As campus ushered in a new century, Ann Lydecker, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bridgewater (Mass.) State University (formerly Bridgewater State College), was selected as the university's first woman chancellor. Known as the "students' chancellor," for frequently engaging students with a big smile and earnest conversation, Lydecker set out to make the campus an even stronger social and economic force in western Wisconsin.
During her tenure the School of Business and Economics was expanded to become the College of Business and Economics, featuring a unique master's of management program. The university continued extensive outreach to business and industry through a series of forums on the economic development issues affecting the St. Croix River Valley. In addition, dean's positions were created to attract nationally recognized experts to the College of Business and Economics and to Outreach and Graduate Studies.
This era also saw the Board of Regents approval of plans for a new student center and residence hall. Lydecker's influence saw the construction of a new child care center that would house the operation being displaced by the construction of the new student center. Despite a spurt of campus construction this era saw heavy cuts to operating budgets in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which affected the national economy. Class sizes increased somewhat and hiring freezes occured for a period of time.
Also during this time, UW-RF received the Wisconsin Educational Diversity Award. "I firmly believe that our higher education institutions can and must play a significant role in preparing people of color, women, and persons with disabilities for career and life success in our 21st century world," said Chancellor Lydecker in accepting the award.
Dr. Lydecker died in a car accident south of River Falls on March 25, 2004. She was married to William Lydecker and survived by four grown sons.