Did You Know?
Student handbooks from the 1940s included this warning: "Every student must carry a corridor pass while in the halls. Certain class officers are permitted to pass through the halls when they wear their student council badges."
Director William F. Rasche (who served from 1940-1958) was born in Milwaukee in 1888. He became director of the Cudahy Vocational School in 1916 and taught at the Milwaukee Vocational School from 1922-1926.
More faculty and staff were hired to accommodate the surge in enrollment. Many new employees who began with the fall 1946 semester would become longtime faculty members and administrative leaders.
During the 1946-47 academic year, Milwaukee Vocational and Adult Schools had the state's third largest veteran enrollment – 3,600 World War II veterans.
Following World War II, Milwaukee Vocational and Adult School experienced significant enrollment gains as thousands of returning servicemen searched for jobs. In 1946, the school's junior college/occupational program enrollment reached 17,000.
From July 1940 through January 1945, MVS trained 34,103 workers for war industries.
Seventy-six MATC students lost their lives in World War II, including William Rasche, Jr., the son of Director (President) William F. Rasche.
Many MATC students supported the World War II effort on the home front. They volunteered for war bond and stamp sales, victory gardening, plane spotting, blood donating, and as volunteer firefighters
During World War II, MATC often operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week for defense training. Women enrolled in machine shops, welding and other technical classes to replace the men who were serving in the military.
Director (president) William F. Rasche offered this warning in the school newspaper during the height of WWII defense training: "Because of the many students attending defense classes, conditions have made the school an enemy military objective."
Soon after the U.S. entered World War II, the Milwaukee Vocational School focused on solider skills and defense worker training, including welding, diesel engineering, war-specific manufacturing, firearms training, Morse code, signal corps training, first aid, civilian preparedness and more.
Evening School enrollment surpassed the day school for the first time in 1940-41. Total enrollment was 29,863, with 16,855 in the Evening School.
The school was closed on May 22, 1944, to honor the memory of Robert L. Cooley. School flags and the flag on City Hall were flown at half-staff.
A "Cooley connection" remains at MATC. Robert Cooley's grand niece Cathy Cooley-Lechmaier is the Student Affairs coordinator at the Oak Creek Campus. Cathy has been an MATC employee for more than 30 years and is a graduate of the college.
Robert L. Cooley remains the longest serving president of the college. He served for 28 years (1912-40), 10 years longer than the next longest serving leader, his successor, William F. Rasche.
In an early student group, the National Recovery Act Club, members discussed the news and initiatives of President Roosevelt.
The Vocational Junior College was established in 1934 to give high school graduates who could not afford university/college tuition an opportunity to continue their education.
The Milwaukee Vocational School became the Milwaukee Vocational and Adult School in 1934.
Throughout the 1930s, "Service Rooms," separate facilities for male and female students, were available for "first aid" to clothing. Garments could be washed, cleaned, pressed and mended with special attention given to students applying for jobs.
During the 1929-30 school year, total enrollment was 20,582 – 10,804 female and 9,778 male students.
Among the school's course offerings in 1929: Cartooning and Newspaper Art, Paperhanging, Radio Construction, Storage Battery Maintenance, Candle Dipping, Basketry, Citizenship and English for Foreigners.
Robert L. Cooley was fond of using epigrams, dubbed "Cooleygrams." Among them: "Count the day lost in which a teacher fails to change a student's thinking."
Gym class for female students in the 1920s included popular "fitness games" of the era: "Mother Carey's Chickens," "Catch the Cane" and "Roman Soldiers."
When female students requested their own football team, MVS Principal William Sieker responded, "We question the advisability of girls undertaking anything as strenuous as football."
Milwaukee Vocational School fielded a football team (the MVS Purple and Gold) in the late 1920s.
Milwaukee Vocational School served many 16- to 18-year-old working students. This allowed students to learn classroom skills one day each week and apply what they learned on the job the rest of the week – an early apprenticeship model.
The Continuation School became Milwaukee Vocational School in 1923, the second of six names that would ultimately become Milwaukee Area Technical College.
A popular program for working boys ages 16-18 was Meat Marketing. Students would attend class one day per week and work in neighborhood butcher shops or meat packing plants the remainder of the week.
Early Continuation School programs included Domestic Service, Newspaper Art, Mechanical Dentistry, Radio Construction, Citizenship, Welding, Baking, Meat Marketing, Sewing and Shoe Making. It was a "teaching by doing" philosophy that remains an MATC hallmark.
The total construction cost of both phases of the Downtown Milwaukee's Campus Main Building was $3.75 million.
The second and final construction phase of the Main Building on the Downtown Milwaukee Campus was completed in 1928. Today's Main Building exterior looks much as it did in 1928, except for the connecting skywalks.
The first phase of construction of MATC's current Main Building was completed 1920. Only female students attended classes in the building for its first three years. Male students moved from the Stroh Building in 1924.
From 1912-1919, the Milwaukee Continuation School's female-only campus was located on one floor of the Manufacturers' Home Building (currently City Square Apartments, 104 E. Mason St.) and the male-only campus was in the Stroh Building (525 E. Michigan St.).
For its first eight years, Milwaukee Continuation School rented space in two downtown Milwaukee buildings – one for males and one for females.
Cooley Theater, on the second floor of MATC's Main Building on the Downtown Milwaukee Campus, is named for Robert L. Cooley.
Both boys and girls were taught English, Citizenship and Arithmetic. Boys' subjects included shop terms, safety and drafting. Girls' subjects included art, sewing and food preparation.
Enrollment in the first year was 2,243 – 904 boys and 1,244 girls, plus 95 apprentice students.
In the Milwaukee Continuation School's infancy, Robert L. Cooley's office was on the eighth floor of City Hall.
In 1912, Robert L. Cooley's stated vision for the Milwaukee Continuation School centered on educating "the whole person," providing young people an opportunity to be "trained for jobs which would provide a decent standard of living."
The Continuation School's first director (president) was Robert Lawrence Cooley, a native of Waubeka, Wisconsin, in Ozaukee County (just west of Fredonia on Highway H).
The City of Milwaukee's original appropriation to Milwaukee Continuation School in 1912 was $5,000.
The Milwaukee Continuation School opened November 12, 1912, with the first of six names of the institution. The first school year ended in June 1913.
The Wisconsin legislature established what would become MATC and the Wisconsin Technical College System in 1911. It passed a law – the first of its kind in the U.S. – requiring all minors employed in industry to attend "continuation or vocational school" one-half day each week.
Charles R. McCarthy is recognized as the "Father of the Wisconsin Technical College System." In the early 1900s he championed the idea of a school that would provide job skills training for young people, especially those who worked as unskilled laborers.