Performing Arts Center renamed after former president



The Performing Arts Center is being renamed the Robert A. Dufresne Performing Arts Center in honor of the former Winona State University president who passed away in 2015. Dufresne’s wife, Barbara, donates money to a WSU Foundation scholarship for music education students each year in honor of her husband.

McKenna Scherer, Editor-in-Chief

Ringing in the new year with the rest of the student body, Winona State University has announced a new change – the renaming of the Performing Arts Center.

The Performing Arts Center, home to campus arts, classes and entertainment since 1971, will now be known as “The Robert A. DuFresne Performing Arts Center”.

DuFresne is credited with having served his role exceptionally well during that time period “with wisdom and transparency”, by current Winona State President Scott Olson, as college campuses and schools in general during that period were in a time of great questioning and high tensions.

During Dufresne’s tenure, Winona State underwent nine major constructions of new buildings and a few renovation projects – these buildings include Memorial Hall, Minné Hall, Maxwell Hall, Sheehan Hall, renovations to much of Kryzsko Commons and the PAC – as well as changing Winona State’s status to a regional comprehensive university.

“We were called ‘Winona State College’ when he started here, and he led the conversion from being a college to becoming a university,” President Olson said. “So he was president of Winona State College for eight years and president of Winona State University for two more years after the name change.”

The DuFresne PAC hosts six to eight plays and over 20 music concerts annually, as well as dance performances. Home to the Vivian R. Fusillo Main Stage Theatre, the Recital Hall and the Dorothy B. Magnus Black Box Theatre, the DuFresne PAC will continue to be the center of celebration for campus arts and entertainment for decades to come. It also serves the theatre and dance, communication Studies and music departments at Winona State.

The center also works with the community of Winona, accommodating the Box Office, the Costume Shop and the Great River Shakespeare Festival each summer since 2004.

The GRSF itself has been a major collaboration, both stimulating the economy for Winona’s community as well as artistic interests, drawing in theatre artists from across the country and a national audience to Winona and Winona State as stated on the GRSF website – all of which would never have been possible without DuFresne, who passed away in the fall of 2015 at age 94.

“The PAC was built under DuFresne’s leadership and has been a source of never-ending edification since, not only to our students, but to the many guests who visit our campus because of the programming in the PAC,” President Olson added. Many buildings on campus are traditionally named after notable figures to Winona State, those who worked on the buildings, and/or impactful past presidents, therefore making DuFresne more than deserving.

“It’s time to recognize what he meant to WSU by renaming the PAC as ‘The Robert A. DuFresne Performing Arts Center,’” Olson said.

A few years after Dr. DuFresne’s passing, a group of retired Winona State employees approached the school with the idea of renaming the PAC in his honor. Not only was it a great idea to finally give the PAC a formal name, it also felt like the perfect opportunity to honor DuFresne and everything that he had accomplished. A formal dedication ceremony for “The Robert A. DuFresne Performing Arts Center” will occur this year, hopefully before the end of the spring semester at Winona State if timing and details allow, although the date is yet to be announced.

“We will need to get the new signage made and find a date when family and friends are available,” President Olson said. “We will make sure the campus community knows about it well in advance of the event.”

A Minnesota native, Dr. DuFresne was born in Brainerd, Minnesota in 1921 and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1939. He then served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1950 with his bachelor’s degree in social sciences.

Following college graduation, he also earned his Master’s degree in education administration from the University of Colorado – Bolder in 1954 and then his doctorate from the University of North Dakota. DuFresne went on to have an extensive career in academics and administration, not only at Winona State but also at Kearney State College, Mankato State University, Drake University, Western Washington University and others, where he held positions such as president, director, associate professor, visiting lecturer and more. He also was an

accomplished writer with several publications, including “A History of Winona State University” in 1985, which was his largest publication.

An active community member everywhere he went, DuFresne received several honors and awards including but not limited to the Outstanding Community Achievement Award from Winona, Minnesota, the Distinguished Alumni Award from St. Cloud State University, and the Good Will Ambassador to Turkey. He also served on the Board of Northwest Bank Winona, Board of Regents, Saint Mary’s College- Winona, Winona Chamber of Commerce and as a Winona councilman for the Second Ward of Winona.

He also traveled out of the United States to several institutes, including the European Parliament Delegation at Federal Union, London, the I.C.E.T. Conference of International Education in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Congress of the Union of European Federalists in Koln and Germany, among others.

DuFresne’s influence went further than just his position at Winona State as president; DuFresne, following his presidential tenure, was a distinguished professor teaching political sciences and was creator and supervisor of a study abroad program in England. He and his wife Barbara also created a lasting impact in the scholarship program, having generously created the “Barbara & Bob DuFresne Music Education Scholarship” for the music department.

Robert A. DuFresne was more than accomplished and beyond respected in every community he was a part of, whether that was from an academic standpoint or from a city’s community. His impact at Winona State is visible throughout campus to this day and will forever be as the renaming of the PAC.