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Areas of Distinction

Gardens in the park, organized around academic areas, celebrate alumni achievements with plaques, quotes and bronze sculptures.

Areas of Distinction Exploration

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There are no boundaries in education.

—Thomas Vonder Haar

MS 1964 PhD 1968

Florence Bascom

BA 1882 BS 1884 MS 1887

Florence Bascom was the first woman to join the U.S. Geological Survey. A dedicated researcher and professor, her work paved the way for the first generation of female geologists in America.

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Adam Steltzner

PhD 1999

As lead engineer on NASA's Curiosity rover, Steltzner helped to expand the understanding and exploration of Mars. A maverick of space exploration, he later voiced his dream "to float a boat on the methane lakes of Titan."

We're not evolved to be pigeonholed.

—Margaret Turnbull

BS 1998

Areas of Distinction Government & Social Policy

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I want to show people who say nothing can be done in this society that it just isn't so. You don't have to collapse just because there's federal law in your way. Change it!

—Ada Deer

BA 1957

Edwin Witte

BA 1909 PhD 1927

UW professor and chair of economics Edwin Witte wrote the legislation that became the Social Security Act of 1935, making the safeguarding of Americans' welfare a collective civic duty.

Laziness says, 'Do not.' Ambition says, 'Do.'

—Mildred Fish Harnack

BA 1925 MA 1926

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Vel Phillips

LLB 1951

A civil rights activist and Wisconsin's first African American judge, Phillips knew progress meant aiming for that which appeared out of reach. "Shoot for the moon," she said. "If you don’t make it, you may hit a star or two on the way up."

Areas of Distinction Arts & Humanities

There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing.

—Lorraine Hansberry

Attended 1948—50

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Frederick Jackson Turner

BA 1884 MA 1888

"The significance of the frontier in American history"

"American democracy was born of no theorist's dream; it was not carried on the Susan Constant to Virginia, nor in the Mayflower to Plymouth. It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier."

In 1965, I put a pipe into some stained glass that I melted in my basement and blew a bubble. Since that movement I have spent my whole life as an explorer ... That's what I love to do.

—Dale Chihuly

MS 1967

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Frank Lloyd Wright

Attended 1886—87

This famed architect drew inspiration from plants, animals, and the environment. "You might say that Nature is the God of the architect," Wright said.

Areas of Distinction Media & Journalism

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The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.

—Arthur C. Nielsen Sr.

BS 1918

Walter Mirisch

BA 1942

Movie producer Walter Mirisch created Oscar-winning films such as In the Heat of the Night, The Apartment, and West Side Story. He also helped to establish the Hollywood Badgers, an organization that supports UW alumni in the entertainment industry.

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Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson


Homegrown journalism as political satire, the Onion was started by UW-Madison juniors Keck and Johnson. It begat a new genre of irreverent humor."

Let's not spend money on anything else, except books.

—Emily Hahn

BS 1926

Areas of Distinction Computers & Technology

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S = 1/((1-P) + (P/N))

—Gene Amdahl

Attended 1948—50

Nobel Laureates

Each has made discoveries that made the digital revolution possible.

John Van Vleck

BA 1920


MS 1952 PhD 1953

John Bardeen

BS 1928 MS 1929

Jack St. Clair Kilby

MS 1950

Women had limited choices when it came to careers in 1966: teaching and nursing. I didn't have the patience to be a teacher, and I look terrible in white. I thought of computer science as an unknown.

—Carol Bartz

BA 1971

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John Atanasoff

PhD 1930

Atanasoff set out to build a machine powerful enough to carry out the calculations for his doctoral work at the UW. He ended up the father of modern digital computing.

Areas of Distinction
Enterprise & Entrepreneurship

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A real estate entrepreneur [should have] the creativity of Leonardo da Vinci [and] the sensitivity for the natural world of John Muir.

—James "Chief" Graaskamp

BA 1957

Asap Group

in 1970, Stephen Hawk BBA 1963 MBA 1964 PhD 1969 brought the vision of his professor and mentor, Frank Graner PhD 1948, to life and created the Applied Securities Analysis Program. Students have since turned $100,000 into $50 million.

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William Harley

BS 1907

In cofounding Harley-Davidson, Harley created a symbol of freedom, enterprise and the pursuit of the open road.

Look at different opinions like gear wheels, as a source of energy.

—Pongsak Payakvichien

MA 1971

Areas of Distinction Ecology & Environment

The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity ... That's the whole economy.

—Gaylord Nelson

LLB 1942

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George Schaller

MS 1957 PhD 1962

George Schaller was one of the 20th century's most prominent field biologists. He studied great apes, snow leopards, and giant pandas.

Lake Mendota is our laboratory.

—Arthur Hasler

PhD 1937

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John Curtis

MS 1935 PhD 1937

Following in the footsteps of mentor Aldo Leopold, Curtis shed profound light on the ecology of Wisconsin's plant communities and fostered the concept of prairie restoration.

Areas of Distinction Food & Nutrition

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The world is waiting for us ... to remove the obstacles that keep us from ensuring that every man, woman and child lives a life free from hunger and poverty.

—Florence Chenoweth

MS 1970, PhD 1986

Vitamin Research

In 1913, UW researchers E.V. McCollum and Marguerite Davis discovered the first vitamin, vitamin A, and in 1916, vitamin B. Harry Steenbock discovered how to irradiate foods to enrich them with Vitamin D. Conrad Elvehjem discovered that niacin prevents pellagra. The UW's involvement with vitamin research has continued with scientists such as Hector DeLuca.

Marguerite Davis

BA 1926

Conrad Elvehjem

BS 1923 MS 1924 PhD 1927

Harry Steenbock

BS 1908 MS 1910 PhD 1916


MS 1953 PhD 1955

A true scientist [is] steadfast in the search for knowledge, regardless of how unpalatable it might appear to be.

—Alice Evans

MS 1910

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Brent McCown

BS 1965 MS 1967 PhD 1969

As leaders in the field of food production, UW alumni are preparing the world to feed its population, now and into the future. Scientists such as McCown, developer of the HyRed cranberry, have helped to put the focus of agriculture on sustainability.

Areas of Distinction Health & Medicine

The Human Genome Project was biology's equivalent of the moon shot, forever changing biomedical research and bringing more precision to medicine.

—Eric Green

BS 1981

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Abraham Maslow

BA 1930 MA 1931 PhD 1934

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the influential theory of the hierarchy of needs. He saw life as a constant negotiation between safety and risk. Choosing risk, Maslow maintained, was the only way to grow. "Make the growth choice a dozen times a day."

Statistics are of small consequence against human loss.

—Harry Waisman

BS 1935 MS 1937 PhD 1939 MD 1947

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Mary Lasker

ATTENDED 1918—20

A leader of boundless energy and cofounder of the American Cancer Society, Lasker once said, "I couldn't cut up a frog, and I certainly couldn't perform surgery. I'm better at making it possible for other people."

Areas of Distinction Education

The extension student of the future will probably not 'attend' classes; rather ... learning will come to him.

—Charles Wedemeyer

BS 1933 MA 1934


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Margaret H'Doubler

BS 1910 MA 1924

Margaret H'Doubler combined aesthetics with the study of anatomy and gave the UW the nation's first dance major. Her work and pedagogy encouraged students to be "physically, intellectually, and emotionally integrated."

The problems of developing countries must be met by teaching. A university must be responsive to the needs of other countries.

—William Young

PhD 1941

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Henry Ahlgren

BS 1931 MS 1933 PhD 1935

As “Mr. Extension,” Hank Ahlgren took the emerging science of agronomy to farmers across Wisconsin and America, inspiring a generation of future agronomists and introducing methods and technology that helped to preserve the family farm.