Wisconsin College Names: Good & Bad


While researching Wisconsin universities, I looked at their names and asked: Do they matter in terms of attracting students or gaining national recognition?

Wisconsin has 40 public universities and technical schools, including, 13 four-year and 13 two-year University of Wisconsin campuses, as well as 14 two-year state-funded technical schools. Of the state’s 20 non-public institutions, Lawrence, Beloit, Ripon, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering, are well-known secular schools, while the other 16 have religious affiliations. [1]

Best Wisconsin College Names

MARQUETTE, in Milwaukee, has a good name, as it conjures up images of Father Jacques Marquette, the French missionary who canoed down the Fox and Wis. Rivers in 1673.

LAWRENCE, a private university, has a nice ring to it. It’s named after philanthropist Amos Lawrence, an Episcopalian, who along with two Methodist ministers, established the college in Appleton in 1847, in what was then the Wisconsin territory.

BELOIT is a strong name. It is easy to locate, as it is in the city bearing the same name. When founded in 1946, it was linked to the Congregationalists. Those ties were cut to become secular.

RIPON, founded in 1851, was originally affiliated with the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. They became a secular private college in 1868.

The MILWAUKEE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING, founded in 1903, has a good name, as it clearly indicates where the college is located, and what studies they emphasize.

EDGEWOOD, a small Catholic college in Madison, has a pleasant sound. SILVER LAKE, just west of Manitowoc, on a water body bearing the same name, also has a title worth keeping.

CARROLL, founded in 1846, is a Presbyterian university, named after Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

CARTHAGE, a Lutheran college that opened in Hillsboro, Illinois, adopted their current name in 1870, when they moved to Carthage, Illinois. They relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962.

CONCORDIA, in Mequon, Wisconsin, has an acceptable small college title, as it is named after a branch of the Lutheran Church.

NORTHLAND COLLEGE, up in the north woods at Ashland, with only 700 students, might be better off as Ashland College, so people could find it, but Northland sounds rugged and refreshing.

LAKELAND COLLEGE, in rural Plymouth, WI, just west of Sheboygan, should take a more specific label, like Sheboygan College, to make it easier to locate, but anything with lake is fine.

UW COLLEGES AND TECH SCHOOLS WITH CITY NAMES: Eleven 4-year, [2] and eight 2-year [3] campuses of the University of Wisconsin system, did it right, when they inserted their city names in their titles. Three state-funded tech schools also made the smart move by incorporating city names on their banners. [4]

Colleges that need Name Changes

MARANATHA, a very small Baptist bible college in Watertown, wins the award for the absolute worst Wisconsin college name. Doesn’t it look like it’s misspelled? Change it now, please.

MT. MARY, a small Catholic college in Milwaukee, should change their name. It’s like Martinez in Mexico, or Chin in China. Too many schools have the word “Mary” in their titles. Mary is not unique, and will never stand out. Catholics in the U.S. have: six St. Mary’s Colleges, three called Mount St. Mary’s, one labeled the U. of Mary, and another known as St. Mary Magdalen. The parade continues with: Marymount, Marywood, Maryhurst, Marygrove and Maryhurst. Let’s not forget Mary Manse. If you don’t like English, there’s always Maria, Ava Maria and Villa Maria. Mt. Mary should come up with an entirely new name, for themselves, Cardinal Stritch, and Alverno, all in Milwaukee.

CARDINAL STRITCH, a Catholic college in Milwaukee, has a very unattractive title, as it conjures up images of an old crusty man, dressed like a bishop, certain not draw persons of other faiths to the school. Mt. Mary, Alverno and Cardinal Stritch, all in Milwaukee need to consolidate, under an entirely new name.

ALVERNO, a small Catholic college in Milwaukee, started out as St. Joseph’s in 1887, and made the error of changing to Alverno Teacher’s College in 1936. While “Alverno” is a mountain in Italy, Milwaukee’s South Side, where the college is located, is predominantly Polish-American, and it has no hills, let alone mountains. A better name would be South Milwaukee College.

VITERBO, a small Catholic university in La Crosse, started out in St. Rose’s in 1890, and was renamed Viterbo in 1937, in honor of an Italian province near Rome. Viterbo is simply not a good fit for Western Wisconsin, where there are no Italian-Americans. Nobody out there has a name ending in O, except Domino’s Pizza. Change the name to La Crosse-Viterbo College, and after five years, drop Viterbo altogether, to make it La Crosse College.

MARIAN, another small Catholic college in Fond du Lac, should change their name, as it is derived from the word “Mary,” which as we know, should never be used. See Mt. Mary, above. Fond du Lac University would be more unique.

ST. NORBERT was founded in 1898 by a Norbertine priest in West de Pere, outside Green Bay. It’s named after Norbert of Xanten, born in Germany in 1080. It would have made more sense to name it after Jean Nicolet, the first French settler in 1634, but since the college has used the name for 114 years, maybe all we can do now is drop the word “Saint,” as it must surely depress non-Catholic enrollment. Let’s just call it Norbert College.

UW-PARKSIDE is in Kenosha, but I had to look it up to be sure. It was named Parkside to please the City of Racine, to the north, and Kenosha, to the south. Since it’s technically in the City of Kenosha, get over it Racine, and just rename it UW-Kenosha.

UW-STOUT, originally a private college in Menomonie, is named after James Stout, the man who founded it in 1891. It became a state college when Stout died in 1911. Who would object if the school was now renamed UW-Menomonie?

Two-year campuses in the Fox and Chippewa River valleys also need relabeling, as their titles make their locations too vague. UW-FOX VALLEY should become UW-Menasha, FOX VALLEY TECH should be Appleton Tech, and CHIPPEWA VALLEY TECH should be relabeled Eau Claire Tech.

The 2-year campuses in the UW system named after counties, should also adopt city names. UW-BARRON COUNTY should become UW-Rice Lake, UW-MARATHON COUNTY should be UW-Wausau, UW-ROCK COUNTY should be UW-Janesville, and UW-WASHINGTON COUNTY should be UW-West Bend.

The name LAKESHORE TECH is too vague, as it doesn’t specify a body of water. When I looked it up, I found it exactly halfway between Manitowoc and Sheboygan, in Cleveland, Wisconsin, a tiny place, selected to appease both cities. While it would be too confusing to rename it Cleveland Tech, it could become Manitowoc Tech, in recognition of the County where it is located.

Six technical schools should abandon their regional Wisconsin labels, and adopt city names: WESTERN TECH should become La Crosse Tech, MID-STATE TECH should be Wis. Rapids Tech, SOUTHWEST TECH should be Fennimore Tech, NORTH-CENTRAL TECH should be Wausau Tech, GATEWAY TECH should be Kenosha Tech, and MORAINE PARK TECH should be renamed Fond du Lac Tech. Two technical schools, BLACKHAWK TECH, named after a Native American tribe, should become Janesville Tech, and INDIANHEAD TECH should be renamed Rice Lake Tech.


[1] Carroll College (Presbyterian), Lakeland and Northland (both United Church of Christ), Maranatha (Baptist), Carthage, Concordia, and Wisconsin Lutheran (all Lutheran). Marquette University, Edgewood, Silver Lake, Marian, St. Norbert, Viterbo, Mt. Mary, Cardinal Stritch, and Alverno (all Catholic).

[2] UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville, UW-Green Bay, UW-River Falls, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater.

[3] UW-Baraboo, UW-Marshfield, UW-Richland Center, UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Manitowoc, UW-Marinette, UW-Sheboygan, and UW-Waukesha.

[4] Milwaukee Area Technical College, Madison Technical College, and Waukesha Technical College.

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