Warren J. Brier, 1850-1928, was born in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He attended high school there and later taught and served as both a principal and superintendent of public schools. In 1889 he joined the faculty of River Falls Normal as a professor of reading and literature. Elevated to the position of president on the same day that the rebuilt normal school building was dedicated, Brier was respected by most students and older faculty members. Younger faculty members were less enthusiastic about his “old school” leadership style. Brier’s personal philosophy stressed the close correlation between learning and morality, and he expected both students and faculty members to be models of exemplary deportment.
The Brier administration saw few changes in the curriculum of the normal, although departments of manual training and domestic science were added. Hard work was still the philosophy underlying the educational program. Student life, however, was undergoing some adjustments.
As more and more public schools began to adopt the nine-month year, it became more and more difficult for River Falls students to “stop out” for a quarter and teach long enough to pay for more normal school training. As a result, an increasing number of students began taking jobs in River Falls—chopping wood, doing housewor—to pay their expenses. Still, many students found time to take part in social activities outside the classroom.
There was a healthy rivalry among the classes. Class picnics, parties, and excursions gave rise to class yells, poems, and songs. A lecture program brought in some distinguished speakers and the proximity to the Twin Cities meant access to museums, concerts, and on one occasion the opportunity to shake hands with President William McKinley.
Athletic teams continued to grow in popularity and success. Football, however, saw its demise during the Brier administration. The immediate cause was a fracas between students of the normal school and River Falls High School. After a game at the high school, a mob assembled at the Maple Street bridge and a fight broke out. One of the normal students was thrown from the bridge into the river. Brier blamed the entire affair on football and informed students, “You can blame it on yourselves if you want to, but that’s all of that game.”