UWM lights the Hoan Bridge to honor graduates

With this fall’s graduation gone virtual due to the coronavirus, UWM looked for new ways to congratulate December graduates. The university turned to Milwaukee’s newest and brightest attraction to honor students’ hard work: the Hoan Bridge, newly bedecked in thousands of LED lights.

The Hoan Bridge got an upgrade this fall. A classic structure spanning the mouth of the Milwaukee River, the bridge has become a symbol for the city. Now, this symbol is taking on a new look. Multicolored lights line the west side of the bridge to light it up from sunset to 2 a.m. every night.

For the past two years, Light the Hoan has raised funds to install 2,600 lightbulbs on the bridge to celebrate all things Milwaukee. Debuting in October of this year, the lightbulbs can be programmed to show a variety of colors and animations. The lights can also be synchronized to live music or programmed to celebrate external events, such as Brewers home runs, big plays at the Fiserv Forum, and now a message of congratulations to UWM’s graduates.

With cameras in hand and video drones in the sky, Light the Hoan and UWM’s media team captured the bridge as it was lit up in Panther gold on Dec. 2. The lights went through a series of animations and flashing colors.

Images of the bridge lighting will be included on UWM’s social media pages and in the virtual commencement this month.

Mary Baylor, director of multimedia at UWM, sees the light show as a way for the whole city to celebrate the graduates.

“UWM is such a huge part of Milwaukee that having this iconic bridge celebrate our graduates is really fitting,” Baylor said. “Even if it’s just briefly, to share that moment with graduates and let them know that there are so many people who are proud of them.”

The Light the Hoan project is more than just lights on a bridge, said Michael Hostad, co-founder of Light the Hoan. It’s a way to celebrate with and care for the people of Milwaukee, including its students.

“We want the bridge to be the heartbeat of Milwaukee,” Hostad said. “Whether it’s celebrating amazing UWM grads, the Bucks’ new jersey, or honoring the great work of a local community organization, we want to reflect how Milwaukee might be feeling at any given moment.”

Light the Hoan isn’t the only one way UWM will honor December graduates. The Milwaukee Theatre and the Panther Arena will display celebratory messages to graduates on their video boards Dec. 16-21.

Top Stories