Emma Lou Wilder

Emma Lou Wilder

Emma Lou Wilder came to La Crosse Normal School in 1921 and taught here for 35 years. Although not a tall woman she stood 5’4" – she had a big impact on establishing the reputation UW-L’s PE department currently holds. The department philosophy reflects Wilder’s .work and character. She believed in hard work and in showing people that "’if she could do it, they could do it. Wilder also believed in the students themselves and worked hard to help them reach their potential. “Students who come to La Crosse have that something that makes you work hard to help them achieve·the goals they are striving for,” she said.

Wilder taught 25 different PE courses, helped develop the women’s PE curricu­lum and the recreation major, and served as placement director and adviser for PE women. She predicted that future health educators would have to dev.elop the need for adaptation, cooperation, responsibility, and conservation of. natural and human resources. She forecasted more leisure in the world and, therefore, the need for physical educators to develop an interest in worthwhile leisure in future genera­tions. In addition to her dedication to teaching PE, Wilder enjoyed sports, especially ice skating, serving dinners for friends – she was known as an excellent cook and hostess -·and active involvement in community organizations. Her well-rounded, healthy lifestyle served as an example of the benefits of physical fitness and good·health. According to a faculty member, Wilder had the reputation of being ageless. “It may be cheerfulness of spirit and a firmness of moral principle so that she im’t buffeted around with the winds in taste and silly argument. She’s quite calm; not quite serene, but almost.” In 1956, Wilder retired and moved to Ouray, ‘Colo.,so she could "climb the mountains and skate and snowshoe and see the beauty of the country and the world while I’m still able to do these things and appreciate it." Wilder died in Ouray in 1980 at the age of 89.


This scholarship was established in the 1950s. Think about it; physical education/ESS majors have benefited from this scholarship for more than 60 years. As an endowed fund, it will continue forever. Emma Lou Wilder has a legacy at UWL.