Returning to campus with honor

Alumnus Ed Ganske

Ed Ganske, ’41, came back to campus this September to visit UW-L’s tribute to veterans.

Alumnus Ed Ganske, ’41, looked out from a suite atop the new UW-L stadium. He remembered the repetitious football drills he performed about 70 years ago out on the field. He remembered the glory of leading his team as captain in the 1941 Homecoming football game against UW-Superior. 

The game of football hasn’t changed much, he says. The 94 year old still talks football strategy with his grandson, a coach at Eau Claire Memorial High School. But this campus — the place where he played it — looks a lot different. Ganske attended UW-L when it was called La Crosse State Teachers College. He majored in physical education and coaching — an educational path that led to athletics and coaching throughout his life.

With the building of the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex and Veterans Memorial Stadium Hall of Honor, it seemed like the right time to come back to campus, explained Ganske’s son Larry, ’77. The two visited UW-L’s tribute to veterans on Sept. 16 and then took the Freedom Honor Flight to visit memorials to veterans in Washington, D.C. the next day. It was an emotional trip — one in which his father would be recognized for his years of service, explained Larry.

Ganske was drafted in July of 1941, right after graduated from La Crosse State Teachers College. After basic training, he led calisthenics on a ship full of GIs traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to an airfield in England. There he loaded oxygen units on B-17 Bombers, was one of the athletic directors on base and helped facilitate the intermural sports program. In 1945, Ganske came back to the campus and met with Walter Wittich, director of Physical Education, who helped him land his first teaching and coaching job in New Mexico. He eventually moved back to northwest Wisconsin where he taught and coached for the rest of his career.

UW-L’s Veterans Hall of Honor:

UW-L’s Veterans Hall of Honor, located inside the entrance of the stadium, was dedicated in Sept. 2009. Inside the Hall of Honor, TV monitors play a slideshow of war experiences, including the stories of local veterans. A smaller replica of the “Three Soldiers” sculpture at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is on display. It is estimated that, to date, $750,000 raised from private gifts has been allocated for construction, finishing, technology and ongoing operations for the Veterans Hall of Honor, says Natalie Olsen, UW-L Foundation Program Associate. 

Check out this video, “Stories from the War”

This award-winning program documents touching stories about World War II that relate to UW-L. Through personal stories, actual film and still imagery from the time, a story is woven that illustrates how the war affected students, faculty, and families. A special segment features actual letters from Mrytle Trowbridge, former history professor, and how that correspondence lifted the moral of students who left to serve their country. The program was written, shot and directed by Jim A. Jorstad and narrated by Dick Ervasti.