The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Department of Art and Design received a $1 million gift from alumna Annette (Derge) Schuh '71 and her husband Dale on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. The endowed gift will support an annual visit of a visual artist of a significant stature to campus and will offer the same transformative visual arts experience that Annette Schuh had as a student.
When she came to study English in the late 1960s, Schuh was the first in her family to go to college. One semester, she signed up for a required arts appreciation course, not expecting much beyond the pleasure she'd experienced in a high school art class.
Then her art professor brought renowned American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein to campus.
"This was a ‘wow' experience for me," Schuh explained. "I can still picture him on the stage, in front of a slide show, talking about his art."
Other prominent artists, like Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley, came as well. After Thiebaud's visit, Schuh went right back to her room, pushed aside her artwork to date - she made a sweeping gesture with her hand as she described it - and began afresh. In the end, the visits transformed her relationship to art, caused her to change her major and, ultimately, altered the course of her life.
"Someone did this for us 40 years ago," she said, explaining that at some point she realized that, for an art icon to visit campus, significant funding must have been available. It wasn't until recently that she and her husband, who was also a first-generation student, understood they could make a similar gesture, one that caps a long legacy of support for the arts community in their hometown of Stevens Point.
"Both of us are from modest means," said Schuh. "I never dreamed we'd be able to do something like this."
"We wanted to do something outside the normal scope, something that could supplement the college experience and really spark a young person's future," said Dale Schuh.
Chancellor Beverly Kopper, acknowledging the gift, noted that the university continues its service to first-generation students, with 40 percent of current students being the first in their families to go to college.
"I'm thinking about all the amazing opportunities for our students who are going to benefit from this," said Kopper. "A gift like the Annette and Dale Schuh Visiting Artist Endowment opens the world and makes it much larger."
"Annette and Dale Schuh's remarkable gift honors the legacy of the Art and Design program and will most assuredly touch and transform the lives of students for years to come," said Bob Mertens, interim dean of the College of Arts and Communication.
Schuh plans to return for the first artist visit, expected to occur during the 2016-17 academic year.
When asked what she pictured, when she thought of the impact of the gift and future artist visits, Schuh said, "I hope that a student will go back to their room and say ‘oh, wow' and take a 180-degree turn like I did."