Hall of Fame News – 2012

WCHF Inductee Russell Peterson Passes

Inducted into the Wisconsin Hall of Fame in 2007, Russell Wilbur Peterson, age 94, passed away on February 21, 2011.

Russell Wilbur Peterson, a research scientist before becoming a champion of environmentalism as governor of Delaware, a White House adviser and president of the National Audubon Society, was born on October 3, 1916 in Portage, Wisconsin. After completing his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1942 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Peterson moved to Delaware to begin work for the DuPont Company. Over his 26 years with DuPont, Peterson rose steadily through the research, manufacturing, and sales ranks.

In 1968, Peterson was elected governor of Delaware. Over the course of his four-year administration, Peterson built a strong record of accomplishments including passage of the Coastal Zone Act of 1971, which bans heavy industrial development from Delaware’s coastline.

Peterson began a career on the national and international scene in 1973, as an advocate for environmental protection and wildlife preservation. He worked with Nelson Rockefeller to establish the National Commission on Critical Choices for Americans. He was then appointed chair of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality under Presidents Nixon and Ford where he served for three years and helped to implement the recently passed National Environmental Policy Act. In 1978, Peterson was appointed head of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment to advise Congress on the long-term economic, environmental, and social impacts of technological innovations.

Becoming president of the National Audubon Society in 1979, his leadership reflected his philosophy of using citizen action and holistic thinking to help humanity live in harmony with the natural environment. He promoted a science and public policy emphasis, and moved Audubon into such international issues as population growth and energy during his six year tenure.

He served as founding Chairman of the Board of The Global Tomorrow Coalition – an affiliation of 115 organizations concerned with population, resources and environment which held its inaugural meeting on May 21, 1981. He served as a director of Population Action International, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Alliance to Save Energy. He was vice-president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, president of the International Council for Bird Preservation, and president of the Better World Society. He also served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Solar Energy Research Institute of the US Department of Energy.

Peterson also spent terms as a visiting professor at Dartmouth College, Carleton College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the late 1980s. During the last two decades he served as a co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on the Future of the Christina and Brandywine Rivers and then as a board member of the Riverfront Development Corporation. Here Peterson promoted and helped bring to fruition his concept of a revitalized urban shoreline in Wilmington, Delaware which today encompasses the 250-acre Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Russ received many awards during his long career, including 15 honorary doctorates. In 1999, Russ published an autobiography, describing his fascinating life and career. The book, entitled Rebel with a Conscience, was published by the University of Delaware Press.

WCHF Director Bill Peterson Passes

William H. Peterson, representative for Bill’s Musky Club on the WCHF Board of Directors since passed away on January 25, 2012.

Bill born June 13, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois began college at Central State Teacher’s College, Stevens Point, in 1947, receiving a degree in Conservation in 1951.

In 1953, following his military service, Bill moved back to Wisconsin Rapids, and joined the Wisconsin Conservation Department as a Forest Ranger. The Ranger program was new at that time, and Bill was the second Ranger hired by the state. He was assigned to Portage County, and moved to Stevens Point in 1954. He worked as a Forest Ranger for 33 years, retiring May 16, 1986. For many years, Bill taught Fire School in Tomahawk to new recruits entering into the DNR firefighter line of work. Bill was deputized by the Portage County Sheriff’s Department, and had Warden Credentials. His stories of those times were many and always interesting.

After retirement, Bill was a County Board Supervisor from 1987 to 2010. Bill was also involved with many committees for the County, and served as chairman for the Portage County Parks for a number of years. He was very dedicated to serving the people, and his passion for doing so was evident by all the accolades and recognitions he received over the years. He was instrumental in setting up many land purchases by the State of Wisconsin; the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Iron County, being one of the many projects that he worked on.

Bill was a member of Bill’s Musky Club, 12 Apostles Musky Club, Isaac Walton League, Elks Club No. 641 and American Legion Post 6.

The Wisconsin Idea Centennial

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the “Wisconsin Idea” – an idea that emphasizes a political dimension as well as the university’s service to the State. The Idea was published in two major books of that era. One was titled The Wisconsin Idea by author Charles McCarthy, published in March 1912. The other by Frederic C. Howe, Wisconsin: An Experiment in Democracy, published a month later.

The Wisconsin Idea’s importance is steeped in the beliefs of the eminent scholars and educators who lived during one of the eras when the Idea was particularly strong. WCHF Inductee former UW President Charles Van Hise is quoted as saying in a 1904 speech, “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.” The Wisconsin Idea helped lead to state funding of the UW Extension system which was set up to serve people across the state, and the development of a state university system to help keep the promise of access and affordability to Wisconsin’s residents. Following the example of Van Hise, the University of Wisconsin system has produced many conservation leaders as well as government officials and Noble Peace Prize winners for scientific research into the 21st century.

Robert M. (Fighting Bob) La Follette, who served as congressman, governor, and senator between the 1880s and 1920s also propelled the Idea. Through direct primaries, voter recall, civil-service standards, corporate taxation, regulation, and expert policy counsel from university scholars (rather than, say, corporate lobbyists)—a set of reforms together known as the Wisconsin Idea—La Follette sought to deal with what he called “the problems of vast financial power in private hands” on behalf of “the common man-—the worker, the farmer.” (http://chronicle.com/article/The-Wisconsin-Idea/126553/)

Regardless of its origin, the Wisconsin Idea had the university playing a strong role in helping shape legislation. Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote the foreword for McCarthy’s book, was
impressed by the way in which Wisconsin had achieved substantial improvements without resorting to sweeping experiments, declared that “all through the Union we need to learn the Wisconsin lesson of scientific popular self-help, and of patient care in radical legislation.” (http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/WisIdea/WisIdea.htm)

The Wisconsin Idea is a philosophical statement of mission for the University of Wisconsin. At one time or another, almost all UW alumni would have been able to recite the Wisconsin Idea as “the boundaries of the campus [being] the boundaries of the state.” UW–Madison faculty, staff and students contribute to the Wisconsin Idea every day through their work to benefit the state, nation and world. To see some of their stories to to http://wisconsinidea.wisc.edu/

Throughout the state, there are other celebrations also going on. The Wisconsin Idea Scholars program http://www.news.wisc.edu/20287 was created as part of the university’s observance of the Idea’s centennial. It is a partnership where members discuss what matters to them, their communities and how the University system can be a positive partner for change in the state. The 2012 University senior class has established a new service-based scholarship to commemorate the Wisconsin Idea centennial. http://www.news.wisc.edu/20385 The Wisconsin Idea Scholarship will attract some of the most innovative young leaders to UW-Madison and will be the first major student-created scholarship endowment at UW-Madison.