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Revisiting the Breezedale of the 1940s

I was disappointed that I was not able to attend my fifty-year reunion in 1999. However, it provided me with the opportunity to rummage through my old college memorabilia. I ran across some of my old watercolor paintings done in the late ’40s. One in particular brought back old memories—the painting of the Elkins’ mansion, as it was called then. The unusual thing about the Elkins’ mansion was that it served as a men’s dormitory, and I had a bunk in the front living room (now the reception room) during my senior year in 1949.

I am sending the watercolor painting (below) for the alumni historical files. The particular view shown in the painting is of the solarium and portico. It appears, from recent photographs, that the solarium and portico were removed in the Breezedale restoration. I hate to think that that beautiful view of the Elkins’ mansion is now lost.

Breezedale watercolor

Watercolor of Breezedale painted in the late ’40s by Stephen Udvari ’49.

As for myself, I have been retired now for nineteen years. Although I received my degree in art education, I gave up teaching art after six years and went into educational administration.  New challenges always drew my interest. As principal of probation camp schools, vocational school, and Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall, my interests were in juvenile delinquency rehabilitation for nine years.

The University of Wisconsin, hearing of my successes with troubled and disadvantaged youth, offered me the opportunity to direct the academic and vocational programs at the Camp McCoy Men’s Urban Job Corps Center in Wisconsin. To improve reading and computational skills, a new, innovative approach was employed by teaming academic and vocational teachers in the same vocational setting—a process of learning in relationships. At the termination of the Office of Economic Opportunities contract, I conducted institutes and workshops for teachers and administrators on goal-oriented strategies in teaching the disadvantaged and culturally unique.  Later, I was assigned to direct the research, development, and evaluation component of the Rural Family Development (RFD) project—a three-year research and demonstration project to provide functionally illiterate adults with twenty-one motivational television programs, informational coping-skill strategies, and home tutorial study.

After the termination of the RFD project, I accepted the directorship of the Neenah Project at Neil Armstrong High School, which was based on the premise that education does not necessarily occur only in the classroom. Utilizing a variety of flexible-modular scheduling options in a core-based curriculum, the classroom was taken into the community, and the community was brought into the classroom.

After open-heart surgery with five bypasses and thirty-four years on the leading edge of educational innovation, I retired as superintendent of schools of a small district off the shores of Lake Superior.  Now, I paint watercolors.

Stephen Udvari ’49
Madison, Wis.

(Editor’s Note:  Stephen Udvari not only paints watercolors [after a thirty-year hiatus] but recently had a fifty-piece show in Madison. The letter above accompanied the painting that was reproduced on the back cover of this issue. Take a tour of Breezedale.)