Celebrating Madison College’s 110 Years of Service: Constant Evolution


Dr. Jack Daniels III, president of Madison College, has led the college through expansion and the COVID-19 pandemic and is leading the college into full recovery as it emerges from the pandemic

Part 2 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Madison College has its roots in the founding of the Madison Continuation School in 1912 with a mission to provide vocational education to high school drop-0uts and quickly expanded its services to adults and Jewish and Italian immigrants to learn citizenship and homemaking skills. And it has been evolving, changing with the times and the community needs ever since. It moved to its historic downtown Madison location next to Central High School and changed its name to Madison Vocational School.

“They had the relationship with the high school,” said Dr. Jack Daniels III, president of Madison College. “That really blossomed. And they were sharing that facility for a long time. As things evolved, so did the college. I think it was in the mid to late 1960s, the college started to offer transfer programs. That was in addition to the technical skill training and trade training that they were doing. And then in 1986, they moved to Truax to continue along that path, serving that need in many of our communities and for the employers to have a qualified workforce. And that continued through the years.”

And due to its close proximity to the UW-Madison campus, just blocks away, a synergy also began to develop between the academic institutions.

“Many of those students way back then, years ago in the 1940s-1960s, were taking classes at Madison College as well as taking classes at UW-Madison,” Daniels said. “An interesting fact is that the symphony used to practice in the basement of our downtown campus. That went back years. Long before the Overture was built, there were other places where that happened. Once the Overture was built, then they moved their practices over there. But we had a long-standing relationship with the symphony.”

One giant leap forward for Madison College was the passing of a $133.7 million building referendum, which made it into a 21st century institution of higher education.

“The referendum that was passed ten years ago really helped us reframe our facility,” Daniels emphasized. “At the same time, it provided the state-of-the-art equipment and buildings that students needed so that they could gain employment.”

Daniels noted that for the most part, while the demographics and other characteristics of the students have evolved, some of the basic characteristics of the average student has remained relatively constant.

“Students have become a bit different in what you would have 50-70 years ago,” Daniels said. “The students are looking for those positions that are going to give them satisfaction and increase their quality of life. We also recognize that many of our students average 27-years-old. I don’t think that has changed a lot. We see some change in that now, not a huge amount, but there is a

Some of that change has been fueled by the MMSD-Madison College Early College STEM Academy that admits selected junior high school students to dual enrollment at the college.

“The Early College STEM Academy students have done extremely well, especially when you have a good number of students who get their associate’s degree at the same time they get their high school diploma,” Daniels said. “It puts them in a junior status at any four-year institution. The students have been excellent. When we started this two years ago, it wasn’t to take the cream of the crop. It takes a lot of students who are not the cream, but they have shown the potential and being able to harness that potential as they move forward. When we started, we focused on students of color and women. That focus has been there.”

Next issue: The elements of change