Driving from Pennsylvania to Banff … Second Stop: University of Wisconsin at Madison

From Indiana, we had to traipse around Chicago. We expected traffic snarls and weren’t disappointed. But this route was necessary because Mrs Bear is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and I am just about the only family member who had nit yet visited. That is Bucky Badger, the UW mascot, peering through the columns in the pic above.

Driving into Madison and walking onto the Wisconsin campus did not really stand out for me. I have seen many state schools and they all seem to lack the traditional architecture of the purebloods. They seem crowded, noisy, and sprawly. In the east, most consider the old, traditional schools that date back to the 1700s as the cream. Alexander Hamilton and Aarom Burr went to Columbia and Princeton. John Adams attended Harvard, while most of Virginia’s founding fathers went to William and Mary. They don’t use the University of Maryland in the same breath with Georgetown. Even in California, Stanford and Cal Tech are usually preferred over Cal or UCLA.

I did notice that UW’s campus was down the street from Wisconsin’s capitol building. This reminded me a little of the University of Texas and its proximity to Austin’s capitol buildings. These relationships are tremendous advantages to students studying law, business, or government.

I must qualify my biases a little by pointing out that most states that were added after 1776 do not have this tradition of small prestigious private schools … So they invest millions into their state schools. They build lots of buildings, hire the best faculty, fund lots of research in their local state agricultural, mining, and engineering industries. Locals see the University of Kansas, Michigan, or Wisconsin as representing the best of their state. There is a tremendous pride that carries over into the successes or failures of state football and basketball programs. So I get it … I live in a town where the locals consider Penn State to be the only school that really matters.

But then, Mrs Bear showed me why she still recalled UW with such passion. Bordering the far edge of campus is Lake Mendota. She explained that most of the kids walk along the shoreline to classes or dorms to avoid the hills of middle campus.

Besides, what would you want to be looking at ?? Most of the college’s eateries are set here, and the kids can bike along the lake, or take paddle boards or sailfish out in their free time. In winter, they put edges on the boats for wind sailing, or ice fish. This was a unique feature that separated Wisconsin from its peers.

We went for a walk along the shoreline, ate brats in the student union, and walked back to our car … Next stop: South Dakota.

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