Ernie & Olive Gershon

Ernie & Olive Gershon

Ernie and Olive Gershon established the Ernest and Olive Gershon Scholarship Endowment Fund in 2000. Ernie and Olive both attended college in La Crosse. They were married at Holy Trinity Church in La Crosse on Aug. 19, 1940. Olive passed away in 2008 and Ernie passed in 2012.

Olive Dacey Gershon was born and raised in the La Crosse Area. She was a graduate of Central High School where she was on the honor roll all four years. She was active in student affairs and won membership in Circle “through distinguished leadership in scholarship and student activities … ”Olive graduated with honors at La Crosse State Teachers College in 1936. In college, she was active in student affairs, the scholastic honor fraternity, Kappa Delta Pi, Alpha Phi Pi Sorority, Foreign Affairs Club, History Club, Social Committee, Assembly Lecture Committee, Student Council, Racquet, College Radio Committee, Anniversary Pageant, Annual, Dramatics and Buskin Drama Club. She did advanced studies at Miami University and attended night classes in pottery at Indiana University. She gained many graduate credits by enrolling in travel courses at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse under the tutelage of Dr. Margaret Chew. As a first-, second- and third-grade teacher, she taught at an elementary school in Stoughton, Wis., and as a third-grade teacher at Longfellow, Washburn and Spence elementary schools in La Crosse. As a world traveler, she visited many countries on all continents except Antarctica. She shared with her students her memories, artifacts, and photographs resulting from these travels.
As a sportswoman, she played golf, winning a putting contest in Franklin, Ohio; was on a championship bowling team in a teachers’ league in Stoughton, Wis.; was on an archery team in La Crosse which won a city championship; and learned to water ski at age 50. She enjoyed camping, boating, and canoeing.
In her teachers’ union, the LAREA, she was active on the legislative committee, being chairman at one time and often traveling to Madison to deal with legislators about pension funds for teachers. Olive’s skill as a dressmaker enabled her to fashion clothes for herself and her daughter, Mary. Olive was active in the League of Women’s Voters, UW-La Crosse Campus Dames, Bridge Club, Book Club, and 20 Year Club. As a member of the Campus Dames at UW-La Crosse, she had been its president and was one of the founders of a bridge club.

Ernest J. Gershon was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 8, 1915. He graduated in physical education at the State Teachers College of La Crosse in 1937, received his PhM degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1940 and his P.E.D. at Indiana University in 1954. He also attended summer sessions at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, developing majors in education and English literature. At East Technical High School in Cleveland, Ohio, Gershon was active in gymnastics being a member of the Gym Captains Club. He was president of this club and was a member of the varsity gymnastics team which won City, District and State Championships. He was president of his homeroom. Outside of high school, Ernie was a member of the Germania Turnverein Gymnastic Society, the Sokol Prokrop Gymnastic Society which he helped restore and he became its instructor for the boys and girls classes, and a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Drama Club which presented plays and Minstrel Shows. He was president of the Young Men’s Sodality.

At the State Teachers College, Gershon was a four-year letterman in varsity gymnastics, was a member and president of the Buskin Drama Club, was a member of Beta Sigma Chi Fraternity, the college orchestra, and Alpha Psi Omega, national dramatic fraternity. He won the state title in humorous declamation. He was president of the senior class. Ernie was a teacher in Spooner, Wis., high school for two years, in Maple Park School, Middletown, Ohio, for three years, and UW-L for 36 years. One summer, he taught at the University of Washington Seattle.

He was in the Navy during World War II as an enlisted man in recruit training at Great Lakes, Physical Instructors School at Bainbridge, Maryland, Recognition School at Ohio State University, training recruits at Bainbridge, Md., and was promoted to Ensign to serve as an officer in recruit training at Camp Perry, Va., and on sea patrol duty off Balboa, Panama. He retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant. After World War II, Ernie worked as a northwest area circulation manager for the La Crosse Tribune from February through August in 1946. Here he hired boy carriers, edited a newspaper for Tribune carriers and organized carrier softball teams in Sparta and La Crosse.

At UW-L, Ernie was president of the local chapter of his teacher organization serving on many committees including The Wing Library Building Committee where he worked with the architect in designing the Audio-Visual Center and radio facility, the Cartwright Center Building Committee, the Mitchell Hall Building Committee and was a member of several faculty senates being chairman one year. He photographed varsity football games. He was voted teacher of the year by his students and by his professional organization, WAHPERD. Earlier, he served as president of this organization after editing its newsletter for several years. He received the Excellence Award from the College of HPER and was inducted into the Athletic Wall of Fame. He was chairman of the Wisconsin A.A.U. Gymnastic Committee and was a member of the National A.A.U. Gymnastic Committee. He was named Conference and District Gymnastic Coach of the Year. Together with Hans Reuter he wrote a book entitled, “A Prier of Apparatus Gymnastics.” He wrote several professional papers including two research papers which he delivered at an international physical education conference in Liege, Belgium. He also attended a conference in Gdansk, Poland.

Gershon studied violin in the Hruby Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. He played in the La Crosse State Teachers College Orchestra, the Miami University Symphony, the Middletown, Ohio, Symphony, the National Symphony of Panama during World War II, and The La Crosse Symphony. Other interests of Ernie’s over the years were archery, badminton, baseball and softball, bicycling, bowling, camping, canoeing, Chinese and crossword puzzles, collecting butterflies, stamps and knives, using computers, deer hunting, fishing, fly-tying, fly casting, figure skating, golf, Ham Radio, handball, harmonica playing, making walking sticks and cribbage boards, motorcycling, photography, pistol target shooting, racquetball, reading, repairing and restoring violins, restoring motorcycles, swimming, tennis, volleyball, water skiing, whittling, woodturning and woodcarving, and, as he would say, “loafing“.

In the city of La Crosse, he was a member of the UW-L faculty horseshoe pitching team which played in the league at Houska Park, a member of the community Camera Club, and a member of the La Crosse Community Recreation Committee which accomplished the removal of the fairgrounds and making the area available for recreation. He played in the La Crosse Symphony for many years, was an usher at the old St. Joseph Cathedral and was a member of the Riverland Amateur Radio Club, participation in the SKYWARN weather program as a spotter.


This endowment fund will support future educators in perpetuity. Dr. Gershon’s obituary stated that “The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse was his life. His students meant everything to him, each being a product of his love for physical education and his desire for growth.” This endowed fund will honor the legacy of Ernie and Olive Gershon.