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UW announces Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant winners

June 16, 2015 By Devin Lowe

Monica Macaulay, a professor in the Department of Linguistics, has been working with the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin for 17 years on language preservation projects. The tribe’s language is seriously endangered, with fewer than a dozen native speakers left — all of them elderly.

That drove Macaulay to submit a proposal to the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment competition this spring. Her project, Menominee Language Texts for Teachers, will be funded by the endowment through 2018.

“This project is one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Macaulay says. “The published versions of Menominee-language texts are written in a way that is very hard for nonlinguists to follow and translated in a strange, noncolloquial English — they include lots of things like ‘Fie!’ and ‘hither.’ The texts are a goldmine of Menominee language and culture that would be so helpful to Menominee language revitalization, if only they were more accessible.”

The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment allows students, faculty and staff to extend their talents, knowledge and research beyond the borders of the university — the core definition of the Wisconsin Idea.

This year, 83 proposals were submitted to the endowment committee for consideration. Along with Macaulay’s project, 12 other grantees received up to $120,000 each. For the first time, this year the endowment offered mini-grants of up to $4,000 to encourage innovation and experimentation in small-scale projects. Of the 32 mini-grant proposals submitted, 18 received funding.

One mini-grant proposal arose from the desire to preserve history, much like Macaulay’s project. Troy Reeves, the head of archives in the Oral History Program, and Gregory Bond, who holds a Ph.D. in history from UW–Madison, will document and preserve the experiences of former Wisconsin African-American athletes through interviews.

“In the decades after World War II, African-American athletes at UW were very often the most visible minority students,” Bond says. “This project seeks to capture and preserve their memories and their experiences for the benefit of future researchers and scholars.”

To do this, Bond and Reeves will speak to athletes who played for Wisconsin during the 1950s and ‘60s, when race in sports was a contentious issue at the forefront of the civil rights movement. They will examine events such as the cancelled football contract between the Badgers and Louisiana State University in 1956, and the basketball team’s acceptance of segregated housing during a trip to Houston, Texas, in 1958.

“Few other universities have made any systematic attempts to collect and preserve the history of their African-American athletes,” Bond says. “We hope to use this project as a model to show the potential of using oral history to capture the experiences and memories of black athletes during these vital and turbulent years that changed American history.”

The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment was established by Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin. Ira Baldwin enrolled at UW–Madison as a graduate student in 1925 after serving in World War I. After graduating, he held many roles at the university, including chair of the Bacteriology Department (1941–44), dean of the Graduate School (1944–45), dean of the College of Agriculture (1945–48), and vice president for academic affairs (1949–66).

Ineva Reilly Baldwin earned her master’s degree in botany from the university before joining the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARs) during World War II. She attained the rank of lieutenant commander, the highest position achieved by a woman at the time. At the university, she served as assistant dean of women (1941–42) and as both assistant and associate dean of the College of Letters & Science (1946–54).

The couple provided support for UW–Madison for many years in the form of professorships, fellowships, graduate student recruitment and scholarships, as well as gifts to the Arboretum, Allen Centennial Gardens, Southeast Asia Center, University Club and the Clinical Cancer Center. The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment remains one of the largest gifts ever given to UW–Madison.

To learn more about the Baldwins or the other funded projects, visit the endowment’s website.