Winchester Academy’s 25-year legacy
Humanities group to host birthday party
By Robert Cloud
On Monday nights at the Waupaca Area Public Library, Winchester Academy brings to the community professors, historians, authors, poets, artists, researchers and experts in a wide variety of fields.
The academy has hosted more than 600 programs over the past quarter century and typically draws more than 100 people to each program.
Georgia Calvo, who has been with the organization since it was established in Waupaca, recalls how Mary Keefer invited her to Winchester’s first meeting.
“The core of the group were people on the Winchester Academy board in Winchester, who lived in the Waupaca area,” Calvo said. “Their plan was to test the waters in Waupaca, to see if there would be a response to an offering of free public adult education in the form of scholarly lectures.”
Calvo said Winchester Academy had been unsuccessful in building an audience in Winchester.
“Those in the Waupaca group had a passion for free continued adult learning opportunities outside of traditional educational systems, loosely exemplified by the Scandinavian folk academies,” Calvo said.
Among the Waupaca people who were involved in bringing Winchester Academy to Waupaca were Tom Smith, a retired president of Lawrence University; Marwin Wrolstad, a retired vice president of business affairs at Lawrence; Earl Spangler, a retired history professor from Macalester College and academic dean at Carthage College; Fred Lueders, a retired Lutheran pastor; John Morgan of Scandinavia; and Pat Hollenbeck of Waupaca.
“Our job was to organize the first programs, publicize them and find more committee members. The first programs were offered in May of 1991, and took place at Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church,” Calvo said.
Winchester organized four initial programs, ranging from a musical theater performer and director speaking about and singing “Golden Oldies,” and Lawrence and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professors talking about the Vikings, the Hanseatic League and descendants of early central Wisconsin settlers.
“Having remarkably enthusiastic attendance at those first four programs, a fall series was planned, and then a winter-spring series, and we all agreed that we would not skip summer. We were up and running, and expanding our steering committee,” Calvo said.
From the beginning, Winchester Academy organizers agreed that programs would be free and open to the public, that there would be no membership requirements.
The group’s goal was to attract scholars and experts in their fields, avoid how-tos and motivational speakers and use local speakers when possible.
“When we had musical programs or visual artists, we would inform our speakers that we were an educational organization,” Calvo said. “We wanted them to inform us and educate us about their art or music or dance or drama, about its history, about the instruments or the techniques – not simply entertain or amuse us.”
In its first year, Winchester Academy speakers included a local judge, a state senator, a local preservationist and a local author.
Programs in that first year covered a wide variety of topics, including Wuthering Heights, Pearl Harbor, making movies, ancient Rome, dirty politics, first ladies, theater staging and Aldo Leopold.
Over time, Winchester has combined lectures with tours of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, American Players Theater in Spring Green, Ten Chimneys, the estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and the Waupaca granite quarry.
As the years went by, Winchester Academy influenced local scholars and artists.
In the spring of 2000, Winchester hosted Fran Montano, a member of the Red Cliff Band of lake Superior Chippewa. He spoke about native American music and culture, tribal songs and dance, and the art of making and performing traditional Wibwe flutes.
Blanche Moerschel, who was in her 80s and had taught piano for decades, was in the audience that night.
The following year, she performed “Flutiano,” her new composition for flute and piano, at the annual conference of the Wisconsin Alliance of Composers in Madison.
During an interview, Moerschel told the Waupaca County Post that Montano’s presentation inspired her to read about the Trail of Tears and create a meloncholic piece that laments the tragic history of the Cherokee nation and the loss of their culture.
“Flutiano” later became Moerschel’s first published composition after a lifetime dedicated to music.
In 2003, Winchester Academy was honored by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Programming in the Humanities.
“When we relocated from Winchester, Wisconsin, to Waupaca in 1991, we couldn’t be sure of our future,” said Dick Bidwell, president of the Winchester Academy Board of Trustees. “But look at us now. We’re providing as many as 26 programs each year and presenting free learning opportunities for more than 100 attendees at many of our programs. Public support has been tremendous. Twenty-five has never looked so good.”
Winchester plans May 16 birthday party
Winchester Academy of Waupaca will host a free celebration of its 25th birthday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, May 16, at the bandstand on City Square in Waupaca.
Organizers say the party is Winchester’s way of thanking everyone in the Waupaca area who helped them get to this point – volunteers, speakers, supporters and attendees.
The public is invited to attend the celebration. There is no membership required to attend, no registration, no fee.
Entertainment will be provided by the Waupaca Middle School chorus and both Waupaca High School choir members and Waupaca High School band members.
Refreshments will be served.
In case of inclement weather, the celebration will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 206 E. Badger Street.
For more information about Winchester Academy, contact Executive Director Ann Buerger Linden at 715-258-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.