George Gilkey

George Gilkey

Murphy Library Staff established this scholarship in 2014 to honor the generosity of George Gilkey, UW-La Crosse professor emeritus in history. Dr. Gilkey began his teaching career in 1954 at what was then the Wisconsin State College-La Crosse and served as chair of the History Department from 1960-1970. In 1985, he was the faculty sponsor instrumental in the creation of the Area Research Center within Murphy Library Special Collections. In honor of his many contributions to Murphy Library, he received the Eugene W. Murphy Library Special Recognition Award in 1988.

George Gilkey died on February 9, 2010. He was 91. Gilkey and others built the history department from about eight members to more than 20, engineering a world history program. He was an original architect of the first general education program, an expert on Italian history and a master of the Italian language. Dr. Gilkey encouraged department colleagues to serve many aspects of the university; His­tory Department members and colleagues in the English Department founded the Office of Minority Student Services and Department of Ethnic and Racial Studies. And they assisted with developing women ‘s studies as a concen­tration, and ultimately; a department. Professor Emeritus Jim Parker, hired by the History Department in 1968, recalls Gilkey as “an advocate of democracy in its best sense; pragmatic collaborator of faculty; staff and administrators; and a mentor to younger faculty;” Parker attributes Gilkey’s work with Vice Chancellor Emeritus Carl Wimberly and former Geography Professor Jerry Culver for assisting in the transition from an autocratic to a democratic institution.


In his final act of generosity to Murphy Library, Dr. Gilkey made a bequest to Special Collections that is the largest single donation ever made to Special Collections. With that bequest, plus additional funding from the Murphy Library Endowment Fund, the George Gilkey – Special Collections Research Scholarship Fund was established honoring the student who wrote the best paper using primary materials found in the Special Collections and Area Research Center and/or the Murphy Library Digital Collections.