The story of UW-Barron County began in the fall of 1963 when the Wisconsin Coordinating Committee for Higher Education (CCHE) recommended that a two year liberal arts institution be established in Rice Lake. In April 1964 the Barron County Board of Supervisors undertook the commitment to fund the physical facilities of the ‘Branch Campus’ with state and federal aid.
The Board of Regents of the State University System designated Stout State University in Menomonie to be the parent institution. Then in November 1965 the Barron County Board of Supervisors authorized the issuance of a $1,500,000 bond issue and tax levy to help finance the institution. And in February 1966 the 142 acre Johnson-Zimmer tract in the south of the city and abutting the east shore of the Red Cedar River was selected as the site for the new campus. For $50,000 the city took title to the property and delivered the deed to Barron County.
In February 1966 Stout State University President William J. Micheels named Dr. John F. Meggers as the first dean of the campus. The newly formed Barron County Campus of Stout State University opened in September 1966, offering a freshman course curriculum to over 100 students in the Ann Street facility which was headquarters for the Barron County Teacher’s College. The addition of basic sophomore courses was added the following year, which caused the campus’ enrollment to increase dramatically. In June 1967 the Barron County Teacher’s College graduated their final class of students and ceased to exist.
In April 1967 groundbreaking ceremonies were held on the site of the new campus after the County Board approved the final bids and alternates on the $3,000,000 project. The architectural firm of Hirsch & Stevens of St. Paul was hired to design the structures and the Rice Lake firm of Vonasek & Schieffer was selected as the general contractor. In September 1967 bricks and mortar rose on the Johnson-Zimmer site and the campus embarked on the second year of liberal arts studies with 201 students, still in the makeshift quarters.
March 1968 was moving day from the Ann Street facility into the new seven building campus, and two months later, on Memorial Day, the first two-year graduation class participated in commencement exercises at the new campus. The formal dedication of the Barron County Campus of Stout State University in Rice Lake, Wisconsin was held in September 1968.
Friday, October 27, 2006 marked the dedication of the $6.4 million expansion/renovation project and 40th anniversary celebration. The renovation project connected Meggers and Ritzinger Hall and offered state-of-the-art science labs, high-tech classrooms, tutorial facilities, and a comfortable student activity space.
With the 1972 merger of the University of Wisconsin and State University Systems, the campus became part of the University of Wisconsin Center System and was known as UW Center-Barron County, until 1983 when the institution became known as the University of Wisconsin Centers. In 1997, the name of the institution was changed to the University of Wisconsin Colleges and the campus name to UW-Barron County.
On July 1, 2018, the University of Wisconsin-Barron County officially became a branch campus of UW-Eau Claire as part of a UW System-wide restructuring of all the former UW Colleges. The Barron County campus was officially named, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire – Barron County.
UW-Barron County Administrative Leaders:
- Gary Wheeler, Interim Campus Director
- Troy Kozma, Academic Chair
UW-Barron County CEO/Campus Deans have been:
- Dr. John Meggers, 1966 – 1973;
- Dr. Eugene Hartmann, Interim 1973 – 1974 (while Dr. Meggers was Interim Chancellor);
- Dr. John Meggers, 1974 – 1988;
- Dr. Mary Somers, 1988 – 1997;
- Dr. Paul Chase, 1997 – 2013 and
- Dr. Dean Yohnk, 2014 – 2015.