Kenneth Germanson, who will be receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee commencement May 20, says he is somewhat overwhelmed and a little amazed at the honor.
“I felt kind of ridiculous at first. Those opportunities usually go to people who are celebrities, or have a lot of money to build buildings,” Germanson said. “I’m neither.”
On the other hand, says the longtime labor leader, journalist and community activist, he accepts the award on behalf of many. “I am pleased that the university has chosen to honor people who are part of the labor movement and social justice.”
And, he said, he’s in good company as an honorary doctor with a well-known conservation leader and fellow journalist, Dan Egan, author of “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.”
Both will receive their honorary degrees at the “black” ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m.
Pushing for a four-year public university in Milwaukee
It is a pleasure, Germanson said, to receive this honor from a university whose birth he championed many years ago. Germanson was one of a group of students who advocated for the formation of a four-year public university in Milwaukee in the late 1940s.
Germanson started his education at the old University of Wisconsin Extension Division, which offered a two-year program at several sites in Milwaukee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and economics from UW-Madison in 1951, and joined with other students and graduates in leading a “Mission to Madison” campaign to establish UWM, which was eventually created in 1956. “We just made some noise,” he says in typical understated fashion.
Having a four-year campus in his hometown was personal to him, says Germanson. “There was no way I could have afforded to go to Madison or Marquette for four years when I graduated from high school,” he said.
A long …