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UW Profiles

ASUW's 100th Anniversary


Nobody is smiling in the only known photograph of the inaugural leadership team of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW).

Maybe they would have smiled if they knew what they had started.

One of the oldest student organizations in the United States, ASUW is commemorating its 100th anniversary as the voice of UW’s student population, a celebration that will include a reunion of student government alumni on Homecoming Saturday.

“ASUW was founded to improve student life at UW and we still stand by that mission today,” says ASUW Vice President Brett Kahler, a senior communications major from Casper. “The groundwork has been laid for the past 100 years for all of us. Now it’s our job to help lay the groundwork for the next 100 years.”

Since its first constitution was adopted in February 1913—ASUW’s first executive committee was composed of President Dorman T. Bennitt, Vice President James F. Davis and Secretary Ethel Pfeiffer, all of whom wore serious expressions in the black-and-white photo that Kahler found during his research for the centenary celebration—UW’s student government organization has built a storied history.

The pioneers of the university’s highly successful SafeRide program and UW’s intramural and club sports programs, ASUW also played a key role in the establishment of an Outdoor Program at the state’s lone four-year institution of higher education.

Most recently, ASUW led UW’s efforts to secure legislative support for major renovations to 87-year-old Half Acre Gym, a $15 million pledge that represents the largest single state contribution for an auxiliary building on UW’s campus in university history. Students will contribute an additional $12 million in student fees over the next 30 years.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means to serve on ASUW, let alone on the 100th anniversary. I think all of us feel honored and humbled at the same time,” says ASUW President Joel Defebaugh, a senior political science major from Casper. “Over the years, ASUW has built strong relationships with the administration, the Board of Trustees and the students, and I think each of those constituencies respect what we do. It’s awesome to have such a stake in what happens at this university.”

ASUW’s alumnus is as impressive as the organization’s achievements. The list includes former U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson; Wyoming Chief Justice Marilyn Kite; Scott Neu, vice president at Goldman Sachs; and Jason Thompson, director of diversity and inclusion for the United States Olympic Committee.

The current leaders of ASUW hope to see many of their predecessors this month. The one-day reunion will include the Homecoming Parade, a social hour, luncheon and tailgate party in the hours leading up to the Cowboys’ Oct. 13 football game against the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“We’ve invited every ASUW alum whose contact information we could find in our database, and our goal is to get them back on campus for a day,” Kahler says. “We sent out a lot of save-the-date cards. We’ve sent emails. And, now, we have our senators making phone calls to personally invite them.”

ASUW, which began with just nine students and alumni and faculty representatives, has grown to include 45 students across the group’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.

ASUW's inaugural leadership team

ASUW's inaugural leadership team.

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