Updated on February 5th, 2024 at 08:51 pm

Lawrence University was founded in 1847 as a seminary to train Congregationalist teachers by the Rev. John Lathrop and Nathaniel Lawrence. 

The school gained university status in 1850 but that was short-lived as it closed from 1861 to 1863 during the American Civil War due to a low number of students joining the army and a lack of financial support from Northern states that were affected by the war. 

Student at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI on phone

The school reopened in 1865 after Lawrence’s passing with John W. Sterling as its first President who served until 1874.

Lawrence University is a co-educational institution with a student population of 1,000. Tuition is high with the total cost of attendance (including tuition, room and board) at $63,585 per year. The school has a student-teacher ratio of 8:1 and an average class size of 17 students. 

Academic offerings include 33 majors, 40 minors, and 21 concentrations. The university’s campus is situated in a small community that has many amenities close by including medical facilities, restaurants, shops and parks.

The school is located in Appleton, Wisconsin on 360-acre campus around 20 miles from Green Bay. Lawrence offers nine men’s sports teams (football, swimming, soccer, basketball, fencing, track and field, tennis, ice hockey and baseball) and eight women’s sports teams (soccer, basketball, track and field, softball, fencing, tennis, volleyball and swimming and diving).

Lawrence Conservatory of Music is  housed in an ornate building that was designed by Gurdon P. Randall and opens up into the main campus area. The school holds concerts throughout the year given by world-renowned artists.

In this fast-paced world we live in, perfect fundamental musicianship must be complemented by intellectual agility, cross-disciplinary problem solving, innovative thinking, and entrepreneurial spirit. Lawrence U is ideally positioned as a world-class conservatory within a world-class liberal arts university to provide the full music education necessary for the 21st century as a global conservationist.


Traditions at Lawrence University

The university has a series of traditions including: Zug, a type of swine kept by students which is fed food left over from student meals; Senior Pub, when senior students join together in the university pub to celebrate their last year of college; and a climbing wall outside the library which is used by students.

Other traditions include:

Ye Dormition Faire: held in Dornblaser Field House, this is a music festival for students where all of the groups in the Conservatory gather to play.

The Big Event: every year, faculty members submit ideas for games or entertainment which are made into elaborate performances that are organized by student leaders and held in the gym.

The Carnival of Lights: this is a live performance of music and dance that raises money for charities chosen by members of the community.

Planetarium Show: Lawrence’s planetarium has star shows every Friday night that are free to attend.

Quidditch Club: based on the game featured in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the club plays every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 pm in Memorial Lawn and welcomes any and all beginners to join.

Harvest Festival: this is a weekend of food, music and dance that raises money for the school’s scholarship fund.

Other events include Science Saturday, a festival of music and dance, Pajama Day, a day where the campus is open to children 12 and under, and Yukigassen: a snowball fighting competition.

Lawrence University also puts on a show every semester called Terrace Shorts which features scenes from student-written short plays. All productions are held in Terrace Theater and are open for anyone to come and watch.

Since 2010, Lawrence University has celebrated Appleton Month. This month-long celebration of the city includes movies on Terrace Lawn as well as other events such as pie eating contests, apple bobbing and many more family friendly activities.


Lawrence University has been ranked 10th in the Midwest Regional Universities category and ranked 61st overall nationally according to the “U.S. News & World Report” for 2019. The school has also been ranked 9th for veterans among liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

Interested in learning more about Appleton, WI?  Be sure to check out the Appleton trail guide which we published recently.