Guest Opinion: What we have learned about Winona


From: Richard Dahman, Superintendent, Winona Area Public Schools
Larry Lundblad, Interim President, Minnesota State College Southeast
Scott Olson, President, Winona State University
Sr. Judith Schaefer, President, Cotter Schools

Please join us as we congratulate Rev. James P. Burns on becoming the 14th president of Saint Mary’s University. Saint Mary’s is a strong and proud institution, and we are confident it will benefit from Father Burns’ vision and experience.

To Father Burns: Welcome to Winona! As a way of welcoming you to this great community, we thought we might share some observations about things we have learned in our relatively short time here. Given that we are all fairly new, hearing these stories helps give us context, and helps us appreciate those things that make Winona distinctive and distinguished.

We have learned that Winona is proud of its educational institutions, history and traditions. Our five institutions represent 600 years of collective wisdom about education: 160 years for Winona State University, 157 years for Winona Area Public Schools, 107 years for Cotter Schools, 106 years for Saint Mary’s University, and 70 years for Minnesota State College Southeast. Few communities our size can boast of such experience!

We have learned that great leaders in Winona and the surrounding area hail from all five of our institutions. State legislators, city council members, board members, and owners and leaders of business, industry and non-profits can be found among our alumni and alumnae. We have also learned that there are many great leaders across our region whom we may not claim as alumni or alumnae, but whom we are fortunate to count among our most dedicated champions and advocates.

We have learned that Winona is passionate about education. Citizens and the local media take an active role in shaping and debating education in general and each of our institutions in particular. Winonans are enthusiastic, engaged and informed when it comes to students and student learning! They want to know how students are learning and succeeding, and they like it when educational institutions demonstrate positive results. Winona is not shy about holding educational institutions and their leaders accountable, and they want to make sure we dedicate resources first and foremost to student learning.

We have learned that Winona is a wonderful and welcoming community, a community that prioritizes collaboration and partnership among citizens, educational institutions, community partners, local business and industry, government agencies and everything in between. Together, we seek out ways to make Winona’s future better and brighter.

We have also learned that Saint Mary’s is a great institution, important to Winona and to the region, with a remarkable faculty and staff and marvelous students. You are blessed to be chosen to lead Saint Mary’s, and we are blessed to have you joining this community. We welcome you, and we look forward to working with you to the betterment of this great community!

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