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Carroll University Historic District Walking Tour
Item 3 of 12
Recognizing two of Carroll University's greatest--if little known--financial supporters, Voorhees Hall certainly lives up to the Voorhees' commitment to the education of women. Originally a women's dorm, this building quickly became premier destination for a long-time courting tradition among student couples. Today, other important, albeit less romantic rituals are performed at Voorhees Hall. Visiting high schoolers shake hands with admission counselors while parents wait nervously in the lobby. Students stop by to request graduation audits, pay tuition bills, and--if they're lucky--pet the Gnadingers' puppy.

  • Postcard of Voorhees Dormitory
  • Students outside Voorhees Hall in 1936
  • Voorhees Hall
  • obituary of Ralph Voorhees in (April 5, 1907)

Voorhees Hall is named for New Jersey philanthropists Ralph and Elizabeth Voorhees. The couple was committed to increasing opportunities women in higher education, and had endowed Rutgers, Coe College and several other institutions. They probably learned about Carroll from their Basking Ridge NJ pastor, who was Walter Rankin's father. Over a number of years, the Voorhees family donated nearly $200,000 (over $5.3 million in 2019 dollars) to Carroll, including $100,000 for the construction of Elizabeth Voorhees Dormitory for Women, which was constructed in 1906. Unfortunately, the Voorhees family never came to Waukesha to see the impact of their generosity

As a women's dormitory, Voorhees Hall was for many years a meeting ground for couples at Carroll. Men gave their fraternity pins to their sweethearts on the front porch, a rite many students considered as almost as meaningful as a marriage proposal. The young woman stood on the porch, her sorority sisters lined up behind her, while the suitor's fraternity gathered on the lawn. Everyone sang love songs for the couple. Then the man finished the ceremony by giving his amoure a bouquet of roses and a kiss. These rose petals were then spread on the girl’s bed. Sleeping on them that night, she presumably dreamed of romantic occasions to come.

The tradition persisted for more than half a century, until in 1966, Voorhees was converted for adminstrative use. To the despair of students, this meant moving the pinning ceremony to Bergstrom Hall, which lacked both the front porch and the lawn. Pinning at Carroll would never be the same.

“Ralph Voorhees [1835-1907]: College and University Philanthropist.” New Netherland Institute. New Netherland Research Center, last accessed Nov. 13, 2019.

Carroll Echo Publishers. Carroll Echo Vol. 14 No. 3 (Waukesha, WI), February 1906.

Fowler, Dorothy Ganfield. "Wisconsin's Carroll College." Waukesha Daily Freeman (Waukesha) January 30th 1946. Carroll Cenntennial Edition, 1-4.

Milwaukee Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), Oct. 17, 1966.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Postcard of Voorhees Dormitory (Front). Carroll History Collections, in the Carroll University Digital Collections, (accessed Nov. 10, 2019).

Unidentified Students Gathered Outside Voorhees Hall, 1936. Carroll History Collections, in the Carroll University Digital Collections, (accessed Nov. 10, 2019).

Voorhees Hall. Carroll History Collections, in the Carroll University Digital Collections, (accessed Nov. 10, 2019).

The New York Daily Tribune (online), April 5, 1907, p.7.