Honors Program Marks 50th Anniversary

Honors Program at Washburn Observatory

The historic Washburn Observatory is home to the Honors Program in the College of Letters & Science.

The Honors Program in the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters & Science is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this weekend it is welcoming back to campus some of the people who petitioned to make the program possible.

In 1958, 172 students presented University administrators with a signed petition asking for more rigorous academics, confirming undergraduate interest in an elevated course of study. The Honors Program was the fruit of that endeavor, and it was formally launched in the fall semester of 1960.

Fifty years later, Honors Program students are leaders on campus and in the community. Many of the original petition signers are in attendance for the anniversary events. The events also celebrate the program’s new home in Washburn Observatory.

“We find that we’re attracting students who are motivated much the same way the original petition signers were,” program director Chuck Snowdon said. “That lets us know we’re doing something right.”

Distinguished Letters & Science Honors alumni are sharing their views on contemporary topics of science, arts and humanities, and public service. The work of today’s Honors students is in the spotlight as well.

Featured speakers include:

  • John W. Rowe, a 1967 alumnus who is CEO of the Exelon Corporation
  • U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (’68), who represents the 9th District of Ohio
  • Robert J. Hamers (’80) professor and chair, UW-Madison Department of Chemistry
  • Sue V. Rosser (’69) provost, San Francisco State University
  • Eric Sandgren (’82) director, UW-Madison Research Animal Resources Center
  • Emily Auerbach (’76) UW-Madison professor of English and director of the Odyssey Project
  • Sarah Kianovsky (’82) curator, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
  • Susan M. Zaeske (’89) professor and chair, UW-Madison Department of Communication Arts
  • Julie M. Curti (’07) Office of Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture; William Matuszeski (’62) retired, Environmental Protection Agency and
  • Aaron D. Olver (’97), secretary, Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

The events also mark the publication of “An Honorable Legacy: The First 50 Years of the Honors Program in the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison” by Joyce E. Bromley (’94), Parallel Press.