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University Club celebrates 100 years

April 10, 2007 By

“Breaking bread with others does not always lead to agreement, but it is perhaps the best road to understanding and develops close friendships.”

Writing about the University Club at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in his book “The University of Wisconsin: A Pictorial History,” Arthur Hove included this quote from Mark Ingraham, former dean of the College of Letters and Science.

Hove noted that the real business of the faculty was often accomplished at the club, where a significant number of members dined regularly and several committee meetings were held each week.

At their meetings in March, the university’s Faculty Senate and Academic Staff Assembly passed identical resolutions congratulating the University Club on its 100th anniversary. The resolutions noted that the club has been a well-respected presence on the campus since its founding in 1907, has contributed and continues to contribute to the social and cultural life of the university, and serves an important function as a venue for conversation and the exchange of ideas over lunch and for meetings of faculty and staff.

Lori Kay, current University Club board president, says many plans are under way to celebrate the club’s centennial. “We will have a gala reception and dinner early in the fall semester, as well as a number of smaller events leading up to that.” she says. “The club has been an important part of the university’s history since 1907 and we have many things to share with campus as we begin the next 100 years.”

According to the Feb. 21, 1907, edition of the Daily Cardinal, the founders raised $40,000 to buy and remodel a clubhouse, put on an addition, pay the first year’s taxes and create a modest emergency fund.

The group purchased the family home of John Barber Parkinson on the corner of State and Murray streets. Parkinson, a member of the class of 1860, was a member of the Board of Regents and a faculty member who later became vice president of the university. He had lived in the home with his wife and eight children. The original owner was John Sterling, known as “the father of the university.”

The current University Club was built as a series of additions to the house, the first of which was constructed in 1908. Ownership of the property was transferred to the university in 1933.

Jim Feldman, author of “The Buildings of the University of Wisconsin,” wrote that in the 1960s, “talk began to be heard about anachronisms, efficiency and quiet interment. Sentiment and the continuance of useful function continued to protect the club from fans of efficiency, and from those who looked covetously upon the prime real estate occupied by the club.”

A new general manager for the club, Ed Zaleski, came on board in November.

“He has extensive experience in club management and commercial food operations, and is enjoying getting to know the university community as a new business undertaking,” says Kay.

Throughout most of its history, the club was open to members only and their guests. In recent years, in an effort to attract new business, the dining room was opened to a broader clientele for lunch. A year or so ago, the club began featuring a morning coffee bar, a fast-growing service for those traveling through the Library Mall area.

“People stop by for themselves, to meet someone else or have a department meeting with beverages and pastries,” Zaleski says. “It also fits with a newer, broader service mission that makes lunch available to all UW employees throughout the year and to the general public in the summer and from November through January.”

Zaleski notes that lunch and coffee bar hours have been expanded, a certified executive chef has been hired and there is now Wi-Fi throughout the building.

“We hope everyone will stop by for coffee, lunch, a party or catered event or just a tour,” says Kay.