Home Madison Fannie Hicklin, UW-W’s First Black Professor, Dies at 101

Fannie Hicklin, UW-W’s First Black Professor, Dies at 101


Fannie Hicklin, the fierce and beloved theater professor who became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s first African American faculty member and who left a creative legacy that both transformed and transcended campus, has died at the age of 101, according to a press release from UW-W.

Hicklin, who earned her doctoral degree at UW-Madison, died Friday at her home in Madison, according to the release.

“It’s difficult for any of us to imagine a world without Fannie Hicklin,” said Chancellor Emeritus Richard Telfer said in a statement. “She was clearly devoted to UW-Whitewater, not just in her time on the faculty, but even in retirement. From her attendance at theater productions, to participating in scholarship fundraisers, to helping guide the College of Arts and Communication forward as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board — she gave of herself in countless ways.”

At a State Historical Society event to celebrate her 100th birthday last year, Hicklin said she didn’t encounter any discrimination from the administration at UW-Whitewater.

“Not once did I feel any type of discrimination by faculty, staff or student’s parents,” she said. “I never thought about being the first black professor there because I was treated like anybody else.”

Hicklin was a professor of theater at UW-W from 1964 to 1988. She later became the first Black professor of the State Historical Society.

“There’s often a great burden placed on people who are blazing a trail,” said Eileen M. Hayes, dean of the College of Arts and Communication in a statement. “The fact that she was the first African American faculty member means a great deal to successive faculty of color,” said Hayes. “It’s a great reassurance when members of your group have gone before you so that you aren’t ‘the first.’”

Whether in the classroom or on the stage, students deeply respected Hicklin and the professional discipline she tried to instill in them.

“She was firm, but always caring,” said alumna Leslie LaMuro, who earned a B.A. in theatre, according to the release. “I remember she had superb diction and wanted the same for her students. Breathing exercises and keeping the body in shape were part of our training. She encouraged us to be good listeners — to be in the moment.”

In 1996, UW-Whitewater renamed one of its performance spaces the Hicklin Studio Theater in her honor.

Burial will be held privately, according to an obituary. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to 1st Congregational Church, UCC, or to the Dr. Fannie Frazier Hicklin Theatre Scholarship, through the UW-Whitewater Foundation.

A memorial service will take place in the spring.