Category Archives: Uncategorized

Winona bat condos, saving the residents under the bridge

With construction well on its way on the interstate 90 bridges, The Minnesota Department of Transportation is taking on an unexpected construction project. “Bat Condos” or bat hibernacula, have been installed alongside the Mississippi river due to the significant number of bats living under the interstate 90 bridge that is due to come down next year.

Heather Kaarakka, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the bats have lived under the bridge for years and are used to the noise from cars.

Kaarakka estimated that roughly 2-3 thousand Little Brown Bats were living under the bridge.

“When we first discovered the colony, we found them roosting in the expansion joint between the east and the west bound lanes of the bridge.” Kaarakka said.

Although the bats in the colony are acclimated to some level of noise, construction will likely disturb them, Kaarakka said, and potentially cause them to leave the area completely.

Since construction started, The Department of Transportation from Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as the DNR’s from both states, have worked closely to help mitigate the loss of the bats’ habitat.

“Building and installing the bat condo and bat houses will help keep the colony around by providing alternate habitat.” Kaarakka said. Installing the bat houses before the roost is removed, will allow bats to find a new habitat and stay in the area.

MDOT has been the lead on the bridge project and have been more than willing to provide alternate habitat for the bats and take steps to help the bats move out of the bridge, Kaarakka said.

Robin Richardson, a biology professor at Winona State University, said she has seen success in bat condos located in the Winona community. In 2010, Richardson and some of her students put up a bat condo behind the Tau Center on WSU’s west campus.

According to Richardson, it could take years to see whether bats are using the bat condos near the bridge but says the bat condos near the Tau Center appear to be active.

“There are a lot of signs that they are using it. A lot of guano. It took about a year to see whether the bats where using it or not.” Richardson said.

Richardson advised community members who want to build a bat condo that bat condos should be located near water and should be in a warm location.

“The counterintuitive thing about bats is that they like it hot. People try to put them in a shady place but they like their houses 100 degrees and they need to be by water so they can fly into the house from the water.” Richardson said.

She also said that bat condos should be placed where other animals, such as squirrels, can not bother their habitat.

Kaarakka explained why Winona residents should want bats to remain in the area.

“A single bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one hour and a pregnant bat can eat her weight in insects each night.” Kaarakka explained.

Because bats can eat so much, it makes them important pest control not only for human pests but also agricultural pests.

Bats have become increasingly important in the southern Minnesota ecosystem since White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal bat disease was discovered in 2007. According to Kaarakka, it is not uncommon to see 90-100% of the bats infected with this disease die. WNS has a high mortality rate and it is not specific to one species, so multiple hibernating bat species are at risk in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“If WNS continues on its present course, Wisconsin and Minnesota could soon see empty evening skies as bats disappear from the disease. “ Kaarakka said.

Building a bat condo is something anyone can do, Kaarakka said, and directions and instructions can be found on the Wisconsin Bat Program website.

Plant Food, Bath Salts, and Turbo: Winona’s Deadliest Drugs

In Florida, they call it flakka.

It has received innocent nicknames like plant food, bath salts and meow meow.

Around Winona, they call it turbo, and it’s the deadliest drug in town.

Investigators from the Winona County Sheriff’s department said the drug turbo, or known by its clinical name Alpha-PVP, can cause side effects including blood pressure and heart rate increase. Even more worrying, is the paranoia according to law enforcement officials.

“Fits of anger, violence,” Investigators said. “They often have fits of rage towards shadowy figures and animals, believing to be possessed by demons.”


Plant food, or mephedrone, begins to show up in Winona. It’s sold on the streets, unlike in Duluth where it was commercially sold.

Shortly after plant food came to Winona, it died out, but a new hybrid called bath salts or MDPV emerged in April 2009.

Investigators said the names are now interchangeable and the drugs are relatively similar.

“Mephedrone went away, MDPV came out in 2009,” investigators said. “By the end of 2009, we were seeing it a lot.”

Investigators said these aren’t close to household products and can’t be bought at any store.

“They called it bath salts or plant food and say not for human consumption, and put little labels on that say that, so they could sell it,” Investigators said. “We’ve talked to a few users and they’ve put stuff on their plants and they killed their plants.”

Since the drugs were legal, the investigators said they would receive calls frequently. One of the investigators worked as a dispatcher during the height of the plant food crisis and said they couldn’t go an eight-hour shift without getting a call about plant food.

“Every single day when you came to work, when it was legal, there’s a call about a guy running naked down the street or taking someone to the hospital because they’re high,” the Investigator said.

One of the earliest calls they received was from a man who called about an intruder in their home. The investigators said they rushed to the man’s house only to find no one there.

“We think there is an intruder in the house and when we got there, he said the tricky little guy went into the TV,” investigators said. “You realize after speaking with him for two or three minutes, this guy is high on something.”

After interviewing many drug users, the investigators said the drug is so potent and addicting that the paranoia and violent side effects come from when they are beginning to become sober.

With the drug becoming more and more popular, many police departments around Minnesota were sought help of the Winona County Sheriff’s department.

“When it first started, we had task force guys coming over from Rochester, Olmsted County, Goodhue County, Dodge County, Houston County and they didn’t know what this stuff was,” investigators said. “They got educated through us.”

With plant food and bath salts becoming more prevalent, Senator Jeremy Miller, a Winona resident, proposed a bill in legislature in 2010 to make it a schedule one controlled substance.

The bill passed in July 2011.

“Luckily enough, Senator Miller is from Winona, so he could see this stuff and hear about it,” Investigators said. “So we had a representative from Winona kinda push this. When you get up to the state, it pops up a little bit in some places, but they don’t seem to see it as regularly as we did.”


With plant food and bath salts now illegal, calls plummeted significantly, with people being afraid to seek help due to legal repercussions.

Even worse, a new hybrid emerged, turbo or Alpha-PVP, giving its users an even more intense high.

The Minnesota legislature was able to add language to the bill, giving officers the ability to arrest people for Alpha-PVP in July 2012, a year after the initial bill passed.

The investigators wanted to express how Winona isn’t necessarily a drug-ridden town, but rather is primarily dealing with turbo more than any other city.

Around the country, heroin has quadrupled in deaths according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2013 with 8,200 deaths. In Winona, the investigators said they rarely ever see heroin.

“We don’t see very much of heroin in Winona,” Investigators said. “Last year, I think we seized heroin on two separate occasions. The rest of the time we’re having the synthetic drugs.”

One of the biggest issues facing the Winona County Sheriff’s department is the small penalty facing turbo offenders.

“If I arrest someone with a tenth of gram of plant food or two kilograms of plant food, it’s the same charge,” investigators said. “That’s where we’d like to see some change.”

The investigators said they want to go after the dealers, the people who are moving it. They have found evidence that the drugs are being shipped from China into the United States, where it’s distributed throughout the country.

The penalty

If caught with turbo in the state of Minnesota, a person could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For a second offense, it’s six months in a prison with fines increasing to 10 years and $10,000.

While this penalty seems harsh, in reality, it’s not, according to the investigators. The drug charge is a felony fifth-degree drug charge, which is the lowest possible charge someone can receive.

According to the investigators, any kind of change doesn’t look any closer than it did when the first law passed in 2011.

“I don’t know if it’s any closer,” Investigators said. “The efforts been local and pushing it locally, but I think the thing that kind of hampers us here, whenever someone hears about this at the state level, they keep referring to Duluth.”

Student Outreach

Winona County does have the D.A.R.E program for students. The investigators make routine stops in schools in the county to talk about drugs, including Alpha-PVP.

“They have us in a health class every semester or quarter,” investigators said. “We talk about the danger of methamphetamine and marijuana. We do a drug education.”

Why Winona?

In 2015, the Southeast Violent Crime Enforcement Team seized 2,162 grams of synthetic drugs, including turbo.

The investigators said turbo is bought in “point” form or a tenth of a gram, valued usually at $30 a point.

With that number, the SVCET seized $64,860 worth of synthetic drugs alone last year.

The police of Winona County continue to deal with turbo, trying hard to locate exactly where the drugs are being made and who the distributors are.

“There’s no answer for it,” investigators said. “There’s a supply around here somewhere.”

The investigators have received calls from around the Midwest, with officers and even a concerned parent from Kansas City wondering what turbo is.

“I had one lady call from Kansas City once and said my daughter is on turbo, or I think it was plant food at the time,” investigators said. “She researched it and it came back to Winona and the issues we had here. The police officers out there had no idea what it was and had never heard of it.”

Winona Diocese Braves Weather for March for Life

A blizzard could not keep a busload of 46 local high school teens, college students, and staff members from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona from attending the national March for Life in Washington D.C. over the weekend of Jan. 22.

This year marked the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, ones that extended women’s rights to have legalized abortions in all 50 states. The March for Life is a pro-life movement that opposes the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions with demonstrations held across the nation, with the national event held in Washington D.C. annually, according to Ben Frost, the Diocesan Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults in Winona.

According to the March for Life website, the vision for the annual March for Life is to “bring together pro-life leaders and groups to organize and strategize around a common message, and to communicate this message to the government, the media, and the nation in a way that is powerful and life affirming.”

While an impending winter storm deterred some groups throughout the United States from making the trek, around 15,000 to 20,000 young people attended, said Frost.

The weekend consisted of attending the “Life is Very Good” conference on the eve of the march, followed by the Rally and Mass for Life the next morning, presided by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington.

“They gain a real sense of courage; a courage to be able to go into this world, that oftentimes diminishes the worth of human persons,” said Frost.

It was Frost’s third time attending the march in Washington. “This was a unique experience,” he said because the weather provided some challenges, and a blizzard was on the way. Frost said there was a special message from Pope Francis given by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Carly Radke, a senior at Saint Mary’s University double-majoring in theology and psychology, and is president of Students for Life. She organizes events at SMU that align with the values of the pro-life movement, and this is one of their biggest events of the year.

This was also Radke’s third time experiencing the March for Life weekend in Washington. She says “just going and being around like-minded people to be a witness was powerful.”

On the bus ride from Winona, Radke said Father Andrew Vogel encouraged students to practice talking with each other about the power of respecting life from the time of conception, so they could educate others.

With the pro-life movement being such a hot-button issue, Radke said “it’s really encouraging” to see young people coming together as a community to serve as witnesses to life.

One of the highlights she said was after leaving the Mass for Life at the Verizon Center prior to the start of the March. Radke said she saw people looking out their windows at the demonstration and watching the group start their march towards the nation’s capitol. She said it was powerful because maybe they were able to influence some people who were on the fence about the topic of being pro-life.

Ultimately, the snowstorm forced the group from Winona to cut the trip short. Instead of participating fully in the march, they made the decision to climb back aboard the bus and head for home, but not before saying a prayer for all those who would forge ahead until reaching the nation’s capital. The risk of getting stranded on the highway was simply too high, Frost expressed.

In addition to a bus going to Washington, a bus of Saint Mary’s University seminarians, who participated in a similar rally in St. Paul over the weekend.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona is comprised of more than 100 parish groups. Eight of those parish groups helped raise funds to cover the transportation, hotel, and food expenses, according to Frost.

Frost said the trip cost between $275 and $300 per person.

The Diocese makes an annual trip to either Washington D.C. or Saint Paul, it depends on what day of the week Jan. 22 lands. If it happens to land in the middle of the week, Frost says it’s challenging for students to miss at least two days of school.

Though the trip got cut short because of the snowstorm, Frost was adamant when he said, “it was a beautiful witness of faith…it was a very powerful trip.”

For more information on the March for Life, find them on the Web at, or call 202-234-3300.



Noted Professor Joy DeGruy Speaks on Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome at WSU

By: Van Grinsven & Mann

Post-traumatic slave syndrome is still significant in today’s society, according to a speaker at Winona State University Wednesday night.

The WSU Inclusion and Diversity Office, KEAP Center and Council, Black Cultural Organization and Minnesota State Southeast Technical College hosted Dr. Joy DeGruy on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in East Hall. Her seminar was titled “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.”

DeGruy is an international speaker, presenter, author and researcher. Along with her novel, DeGruy has published a number of articles and spoken at various locations, such as Oxford University, Harvard University and Columbia University.

Before DeGruy spoke, Director of Inclusion and Diversity, Alexander Hines, voiced his frustration with the complaints he had received regarding the topic of that nights program.

“I said I wasn’t going to do this, and I never do this,” Hines said.  “When I’m in my office and I work with faculty and staff to put on programs like this, I get little nasty emails of ‘Why would you do post-traumatic slave syndrome? And black history month?’ I guess I get a little bit frustrated with the topic that’s still relevant today being micro-assaulted, micro-invalidated and micro-excluded from the conversation.”

He added, after apologizing to DeGruy for voicing his frustrations, “Black history month, African American history month is every month.”

DeGruy began by explaining how she came to the topic of post traumatic slave syndrome. She was struck by how people responded to the issue of slavery even today.

“I was very curious about why it was that people had such a visceral response to slavery,” said DeGruy describing the unusual response that peaked her interest in the topic.

“When I would walk around and talk about the book and tell people the title, there was a visceral response,” DeGruy said. “Slavery, really, who are you trying to blame. What excuses are you people trying. You know I wasn’t there. I never owned slaves and you’re free now aren’t ya.”

“Post traumatic slave syndrome is multi-generational trauma,” she said, adding that post-traumatic slave syndrome is not the same thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I kind of wish it was because it’s treatable. There are medications, talk therapy, all kinds of things you can do. But post-traumatic slave syndrome requires a whole lot more than that.”

DeGruy described post traumatic slave syndrome as the result of generations of people who suffered from trauma.

There was a great deal of trauma going on in those 339 years that American chattel slavery was going on, said DeGruy. “The likelihood is a lot of people had stress related illness, a lot of people had PTSD.”

To solve more than 339 years of traumatic injury, DeGruy suggested beginning with with how children are educated.

DeGruy said that it is crucial to include all of the slavery history that elementary schools don’t normally teach about, like the details about slave ships.

“How many Jews died during the Holocaust?” DeGruy asked the audience. “6 million that we know at least died. And you’ve been taught that, it’s in the text.  But you’ve never been given this information. You have no idea how many died, just en route? The lowest figure on record is 9 million.”

Tricia Angus, a junior studying business administration, said she believes DeGruy made a lot of good points during her seminar and that students at WSU could learn a lot from the presentation.

“I think students can take a closer look at how they handle diversity in their everyday lives,” Angus said.  “Hate is something that can completely be avoided at this university and in the U.S. in general. People can accomplish that by keeping an open mind and learning more about different cultures.”

According to DeGruy, the best way to solve PTSS is through social justice and teaching young African-Americans, who are affected by it, to love themselves in today’s society.

DeGruy closed her speech with an African proverb, “If you wish to go fast than go alone, but if you wish to go far go together. Lets go together.”

Does Winona’s Brothel History Control the Housing Laws Today?


Winona was known as the wettest city in Minnesota during the prohibition, and had a red light district that was talked about around the country. Winona has a rich history for its size. The town of 25,000 was a booming lumber town nestled between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River making it a central hub of travel.

The town was a brothel town since the late 1800s according to the archives in the Winona History Museum. The town endured 60 years of lawless attitudes and actions before bringing it to an end in 1942.


Most of the brothels are torn down. Here is what currently resides in some of their old spots.
Most of the brothels are torn down. Here is what currently resides in some of their old spots.

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Second Street in Winona is where most of the brothels sat, there was a string of five or six houses where women stood outside and whistle at men or knock at them through the windows and try to lure them in, according to the Winona History Museum Archives.

Police officers and the mayor usually acted like the houses didn’t exist, one source in the WHMA said. The worst fines imposed on the women and owners were 50-100 dollars. This meant women could go right back to their work. They had money to cover the fines, and the police officers knew that according to the WHMA.

Winona’s current mayor, Mark Peterson, works at the Winona History Museum and is fascinated by the history of Winona.

“Most of the citizens really didn’t mind that the red light district was here, they just looked at it as part of Winona,” Said Peterson

There was a doctor in town that would check the women monthly for any diseases, and they women were actually a great deal of help money wise through the Great Depression, said Peterson.

“The women were great tippers at local shops and resteruants, which helped out a lot of people when they needed the money,” Said Peterson.

After the final raid in 1942 the houses were padlocked for a year.

All the buildings now are either gone or have become, bars or houses that families live in.

Today Winona has strict housing laws like the 30 percent rule, and how many people can live in a house due to licensing.

The 30 percent rule states that no city block can be comprised of more than 30 percent rental houses.

Another law states that only five people that are non-related can live in a single-family house.

Over the years, this law has been commonly referred to as the brothel law.

This law is well-known among the college community, especially women.

The mayor about this he had no recollection of this law.

He figured college students had misunderstood the law and it snowballed from there.

Winona’s history is a wild one, and the red light district of Second Street is a thing of the past. Law officials now fight prostitution online. The numbers aren’t as high as they were in the 1920s. Winona Police today are stilling catching people that are still breaking this law.



Local Kwik Trips Lack Easy Access for all Customers

It’s five in the evening and it feels like everyone on the planet is trying to get into Kwik Trip. People brush up against you as they push their way through the doors. It’s a mission just to get into the building. As you roll your wheelchair close to the doors you realize there is not a button to power open the door. At this point getting into the building depends on the kindness of people to open the door.

Kwik Trip has seven locations in Winona area and not a single one has a handicap accessible door.


Front of a local Winona Kwik Trip.
Front of a local Winona Kwik Trip.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act hinged doorways need to be at least 32 inches wide. Even though automatic doors create greater accessibility they are not required by the ADA.

“Kwik Trip has made quite a few changes to make their gas stations more handicap accessible,” said Amy Schmidt, who works at a local Kwik Trip.

They have handicap parking, wide shopping aisles and customers can even flash their car lights from the pumps to receive assistance pumping gas, Schmidt explained. Kwik Trip has one handicap parking spot in most of their parking lots.

Schmidt was unsure as to why Kwik Trip hadn’t added the buttons to their doors.

Kwik Trip corporate offices were unable to set up an interview for this story.

As miniscule as this issue may seem some Winona citizens see this as a huge issue that should be addressed.

Jayda Garrison is a program director for Cardinal, a local group home, she said Kwik Trip should have handicap accessible doors.

“When handicap people struggle with these doors it takes away a sense of their pride and independence,” said Garrison.

Garrison explained more people within the Winona community should see this issue as a concern. She explained handicap individuals have the right to feel fully functional just like everyone else.

When looking at this situation money could come in as a factor.

According to a worker at Tom’s Lock in downtown Winona, many factor play into the installation of handicap buttons on building doors. A rough total estimate is 2,700 dollars per button.

With no response from the company it is hard to say why they haven’t added these buttons. They follow all other ADA regulations. The concerned Winona citizens hope that one day soon Kwik Trip will take that extra step.

Jayda Garrison, house supervisor at a local group home, talks about why it’s crucial for Kwik Trip to have handicap doors.

Winona State University Students Create an Anti-Bullying Campaign


Tammy Swenson-Lepper talks about bullying on Winona State University’s campus and what the University is doing to end it.



Bullying isn’t the toughest kid on the playground scenario anymore. With all the advances in technology things like cyber-bullying have become a problem in younger generations.

Cyber-bullying gives people the option to tear someone down via the Internet. This type of bullying can be seen in social media outlets and chat rooms, and has become a fast-growing issue.

According to John Otis, a member of the Project Positivity campaign, said after conducting research the group found bullying has mental and physical health issues. A few of these are: anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia.

Kids can now say rude things to someone without having to look at their face.

In a sense this makes bullying easier. Kids can say things to another and never give it a second thought because they never have to see that person again, said Otis.

In the past year cyber-bullying and bullying in general has been an issue at Winona State University. From nude photos leaked to rude comments on peoples’ Facebook photos.

“Sometimes the University cant do a whole lot because these issues are done over the Internet,” said Otis.

This is where Project Positivity helps. Project Positivity is a campaign put on by a group of students for their communications studies class. Otis is the person in charge of their social media. The campaign is geared towards ending all forms of bullying on Winona’s campus and among its student population.

Tammy Swenson-Lepper, the professor teaching the communication class, said the campaign is taking a new approach to health issues and is different from campaigns she has seen in the past.

Swenson-Lepper has had meetings with the university’s anti-bullying task force and asked them what they thought her students could do to help. Once her students were inspired to create this campaign by the bullying from last fall.

Swenson-Lepper described things the university is doing to do their part in the fight against bullying on campus.

She explained in addition to the anti-bullying task force WSU is working with incoming freshmen about bullying.

“I think that the school is doing a lot to help with this issue compared to other schools that have has bad cases of bullying,” said Swenson-Lepper.

Swenson-Lepper said that usually schools just punish the kids that are doing the bullying, but WSU is taking it further by creating the anti-bullying task force. The task force consists of students, faculty, and staff that want to end bullying at WSU.

The WSU students in class created a Facebook page for the campaign. On the page they encourage students to share things that make them happy and things they are doing for one another. At the end of the post students can tag the campaign, and at the end of the week certain posts win prizes.

The group of students also created an ad-like video against bullying that made it’s way around campus.

According to Otis, the group is also working with orientation leaders and classes to reach incoming freshmen since most of the incidents last fall involved freshmen.

Otis explained when coming up with the campaign idea the group wanted to look at an area of health wellness that isn’t always in the spotlight.

They also wanted a more positive vibe on campus. They thought a campaign against bullying was the perfect fit for both areas.

“We all understand that students can get stressed out and start feeling negative, said Otis, we aren’t our campaign to help work against that.”

The campaign will run until May 1. Otis said they already have had 500 posts since launching their Facebook page and hope the steady involvement continues.

John Otis a member of the Project Positivity Campaign talks about why he and his group started the project in the first place.



It’s Time, My Fellow Warriors

van grinsven_graduates article image

As the sun sets beneath the blossoming bluffs in Winona, it suddenly dawns on me that we are one day closer to the big day.

Saying goodbye to all-night study sessions, going out on the weekdays and tiptoeing between the line of adulthood and adolescence. It’s the moment all college seniors must face – walking across the stage to grab that well-deserved diploma, while fighting mixed feelings of excitement, exhilaration and downright panic.

As I count down the days until my small world in Winona becomes only a memory, I realize there has never been a moment like this before, which holds so many assorted emotions.

While I can’t wait to make my mark on the world and show off my sparkling certificate of a Bachelor’s degree, I cling to my familiar surroundings and dread the changes that are about to occur.

In order to fully understand my plethora of sentiments, it was comforting to find other soon-to-be graduates balancing these same feelings.

Elizabeth Meinders, an English and mass communication senior at WSU, said the moment she stepped on campus, she knew she was where she belonged.

“I chose Winona State because of the environment and atmosphere,” Meinders said. “It really did – and it’s strange to say – but I felt like I was home and I could feel this emotional connection.”

Meinders said she isn’t too worried about finding a job after graduation, but she is nervous about immersing herself in a new work environment and making a long-term commitment. She is currently sorting through several offers to begin her career, in hopes of doing something she loves.

“I have a lot of options and opportunities,” Meinders said. “It’s simply making that choice. That’s the most terrifying part – cause I’m going to be there for a long time.”

Dan Gitto, a graduating senior with a psychology major, said he was going through the same uncertainty when faced with the unknown beyond graduation. Gitto plans on moving to his Australia in January for a yearlong missions trip for Campus Crusade for Christ. He will also be getting married four months before departing.

“There is going to be a lot going on,” Gitto said. “There are a lot of new things that are going to be happening, but ultimately good stuff.”

During his time at WSU, Gitto said being a resident assistant on campus has prepared him the most for life after graduation.

“I think it was a job that gave well-rounded skills,” Gitto said. “There are a lot of opportunities in it to use in the business world. But I also had a lot of fun with my residents and staff.”

Liz Dingbaum, a senior graduating with a degree in chemistry, said she has been well into the post-graduation planning for quite some time.

“I chose my major because I knew I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t know what I specifically wanted to do,” Dingbaum said. “In high school, I looked up the requirements for pre-pharmacy and pre-med and I picked the one that was more difficult, which was pre-pharmacy.”

Dingbaum said she plans on attending University of California – Davis to get her masters in public health and will also be applying to medical school this summer.

Despite her excitement about jumping into furthering her education, Dingbaum said she was sad to leave behind all of the connections she made during her time at WSU.

“I’m moving, obviously, really far across the country,” Dingbaum said. “I can’t just walk across the street and hang out with all of my friends, so that will be difficult to adjust to, along with leaving the mentorship I’ve had here.”

While it was comforting to see my fellow graduating seniors were going through the same feelings of ambiguity, there was a common connection between them all. Even though the future seemed like a daunting apprehension, each graduating senior I met with donned a feeling of readiness.

They were eager to hone the skills they’ve been practicing for the past four years and make a difference in the new places they will belong to.   In the words of WSU’s mission statement, it’s easy to see the graduating class of 2015 has never been more prepared to become “a community of learners improving our world.”

Stolen Painting Was Part of Winona State History

The blank space in Somsen Hall where the stolen piece used to hang.
The blank space in Somsen Hall where the stolen piece used to hang. (photo by Tom Wick)

On January 21 a painting was reported stolen from the Winona State University campus. It had been missing for at least a few weeks or as long as two months, according to the report filed by WSU with the Winona police.

That painting, by Robert Pearson, had hung in the stairwell of Somsen Hall since 1986. The stolen painting is one of nine original oil paintings in a collection of artwork donated by the Watkins family in the 1920s and ‘30s known colloquially as the Watkins collection. Of those nine original oil paintings, all were accounted for until January 21.

The painting was appraised for $15,000 in 1986 (adjusted for inflation, about $31,000 in today’s dollars), but at the time of the theft the university was seeking funds to have the painting and other parts of the collection restored.

To Winona State officials like Ralph Townsend, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and one of the collections unofficial curators, the painting is worth far more and tells an interesting story as part of WSU’s Watkins Art collection.

“The collection is more than the sum of its parts,” said Townsend, “it’s an important part of WSU’s history and example of philanthropy in the 1920s.”

The roughly 600-piece collection was donated over a 10-year period during the 1920s and ’30s by Paul Watkins, the second CEO of Watkins Incorporated. Though the collection was never officially inventoried upon receipt, most accounts agree on the relative number of donated items.

Of the original 600 pieces, Winona State can now only account for about 300. According to Townsend and historical records, most of the pieces are what Townsend refers to as “paper pieces” which include prints, engravings, lithographs and photos, many of which Paul Watkins collected while traveling the world.

Most of these remaining “paper pieces” have been removed from their frames and stored in a filing cabinet based on the recommendations of conservators until they can be properly re-framed. There are plans to display some of them in 2016 if funding is available. While Townsend considers the Watkins collection to be important, spending thousands of dollars per-painting for restorations or even a few hundred to have a piece properly re-framed is difficult politically and monetarily.

Townsend said WSU has also gained a source of advice from the staff at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, particularly MMAM Executive Director Andrew Maus. Maus has been advising the university on how to maintain the collection in a fiscally responsible way.

Maus’ first piece of advice was to create a dedicated art storage facility, so the pieces not on display were moved from the library basement where they were kept for decades to what used to be the map storage room for WSU’s geography department.

“It’s good to see Winona State taking a very proactive role in the collection,” said Maus.

Anyone with information about the stolen painting should contact the Winona police at 507-457-6368 or Winona State Security at 507-457-5555 .

Winona360 – Student Journalism


This blog-based web site is dedicated to publishing the work of Winona State University journalism students, particularly those involved in the senior journalism capstone course. Articles, video, photographs and audio segments will appear here, all researched, written, photographed, edited and published by students.

Please read the articles and view the images, then feel free to comment on them — good or bad — to help students learn and grow from this experience.