UW-Whitewater: Innovation Center to honor legacy of Johnson Controls founder

The man who founded one of Wisconsin’s largest companies will be honored at the Innovation Center at Whitewater University Technology Park at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18.

Warren S. Johnson, professor at Whitewater Normal School and founder of Johnson Controls, received a patent for the first electronic room thermostat in 1883.

The Innovation Center will honor his extraordinary spirit and contributions to technology and the community with a commemorative display.

“Innovation is not limited to one discipline. It has no boundaries,” said Denise Ehlen, director of Research and Sponsored Programs at UW-Whitewater. “Warren Johnson was an education professor with no engineering background. Yet, he had a passion for technology and was a creative thinker who started his own company.”

Ehlen said Johnson reflected the entrepreneurial spirit that the Innovation Center is trying to foster as an incubator for businesses.

The Innovation Center will also celebrate the grand opening of four laboratories and its recent LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“We wanted to make a statement that green sustainable buildings are important in our community,” said Kevin Brunner, Whitewater city manager. “We’ve built a really good building by saving energy, using recycled materials, and incorporating technology to be applied in other buildings in future.”

Brunner credited the people and organizations that helped make the Innovation Center possible, including the Whitewater University Technology Park Board, city of Whitewater, UW-Whitewater, architect Eppstein Uhen, AEI Affiliated Engineers, contractor JP Cullen & Sons, North American Mechanical, DeGarmo Plumbing, Rewald Electric, Freedom Fire Protection, and the UW-Whitewater Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization.