In front of the Winona State University Darrell Krueger Library, there is a large stainless steel square with the words from four different quotes of founding fathers of the city of Winona.
They were installed in 1999, during President Darrell Krueger’s term from 1989-2005. Since then, thousands of students and faculty have passed them by without notice or acknowledgement.
“All I wanted to do was make sure that those forefathers’ words that were so inspirational and set a standard for the university would be preserved,” Krueger said. Krueger repeated the four quotes in his inauguration speech.
Over the course of 16 years, do students still know what the words say?
Senior Allison Bergsbaken said she did not know what the words said.
“I once tried looking at them but it was super sunny outside and the metal was too bright to read them,” Bergsbaken said.
“That was a very unusual thing. They’re very hard to read in the stainless steel plaque that’s on the ground, so I had them put the words up on each of the pillars around them so people could read them more easily,” he said.
Looking down on the words from the third floor of Minne, English major Katie Kelly said she used to know what the words said, but does not recall them.
Adrienne Rische, another English major, said she did not know what the words said.
“And the students started using the bench designs for skateboards to jump on,” Krueger said. “I think they’ve done something about that now. They were getting all scratched up because of the skateboards jumping on them.”
The first quote is from 1859 Minnesota Lieutenant Governor William Holcombe’s speech and says the establishment of Winona State University is “an improvement in education” that will “increase the prosperity, elevate the character and promote the happiness of the nation.”
The second quote is from WSU’s first president John Ogden’s inaugural address in 1860 and says if the school succeeds, students will leave this institution with physical, intellectual and moral improvements that will help them succeed in society.
The third quote is from E.S. Youmans, a Winona County lumber baron in 1864 who said “the state needs a [normal] school.” He said he would be ashamed to live in a state that does not value education.
The fourth and final quote is from 1879-80 Minnesota Superintendent of Public Instruction, D.S. Burt’s First Biennial Report, which said the benefit of a college culture is good and those who receive a college education will receive those benefits.
Burt compared the university to an “engineer who plans our bridges,” “pilots who guides the steamer into port,” a “chemist who assays our ores” and a “linguist who translates foreign literature into our language” and concludes with the state benefitting from supporting the school.
“Well I think it set the standard for the university and I have a sense of what the forefathers, the founding fathers of Winona thought what the university of Winona would be,” Krueger said.
Krueger said Winona State is holding up to the quotes’ meaning.
“It’s starting to be recognized as a quality institution and it’s maintained itself through the years. It’s certainly has produced a lot of wonderful leaders and a lot of professional people and a lot of wonderful teachers, mothers and fathers and wonderful educators,” he said.
Krueger said he hopes students are reading, internalizing and remembering them.
“I think they need to be brought back to life,” Krueger said. “When they were just in books, I don’t think many people would have seen them or appreciated them. They merited being prominently shown on our campus and I think they are.”
Krueger compared the quotes to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“That needs to be remembered and those words need to be implanted in the minds of our students and faculty at the university and the community,” Krueger said.