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A Dream Come To Life

For over four decades the Viennese Ball has been the highlight of the UW-Eau Claire and Eau Claire community calendars. Learn more about the Ball's inspiration and impact.

A Beautiful Vision

The Inaugural Viennese Ball at UW-Eau Claire was the vision and passion of community member Ada Bors.

In 1970, the Bors family moved to Boennigheim, Germany, where Adam joined the faculty of Schiller College. During that year abroad, Ada visited Berlin, Prague, Munich and Vienna and attended many operas and ballet performances at the Stuttgart Theatre.

“I believe the Viennese Ball idea started stirring in me while we were in Europe,” Ada said. “I remember being in a historic restaurant in Vienna where a small ensemble was playing Viennese waltz music by candlelight, and it was so beautiful.”

University Commitment

In 1973, Ada, then a community member of the University Symphony Orchestra, requested that fellow community member Barbara Pautz assist in composing a proposal to present a Viennese Ball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. They submitted this idea to Chancellor Leonard Haas in early December of that year. Dr. Rupert Hohmann, conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra, had already given his approval for such a proposal.

Viennese Ball 1980
Viennese Ball 1980

The event would feature the University Symphony Orchestra in the Southwoods Ballroom of W.R. Davies University Center, performing primarily waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss, Jr. The ball would provide an opportunity to welcome residents of the greater Eau Claire area, and beyond, to come to the campus for a major social occasion showcasing student musicians.

After considering the proposal, Chancellor Haas then invited administrative staff, along with Dr. Hohmann, to discuss the possibilities of hosting such an event. Johannes Dahle, director of University Centers, was asked to further explore the feasibility of scheduling a Viennese Ball in the spring of 1974.

Dominic Spera, director of Jazz Ensemble I, agreed to alternate with the University Symphony Orchestra by performing dance music from the Big Band Era.

A volunteer committee composed of area residents, UW-Eau Claire faculty/staff and students was organized.

Original Viennese Ball Committee Members

  • Ada Bors | community member (Co-Chair)
  • Barbara Pautz | community member (Co-Chair)
  • Valena Burke | faculty/staff
  • Hilda Carter | faculty/staff
  • Eileen Cohen | community member
  • Mary Lou (Weiss) Gabriel | community member
  • Sharon Heinz | community member
  • Lynn (Wolf) Kotecki | student
  • Shirley (Wright) Litchfield | faculty/staff
  • Linda (Booton) Olson | student
  • Sally Webb | faculty/staff

The Inaugural Ball

The ticket prices were $3 for adults and $2 for students. An attendance goal of 600 was set. Any monies remaining after the production expenses were met would be directed to music scholarships.

Viennese Ball 1979-80
Viennese Ball circa 1979-1980

In 1973 no alcoholic beverages were served on University of Wisconsin campuses. The Faculty Senate received a request from the Viennese Ball Committee that a new policy be established so that Austrian wines and beers could be available for purchase at the new event. After much discussion, the Faculty Senate under the leadership of Dr. Wilmer Pautz agreed to that change. The Board of Regents granted its approval soon thereafter.

Tortes and cakes donated by community and faculty/staff members were available for purchase. Viennese coffee accompanied these desserts.

And so it came together. From 8:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday, April 26, 1974, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire presented its first Viennese Ball with 668 in attendance. It was more than sold out. To the surprise of many, the proceeds reached a sum of $1,500. As planned, these monies were directed to Viennese Ball Music Scholarships.

More details concerning the Inaugural Ball

An Imperial Grand Plan

Viennese Ball Bosendorfer

May 8th, 1988 was a day of special celebration. On that date the magnificent Bösendorfer Imperial Grand Piano, Opus 39688, crafted in Vienna, Austria, was dedicated in Gantner Concert Hall. This brought to conclusion a fund-raising project that took ten years of drive and determination.

Special thanks go to the members of the Viennese Ball Committee, each of the "Key Contributors," Kimball International, and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation - they made this "Grand Plan" a reality. It is hoped that faculty, students and visiting musicians will use the Bösendorfer to enrich their musical expression as well as to bring enjoyment to audiences at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Bösendorfer Donors

Key Contributors
Key No. 1 (C) In recognition of James L. Chute (by Joseph & Mary Qusley)
Key No. 2 (C#) Ed & Beth Hicks
Key No. 3 (D) In memory of Margaret M. Whelihan (by Fritz von Schrader)
Key No. 5 (E) Dorellen & Leonard Haas
Key No. 7 (F#) First Wisconsin National Bank of Eau Claire (now U.S. Bank)
Key No. 8 (G) In memory of Alfred (Fritz) Schoknecht (by Carol & George Wos)
Key No. 9 (G#) In memory of Bernice W. Riley (by the Riley Family)
Key No. 10 (A) Jean & Fred Sirianni
Key No. 11 (A#) J.C. Penney of Eau Claire
Key No. 12 (B) In honor of Blake, Bradley and Tamara von Haden (by Bob & Penny von Haden)
Key No. 13 (C) In memory of Oliver Finseth (by the Charlotte Finseth Family)
Key No. 14 (C#) In memory of Grace Schute (by Adrien E. Schute)
Key No. 15 (D) Dr. & Mrs. M.T. Szatalowicz
Key No. 16 (D#) In recognition of Kristin, Elise & Trygve Gomsrud (by Jerry L. Gomsrud)
Key No. 17 (E) In loving memory of Fred Uecke (by Earl & Ruth Uecke)
Key No. 18 (F) In memory of Leo Duax (by Corinne Duax)
Key No. 19 (F#) In memory of Leo Duax (by The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States)
Key No. 21 (G#)  In memory of Thomas P.K. Lim (by Johng Lim)
Key No. 22 (A) Gary & Pat Bartlett
Key No. 23 (A#) In honor of Caldwell & Georgia Johnson (by Rupert Hohmann)
Key No. 24 (B) Robert & Judith Mickelson
Key No. 25 (C) Robert & Judith Mickelson (by Aid Association for Lutherans)
Key No. 26 (C#) In memory of Janice Oxley (by Kim Chard & Terry Oxley)
Key No. 27 (D) James & Dorothy Chmel
Key No. 28 (D#) Charles & Lucy Bauer
Key No. 29 (E) Marie & Bill Roll
Key No. 30 (F) In memory of Edith Schwahn Johnson (by David L.F. Duax)
Key No. 31 (F#) In memory of Minne T. Thompson (by former piano students)
Key No. 44 (G) In thanks for our gifts Jacob Andrew Gapko & Josef Henry Gapko (by Andrea & Laurie Gapko)
Key No. 46 (A) In memory of Beulah Dalton Smalley & James Conley Smalley (by Ada Smalley Bors)
Key No. 49 (C) Robert D. Popelka & Paula J. Stuettgen
Key No. 51 (D) Ada & Adam Bors
Key No. 52 (D#) In memory of Nancy Jo Pickett (by Elizabeth A. Pickett Kaufman, Lael J. Pickett, Michael J. Pickett & Kerry R. Pickett)
Key No. 53 (E) Gordon E. & Elizabeth A. Everson
Key No. 54 (F) In memory of Virginia Carley Gmeiner (by Conrad & Mary Ellen Hutterli, COnrad Jr., Gretchen, Fritz, Mary & Martha Hutterli)
Key No. 56 (G) In memory of Lilly van Spengen, Rooterdam, Holland (by Bernard & Patricia Duyfhuizen & Dr. G.M.J. Duyfhuizen)
Key No. 58 (A) The University Symphony Orchestra (by Rupert Hohmann)
Key No. 61 (C) Frederick & Candice Haug
Key No. 70 (A) Brian Conley Bors & Katherine Dalton Bors (by Ada Smalley Bors)
Group Key Donors

Key No. 4 (D#) | Alberti Group Key

Geraldine Wing

Ida Hinz

E.S. Welch

Land O'Lakes, Inc.

Annabelle C. Erickson

Mr. & Mrs. Caldwell Johnson

Key No. 6 (F) | Bach Group Key

Sylvia & Vernon Spaeth

Mabel & Esther Regli

Dave & Pat Nuesse

Robert & Dorthy Heidrich, State Farm Insurance

Robin J. Leary

Lanny N. Okonek

Mrs. Jean E. Graf

Ziggy's Vacuum

Kathleen & Mark Attermeier

Wayne & Pat Miller

Elizabeth L. Woods

Key No. 20 (G) | Chopin Group Key
Key No. 36 () | Beethoven Group Key
Key No. 67 (F#) | Johann Strauss, Jr. Group Key

A Tradition Continued

The Viennese Ball has greatly exceeded its origins, hosting more than 3,000 patrons on a two-night schedule. Ticket sales have generated more than $1.5 million for scholarships and awards. Austrian officials documented that UW-Eau Claire presents the largest Viennese Ball in the world outside of Vienna.

In 1986 an exchange program with Austria’s University of Graz was established with scholarship funds generated by the Viennese Ball.

The only time the Ball was not held was 1991 as the Davies Center was under renovation, 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, and it was held virtually in 2021.  

This success of the Viennese Ball is largely attributable to the scores of people, many of them volunteers, who have dedicated themselves to this project. Above all, its success is due to those first committee members who persevered and gave rise to a new venture. It is they who laid the foundation for the Annual Viennese Ball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

In Memoriam

Photo of Ada Smalley Bors - creator of Viennese Ball

The 40th Annual Viennese Ball was dedicated to Ada Smalley Bors, the event’s originator and creator. Ada coordinated the Viennese Ball through its silver anniversary in 1999.

Ada began her university studies in 1954 at Ohio University, where she majored in piano performance. She and Adam Bors were married in 1958, and in 1960 Ada earned her Master of Fine Arts degree. The Bors family moved to Eau Claire in 1967, and the following year Ada was invited to become a community member of the University Symphony Orchestra.

After much persuasion and with the help of a dedicated committee of volunteers, the first Viennese Ball was presented in 1974. That year Ada joined the University Centers staff, coordinating special events campuswide and directing a Viennese Ball that grew in attendance and stature each year. In 1982 Ada was awarded the Johann Strauss Medal from the Vienna Tourist Board, presented to her by the Secretary General of Austria. In 1987 the office of the mayor of Vienna presented her an award in the city hall in Vienna.

Viennese Ball Decoration of Honour in Gold

Ada led the Viennese Ball Committee’s successful campaign to obtain for the Univeristy a Bösendorfer Grand Imperial Piano, hand-crafted in Vienna. The Bösendorfer Imperial bearing the opus number 39688 was purchased in 1988 and made its debut at the 15th Annual Viennese Ball.

In 1995, Ada was awarded the Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria for bringing Austrian tradition and culture to the United States through the Viennese Ball. Ada retired from the University Centers staff in 1999, but she continued to support the Viennese Ball and the university until her death in March 2014.


Special Collections + Archives Reading Room

Viennese Ball Archives

UW-Eau Claire's McIntyre Library maintains the Viennese Ball Archives. These archives document the history of the Viennese Ball and are open to the public. Click below to see the contents and learn how to access the collection.

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