handling marketing and sales. I was surrounded by women in a host of careers as varied as medicine to construction. I have continued to seek out female mentors. Carol Moseley Braun gave me an inside perspective of the imperative need for more women in government, simply because men do not live with or often don’t consider women's issues when they are voting on our reproductive rights, health needs, and disparity with men in the workforce.

MaryBeth Heydt ’86

Pasadena, CA

I started out in the College of Letters and Science. I knew I wanted to go to law school. I wasn't so sure about a major or an area of law I might want to practice. In order to fulfill my math requirements for L&S, I decided to take an eight-week course computer science class during summer session. I worked very hard at mastering the subject. I spent many hours in the lab working on my programming assignments, reading and re-reading the textbook chapters. I didn't expect to become Bill Gates, but thought I was getting a grasp of the subject. We had our first exam a couple of weeks into the course. The following week, I walked into the lecture hall and saw an exam curve on the blackboard. The TA asked students to find their exam book on the desk and grab a seat. I sat down with my blue book. The TA took a piece of chalk and drew a big line. He said, 'If your test score is below this line, I strongly suggest you drop the class. The rest of the class builds on these topics. If you had trouble grasping them now, it's not going to get any easier. You will probably not pass the class.' I looked down at the score on the cover of the blue book. I had THE lowest score in the whole class! I immediately got up, left class and headed down to the Peterson Building. I sat down with a timetable looking for a replacement course. I was receiving financial aid, so I needed to replace the class. I found Geography 120. It was a four-week class about to start. It was the right number of credits. It fit the time slot I needed for my part time job. It sounded somewhat interesting. I signed up for the class and tried to shake off the first time I had the lowest score in any class — ever. I really liked Geography 120, so much so that I started looking at other geography course in the timetable for the fall semester. I found some urban and spatial geography classes, which sounded fantastic. I took those too. I left the College of Letters & Science. I transferred to the School of Education where I could turn my love of social sciences into a major called broad field social studies, and geography could be my minor of study. As a result of my geography courses, I determined I had a strong interest and talent for real estate, land use, and urban planning topics. I made it to law school and also earned a Master of Planning degree. I have been practicing real estate-related law in Los Angeles for over twenty years now. Thank you Comp Sci 101 and Geography 120!

Judy Kramer ’86

Schaumburg, IL

Geography 127 with professor Knox was a class I registered for because I was told that it was the easiest 5-credit science class with a lab section that was available on campus. I needed such a requirement for my intended business major. Instead, I got the biggest challenge of my entire college career. I remember that the majority of us got C's or D's on our first midterms. The professor heard our rumblings at the beginning of class and said this: "If you didn't do well on my midterm it is because when I look out at the seats while I am lecturing, I can see your face as you look back at me. What I should see is the top of your head as you are writing in your notebooks everything I say. Because everything I say and everything I assign for reading is on my tests. So stop looking at me and start writing ...and then memorize everything." As a side note, this was in 1984 before the computer age. This was a rude awakening to how tough academic life was going to be at UW-Madison and is a lesson I have never forgotten and for which I am very thankful.

Next Time …
Didn’t get to see your name this time around? Never fear! For each issue, we ask our readers to submit stories. For the Summer 2016 issue, we want to know where you got the best late-night snack at UW-Madison. Topperstix or Juston Stix? Taco Shop or Taco Bell? The list goes on and on. Sure, we have our own favorites, but we’re looking to create the definitive list. Send your stories to, or share with us on social media at @WisAlumni using #BadgerInsider.


UW-Madison Students 2000

First assignment: What did you not see coming?

Badger Insider readers reminisce on the classes that surprised them the most.

College is a time to push yourself: step outside of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and see how long you can run on coffee and minimal sleep. Which is one of the reasons why attending UW-Madison is so great: you have the opportunity to explore just about everything, including a host of fascinating classes. Some classes seem interesting right off the bat — The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, anyone? — and some take you buy surprise. Badger Insider readers shared stories of which UW-Madison courses were way different than they anticipated.

2000s and 2010s: Submit final via Google Drive

Sara Arnold ’02

Franklin, WI

I always wanted to be an engineer, but given my knack for taking things apart and putting them back together I always figured I'd be a mechanical engineer. When I went to Madison I was admitted to the College of Engineering and started ME classes. I hated them. It was a combination of both the coursework and the fact that I was one of the only women in every ME class. It seemed very every-man-for-himself as far as the students were concerned. (I need to make a point that I am in no way insulting ME's in general here — this was just my experience with those in the classes at that time.) I spoke to the Dean of Engineering about my concerns and he recommended I take CEE 320, which is the introduction course for civil and environmental engineering and was taught by Greg Harrington. Not only did I find the class very interesting, but the make-up of the class was much more female-friendly and on my first day I was approached by another student about joining a study group. It was a world of difference and I never looked back. (I actually wound up becoming a grader for CEE 320 for the rest of my time in college.)

Stuart Kallick ’05

Winter Garden, FL

I had to fulfill an intermediate level English general education requirement and filled it with Writing 232 (course number escapes me). It turned out to be my favorite class I took at the UW. It was a course that discussed and debated court cases. The class divided into two sides to discuss and argue each case. One case was an actually being heard by the US Supreme Court. Ultimately, we each had to write our own final statement for each case. I knew I was going to the love class from day one as we had fun going back and forth debating the Roberto Alomar Jr. spitting civil suit. However, I am not a lawyer by profession.

Kyle Hackel ’14

Appleton, WI

My senior year I took History 101 (American History to Civil War Era) with Professor Sharpless in order to fulfill some remaining general-education requirements. I was expecting a university-level rehash of ancient material I had already learned in middle school, but I was pleasantly surprised to have spent the semester actually enjoying going to every lecture just to hear Sharpless talk all things down and dirty about how this country came to be (with countless off-topic anecdotes as the cherry on top, of course!).

Next Time …
Didn’t get to see your name this time around? Never fear! For each issue, we ask our readers to submit stories. For the Summer 2016 issue, we want to know where you got the best late-night snack at UW-Madison. Topperstix or Juston Stix? Taco Shop or Taco Bell? The list goes on and on. Sure, we have our own favorites, but we’re looking to create the definitive list. Send your stories to, or share with us on social media at @WisAlumni using #BadgerInsider.

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