$2.2 million bequest from estate of two longtime employees is largest in UWL history

Bill and Yvonne Hyde estate designates $1.1 million each to English Department, Murphy Library
Murphy
Half of Bill and Yvonne Hyde's $2.2 million bequest is designated for Murphy Library, where Yvonne worked. (UWL website photo)

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — A $2.2 million donation to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation announced Wednesday is the largest gift in UWL’s history, according to the school.

The contribution from the late Bill and Yvonne Hyde’s estate was the gobsmacking element of Chancellor Joe Gow’s remarks to open the spring semester.

“Sometimes, we know a gift is coming, and we have people working on it and shaping it,” Gow said. “Other times, there may be people who give you a gift, but you don’t really know it’s coming.”

The Hyde bequest, which is designated to be split evenly between the UWL English Department and Murphy Library, was a surprise, Gow said.

Bill Hyde, who taught in the English Department from 1956 to 1992, died in January 2015. Yvonne Hyde, who worked in Murphy Library, mostly in cataloging, from 1957 to 1995, died in April 2021.

The Hyde donation is the second large gift UWL announced this week. The Paul Fleckenstein Trust, led by trustees Jay and Carolyn Scott, is giving the La Crosse Community Foundation nearly $500,000 to construct a research vessel for UWL’s River Studies Center.

“People like the Hydes and Jay and Carolyn Scott are powerful reminders that we are a UWL family,” Gow said.

“They appreciate what we’re trying to do and how good we are, and they want to support it and keep it going for a long, long time.”

Staff, faculty and administrators, who are deciding how to use the Hydes’ donation, say the infusion will have profound effects in the classroom and beyond.

Karl Kunkel, dean of UWL’s College of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities, described it as a “truly transformational gift that will take the very good work happening in our English Department to the next level of excellence.”

English Department Chairwoman Kate Parker said, “We were absolutely amazed to receive this extraordinary gift — a testament to the Hydes’ generosity and their long-standing commitment to the value of a liberal arts education.

“Their gift will immeasurably impact the department and inspire faculty and students and the communities we serve for years to come,” Parker said.

Murphy Library Director John Jax said the donation will create opportunities far beyond what the library’s strained budget could usually provide.

“Ultimately, this gift puts the library in a great position to better support student success at UWL,” Jax said. “We can work to improve about every facet of our unit, such as our services, event programming, space/facility, resource collections, technology, equipment, professional development and other things that will have tremendous benefit for UWL’s students, faculty, staff and the local community.”

The Hydes were longtime supporters of UWL, especially the English Department and Murphy Library, according to a news release. Over the years, they gave many thousands of dollars toward student scholarships, educational programming, and the cost of guest speakers and learning materials, among other things.This latest example of their generosity comes as no surprise.

“In the history of UWL, few people have been as generous, supportive and impactful as Bill and Yvonne Hyde,” said Greg Reichert, vice chancellor for Advancement and president of the UWL Foundation.

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