Purchase of Chancellor’s house positive for future University expansion plans
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 03:02
The purchase of Chancellor Richard Wells' home by the UW Oshkosh Foundation, a group separate from the university but that often collaborates with it, is the latest addition to the explosive growth that UW Oshkosh has seen in the past 10 years. It is also a particularly promising one.
The value in the newly acquired home of Chancellor Wells does not lie solely in the benefits it gives the Chancellor or its unique quality. It lies also in the potential effect it can have on the university’s ability to attract private funds and sustain its growth.
In fall's Opening Day Remarks, Wells said that this year alone would see a number of projects. These included the renovation of Fletcher Hall, the expansion of Reeve Memorial Union, the demolition of the River Center, the renovation of the newly acquired Lincoln Hall, and the beginning of renovations to Clow Social Science Center and the Nursing Education building.
Alex Hummel, director of news services and public relations for UW Oshkosh's Integrated Marketing and Communications, said that in the past the home has served as a good location for the fundraising needed to make some of this recent growth possible.
Hummel said that events hosted on the property helped obtain private funds for additions to the University like Sage Hall and the new Sustainable Technology program.
He also said the property has proven to be a good home base, not just a home, and that the Foundation saw its value in its ability to help raise funds.
Students who have only been here for a few years can easily overlook the scope of the growth that these fundraisers help drive.
According to Oshkosh's Strategic Plan Update & Annual Report, the total enrollment at Oshkosh has increased by 15.7 percent since the fall of 2000. At the same time gross campus space has increased by 723,987 square feet, which is more than a 25 percent increase.
Wells’ home, located on Congress Avenue, is within walking distance of the UW Oshkosh campus. The home is enclosed behind a tall tan brick wall with a wrought iron gate as its main entrance. Two large green roofs can be seen inside.
A brochure on the Foundation’s webpage stated that the luxurious property includes both a public and private wing and several courtyards. Its double garage and red brick driveway look toward the Paine Art Center and Gardens.
The Foundation ultimately paid $450,000 for the property. This final price is over $100,000 more than the assessed value initially reported by The Oshkosh Northwestern.
Hummel said multiple factors led to the change in appraisal, including its one-of-a-kind quality, and that the purchase of the Chancellor's home did not affect any scholarships the Foundation gives out.
Arthur Rathjen, president of the Foundation, said the property is occasionally used to host events important to the University.
One example of this was when the Board of Regents visited Chancellor Wells at his home in 2010.
Rathjen said that it is the ultimate expression of courtesy to open up your home, a gesture that most organizations and businesses cannot or do not do.
“[It] is a super environment to entertain, whether it's 100 or 10,” he said.
The UW System had moved Oshkosh’s projects up on the list for pending projects after the university had acquired private funds through other similar style events, he said.
By decreasing the demand for funds from the UW System, it becomes easier for the System to approve UW Oshkosh building construction and renovations, Rathjen said.
This is part of what allowed such explosive growth in recent years. The Foundation's contribution to this growth often takes the shape of fundraising.
The Foundation's website states that the organization “consistently motivates donors to become increasingly involved in the development of the University.”
The purchase of Wells’ home could help advance this cause.
Rathjen said the Foundation also seeks to assist in as many program opportunities that it can afford to.
The Foundation has played a role in the acquisition of funds for the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center, and Sage Hall.
“I think Sage is amazing,” Liz Cannon, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center and professor at UW Oshkosh, said, “A new educational building was so needed on campus.”
Cannon, however, said that she is not as enthused about all of the University's upcoming projects, such as the Recreation Field Complex.