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Former chancellor dies at 82; remembered for overseeing campus growth

February 14, 2012

Former UW-River Falls Chancellor George R. Field, who oversaw substantial growth in student enrollment, was at the helm of UWRF’s transition to the University of Wisconsin System and who is the namesake of the George R. Field South Fork Suites, has died.

Field, who was 82, served as president and then chancellor of UWRF from 1968-1985. Field was born 1929 in La Crosse, Wis. He died Feb. 10 in United Hospital in St. Paul.

“Dr. George Field led the University with great wisdom during a time of growth, challenge and change, including the transition of Wisconsin State University-River Falls in 1971 to become part of the University of Wisconsin System,” said UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen in a University Communications press release. “During his tenure as president and chancellor, Dr. Field built extraordinarily strong and positive relationships on campus and in the community.”

Field was an ardent supporter of the shared governance leadership, and helped both Faculty and Student Senate increase faculty and student input in the policy-making process. Field was also responsible for overseeing the construction of Rodli Commons, Hunt Arena, the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building and Centennial Science Hall.

During his time, student enrollment grew from under 4,000 to nearly 5,500 in a 17-year span.

Field was inaugurated as campus president on Oct. 8, 1968. His sentiments brought forth on that day still resonate with the campus community.

“If the battle for greatness at River Falls is to end in victory as did the battle for survival, there must be continued response to challenges, continued revolution if you will. One phase of this revolution must be an ever greater emphasis on the role of the state universities as the ‘People’s Universities.’ As we look forward to the next century, Wisconsin State University-River Falls has a single mission. In its own way, it wants to change the world, too,” Field said in a statement on UWRF’s website from his inaugural speech.

During Field’s tenure, UWRF experienced notable changes that students are still partaking in.  During his time, the new campus radio station hit the airwaves in 1968. Two yearly commencements (fall and spring), , a tradition still followed today, began in 1969.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, a celebration of Field’s life will begin with a church service at 2 p.m. at Ezekiel Lutheran Church, 202 S. Second St., River Falls. The celebration will continue with an informal gathering at approximately 3:30 p.m. in the Riverview Ballroom at the University Center. The public, including the campus community, is invited.

“Dr. George Field will always be remembered as one of the most effective and personable leaders in the 137 year history of UW-River Falls,” Van Galen said.

In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations to the UWRF Foundation George and Marcella Field Scholarship.