UW alumnus helped establish Veterans Day
MADISON, Wis. — Everyone knows Veterans Day is set aside to honor those who serve in the U.S. military, but few know how it started.
UW alumnus Harvey Higley helped establish Veterans Day, the holiday formally known as Armistice Day. Under the original name, Nov. 11 marked the end of World War I, but Higley wanted the honor to extend to those who have fought in every war.
“He made it his mission to make sure veterans were taken care of and to make sure they were honored,” said Tod Pritchard, Director, Media and Public Relations Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association
“He felt there was a contract between the country and those heroes that serve us and he wanted to make sure they were treated with respect and honored and they got the benefits they deserved,” he said.
The 1915 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison put his chemical engineering degree to use during World War I. He worked on war-gas problems, first in the Bureau of Mines and later in the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service.
Higley’s passion for veterans later took him to Washington where, in 1953 he became administrator of veterans affairs under President Dwight Eisenhower. He was later commissioned as a lieutenant.
Despite his accomplishments, he was just known as dad to his now 94-year-old daughter, Joyce Higley Bauman.
” I thought he was perfect,” Bauman said. “He was a wonderful father, as well as all the things he was involved in, he was very community-minded.”
Higley served in Eisenhower’s cabinet and helped work on policy during both World War II and the Korean War. Higley worked with U.S. Rep. Ed Rees of Kansas to pass a bill that changed the name of Armistice Day. In 1954, Eisenhower signed the declaration to change the name of the holiday.
While his time in Washington was rarely talked about among the family, Joyce is proud her dad was the man who paved the way for a country to remember all those who served.
He also served as the state and local commander of the American Legion and is the former president of the Ansul Corp., a company that manufactures fire extinguishers in Marinette County.
Higley and other profiles of UW-Madison alumni are featured in Thank You, 72. The project honors alumni from every county in Wisconsin.
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