Ernest O. Grace W. Hanson

Ernest O. Grace W. Hanson

Ernest Hanson, or “Ernie,” came from a poor background, growing up on farmsteads in Montana and Viroqua, WI. He came to La Crosse State Teachers College after receiving a teaching certificate from Vernon County Normal School. He couldn’t find work as a teacher because rural superintendents were looking for women teachers. The Normal School superintendent encouraged Ernie to go to college. When Ernie told him that he had no money, the superintendent replied, “well, work your way through college.” When Ernie heard that, it opened the door that he could pursue a college education. He had dreamed of becoming an attorney since his childhood days in Montana.

When he arrived on campus, Ernie had $10 to his name. The administrators understood and helped Ernie find jobs and a place to stay so that he could attend school. After two years and 60 credits earned, he transferred to UW-Madison. By 1940, he returned to La Crosse with a law degree for a required six-month apprenticeship at the law firm of Quincy Hale and Tom Skemp. Hanson became their partner and dedicated his entire 65-year professional career (minus 4 years of service in the military during WWII) to the same firm in La Crosse (at this time known as Hale, Skemp, Hanson, Skemp & Sleik)

Grace was born and raised in Petersburg, VA. She attended the Richmond Division of the College of William & Mary. As a student teacher in Newport News, VA, in 1943, Grace was introduced to a tall, kind Army Lieutenant from Wisconsin named Ernest O. Hanson who was stationed at Ft. Monroe. It was the beginning of a lifelong love story that lasted 68 years. Grace and Ernest married on October 16, 1943, at Ft. Monroe. Ernest left the Army and moved with Grace to La Crosse in 1946 where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Ernest and Grace Hanson were very involved members of the community. Grace volunteered in church and community activities while supporting Ernest through his 65-year law practice.

Ernie passed away in 2011 at the age of 95. Grace passed in 2018, also at the age of 95.


Ernie appreciated everything that the people at UWL did for him and he decided to give back. This endowed scholarship will support students with financial need pursuing a law degree.

UWL is grateful for the Hanson legacy.