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Join us Friday, May 2nd, 2014 from Noon – 1pm



Join Oscar in the Cudahy Student Center for a Birthday Cupcake!

When? Friday, May 2nd from Noon – 1pm (or until cupcakes are gone)

Where? Cudahy Student Center (3rd floor)

What? Free Birthday Cupcakes (while they last)

Why? We are celebrating the birthday of MSOE's founder! 

Bonus #1? Bring a camera and have your photo taken with Oscar!

Bonus #2? Enter to WIN some cool prizes!


* Want to know more about Oscar Werwath? 

REPRINTED FROM THE INGENIUM (MSOE’s former Campus Newspaper) on 9-4-97.


Oscar Werwath organized the School of Engineering of Milwaukee in 1903. Werwath was a practicing engineer who graduated from European technical schools in the late 19th century. He was the first person to plan an American educational institution based on an applications-oriented curriculum.  He modeled MSOE after a German educational system of higher learning with an emphasis on laboratory experience and interaction with local industry.


May 3, 1880 was just the start of a sixty-eight year life for Oscar Werwath. An idea, an opportunity, and this man's talent brought about the rise to an educational system that would be the forerunner of the current technical education system in North America. To think that a fall when he was young could impact his life so much.

A serious spinal injury while training horses at the age of nine focused Oscar's interests on medicine. This interest gradually widened to include science and in particular the newly developing fields of electricity and mechanics.

With diplomas in electrical and mechanical technology, Oscar turned to a formal higher education at advanced technical schools in Darmstadt and Hanover. At these schools he achieved recognized status as an electrical and mechanical engineer.

His father, a prominent importer and exporter, operating the community's largest general store, offered him a trip around the world as his next step in practical experience. In 1903, Oscar left his home in East Prussia, Germany, and headed to the new world. During his stay with his cousin in Milwaukee, he was introduced to Louis Allis. He began working for Louis as a designer and later as a consulting engineer for the Mechanical Appliance Company, predecessor of the present Louis Allis Company.

Werwath's work attracted the attention of engineers and apprentices who wished to learn how he achieved his accomplishments. They were invited to his bachelor quarters to informally discuss the uses and problems of electricity. It was during these discussions that Oscar realized that there were not enough men with adequate technical training and purposeful education in the mechanical and electrical fields to meet industry needs. Upon recalling his reception at Mittweida Technikum when he returned as an alumnus to lecture, that he possessed the born characteristics of a teacher.

With this in mind, in 1903, he persuaded the president of Reute's Business College on Sixth and Chestnut (Juneau) to let him use some of their facilities to teach a course in practical electricity. After recruiting a number of students he began a series of evening class instructions in German from his college notes.

Over the next two years the pressures of expansion and competition within the business college necessitated a move. With the help of $500 from Louis Allis the School of Engineering was formally established at 1025 West Winnebago Street in 1905. The school was a rented building that included two store fronts and apartments above them in which he lived. Oscar then built a machine shop and mechanical laboratories in the basement and turned the first floor into classrooms, electrical, physics, and chemistry laboratories.

The program of practical technical training had developed so far that by 1908 that the students were making their own designs and drawings of equipment that they later built in the School's shops. It was around 1908 that the School began to offer day sessions in addition to the evening ones, and athletics were encouraged. Report cards were given each month and a minimum grade of 75 was required for passing.

The School which combined learning, theory, and practice to make skilled mechanics, technicians, and engineers of the unskilled and the apprenticed was gaining recognition. With the enrollment reaching almost 250, the School expanded its quarters to the Stroh Building at Michigan and Jackson in 1911.

In 1932, during the Great Depression, the School changed from a proprietary institution to a nonstock, nonprofit corporation under a State of Wisconsin charter. The School would be governed by the Board of Regents and be known as the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

MSOE continued to expand in student enrollment and types of degrees offered, even making it through the toils of war. During the World War II many of the students went off to war and the faculty went to work in war production plants. The School put its academic and laboratory facilities to work in training war production workers for private industry.

It withstood the war and the depression, but could MSOE withstand the death of its founder, principal, president, and guiding spirit for almost 45 years? Mr. Oscar Werwath died on March 20, 1948. In his tribute to Mr. Werwath, William George Bruce commented, "The beginning of his project was a meager one. The number of students was small, the equipment at his command was limited. The basic strength was centered in his enthusiasm, his adherence to an ideal and his persistency and untiring energy in striving toward his goal. . . The one time small school gradually grew to the dignity of an educational institution whose student constituency was drawn from all parts of the civilized world. . . The founder of the institution had built better than he had contemplated. But he lived long enough to witness the structure he had created, the success he had obtained, and the legacy he would leave for the benefit of mankind."

The Board of Regents elected his son, Karl O. Werwath, to succeed his father as president of the school. The school continued to prosper and grow under his son's direction.


by Debbie Adler
Opinions Writer 



  • May 2, 2014 12:00 PM - May 2, 2014 1:00 PM CDT (America/Chicago)


  • Cudahy Student Center (3rd Floor), 1025 N Broadway Street, Milwaukee
  • United States

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