Waukesha County Technical College celebrates 100 years of transformative education

Thought Leadership: Anniversaries

Waukesha County Technical College kicked off its 100th anniversary in January. Here the WCTC community welcomes the new mascot “Ollie.”
Waukesha County Technical College kicked off its 100th anniversary in January. Here the WCTC community welcomes the new mascot “Ollie.”

Throughout 2023, Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) will celebrate an important milestone in the College’s history: its 100th anniversary.

WCTC, one of 16 Colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System, has been a leader of workforce development and training for a century. The college has educated scores of students and contributes to the economy by providing skilled workers to fill critical roles within business and industry.

In 1923, Waukesha Vocational School was formed in the basement of Waukesha High School (now Les Paul Middle School). The high school principal doubled as part-time director, and the vocational school soon appointed a dedicated, full-time director, O.B. Lindholm, who also served as its first manual training instructor. 

The school would expand and relocate – from the high school basement in the 1920s, to a new space on Waukesha’s Maple Street in the 1930s, to a sprawling campus on 110 acres of farmland in Pewaukee in the 1970s. It would also experience multiple name changes, among them Lindholm Vocational and Adult School, Waukesha Technical Institute and others.

The vocational school-turned-technical college’s beginnings were modest. In that first year, enrollment was just 443 students, but would rapidly increase; today, enrollment sits at more than 17,000 students annually. 

In those early years, the school’s offerings were limited. Courses were available in the trades, general education, home economics and basic subjects. In the early 1940s, during the War, there was a great need for more highly skilled engineers, technologists and craftspeople, and the school responded by adding a variety of new courses. The first one-year and two-year programs were offered in 1961 and 1962, respectively, and the school held its first formal graduation ceremony in 1964. 

Starting in the 1960s the school sought advice from working professionals to help develop new programs, and occupational advisory committees were formed. The 1970s and 1980s saw the development of more partnerships and customized training opportunities, and the 1990s and 2000s ushered in an era of increased collaboration with K-12 districts and expanded high school dual credit opportunities. 

A century after its humble start, WCTC boasts 170-plus areas of study that lead to certificates, technical diplomas, apprenticeships and associate degrees. More than 1,400 industry professionals serve on advisory committees today, and tens of thousands of students are honored to call themselves WCTC graduates.

Richard G. Barnhouse, Ph.D., president of WCTC since January 2021, said he is grateful to all who have had a hand in the college’s success — including students, faculty and staff, community members, legislators, business and industry partners, and others – and he’s looking forward to WCTC’s bright future.  

“As we look back, we are grateful for so many accomplishments, victories, and the growth and development of a college that has been at the forefront of higher education for an entire century,” he said. “As we complete our first century of educational excellence, we are shifting quickly to ensure the foundation for our second century is built to excel.”

Learn more about WCTC’s centennial at www.wctc.edu/100

Waukesha County Technical College
800 Main Street
Pewaukee, WI 53072