Lawrence University and the City of Appleton were founded together 175 years ago on the banks of the Fox River.   

In 1847, Boston merchant Amos A. Lawrence pledged $10,000 to endow a school in the Wisconsin Territory. On January 15, 1847, the territory granted a charter to Lawrence Institute, a name that was changed to Lawrence University when classes first began on November 12, 1849. 

Notably, Lawrence was one of the first co-educational colleges in the country. From the time that preparatory classes began in 1849, both men and women were enrolled.  

Lawrence today is what it has been for much of its history—an undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a Conservatory of Music. It honors the vision of its founders and builds on the heritage of more than a century and a half of excellence in undergraduate education. 

Blue iron post under tree with words Milwaukee Downer College Founded 1851

Milwaukee-Downer College 

Under the leadership of President Curtis W. Tarr (1963-69), Lawrence consolidated with Milwaukee-Downer College for Women in 1964. Milwaukee-Downer’s legacy is present on Lawrence’s campus to this day with college artifacts like the sun dial on Main Hall and traditions like class colors.

The Rock on Main Hall Green

Class Colors to Trivia 

From the President’s Handshake and Class Colors to The Rock and the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, we have many traditions that unite Lawrentians across generations.

Close up of metal LU seal

Lawrence Heraldry 

Lawrence University's coat of arms, motto, mascot, and school songs expresses core values and provides an invaluable link to the past. 

Historic, black and white photo of Institute of Paper Chemistry building

Institute of Paper Chemistry

The Institute of Paper Chemistry, a graduate institute that trains paper chemists, was established in 1929 as a partnership between Lawrence and the local paper industry. In 1989, the Institute transferred its operations from Appleton to Atlanta, Georgia, where it currently exists as the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech.

You can take a deep dive into the university’s robust history thanks to the many collections housed in our archives. 

In 2022, Lawrence celebrated its 175th anniversary. Explore how Lawrence commemorated this significant milestone.