Fannie Hicklin was a fierce and beloved theater professor who became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s first African American faculty member and left a creative legacy that both transformed and transcended campus.
During her tenure at UW-Whitewater, Hicklin taught speech and theatre courses, directed more than 50 productions, and earned the respect of students and colleagues alike for her passion for the arts and dedication to teaching. She served as the associate dean of faculties, director of affirmative action, and chair of the Department of Theatre/Dance. She established a summer theater program and a touring children’s theater program.
Hicklin’s service extended beyond the boundaries of the UW-Whitewater campus. She served on a number of volunteer boards, including the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Board of Curators, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, and WHA Madison Public Radio.
In 1970, she received UW-Whitewater’s highest teaching honor — the W.P. Roseman Excellence in Teaching award. The Hicklin Studio Theatre in the Greenhill Center of the Arts was dedicated and renamed to honor Hicklin on Founders Day, April 21, 1996.
In 2016, Hicklin — clad in a purple hat and gloves — served as the grand marshal of the Homecoming parade, smiling and waving vigorously to people along Main Street. A year and a half later, she donned purple once again to ring in UW-Whitewater’s 150th anniversary at the Purple and White Gala, held at the University Center. At the event, everyone in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” to her in honor of her 100th birthday.
Her legacy lives on through the Fannie Hicklin Theatre Education Scholarship, given to a junior or senior majoring in theatre who is well-rounded in both technical and performance areas.