‘Largest gift’ funds scholarships, adds art gallery at Winona State University

A week after Saint Mary’s University announced receipt of a $5 million gift, Winona State University announced its largest-ever estate gift, a bequeathal of more than $5.2 million from the estate of Maynard “Mo” Weber.

Weber, a 1950 graduate of WSU, died in his home in Luray, Va., on July 26, 2019.

“I’d rather have Mo,” said WSU President Scott R. Olson. “He was a wonderful guy, an unbelievable character.”

He was also, Olson said, one of WSU’s biggest supporters, and certainly the biggest on the East Coast. In the past, Weber had made several donations to WSU. Some were financial, and others were donations of artwork produced by Weber’s father, Max Weber, whose cubist paintings hang in museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

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Olson said this connection to art plays a big part in the $5.2 million given to WSU.

More than $1 million will further the endowment of two art scholarships at WSU: the Dorothy F. Weber and Maynard J. Weber Art Scholarship, and the Max Weber Scholarship. An additional $1.5 million will help fund a first-class gallery space in the future Laird Norton Center for Art & Design, where Max Weber’s paintings, among others, will be highlighted, a statement from WSU read.

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In total, Olson said the university has been fortunate to be given nearly a dozen pieces from Max Weber’s collection. Those and works from other renowned artists will be on display at the gallery in the new Laird Norton Center.

“We think it would be pretty spectacular,” Olson said, “Not just for tourists but for scholars studying cubism and 20th century art.”

With Winona holding a reputation as an arts town – with places such as the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and festivals such as the annual Shakespeare Festival and Frozen Film Festival – Olson said the addition of the new gallery will only enhance that image.

About $2.5 million from the bequeathal will benefit the Winona State Art and Design program.

In addition to art, Weber was a baseball fan, and another $1.3 million of the donation will help fund new WSU baseball scholarships to support undergraduate Warrior baseball players for many years to come, according to WSU. As an undergraduate, Weber served the Warrior baseball team as a manager and coach. He was inducted into the Warrior Hall of Fame in 2008.

Of the remainder of the gift, approximately $700,000 will go towards Winona State’s Sustaining Fund to help where the university has the greatest needs. A portion of that money will also be earmarked to support the Alumni House, where Weber spent a lot of his time during his various visits to campus.

Weber came to Winona after his service in World War II, graduating in 1950. He went on to teach and coach at various institutions around the county. Although he lived back east, Olson said Weber often returned for a baseball or football game, or other campus events.

“If you ever went to visit him at his home in Virginia, he was Mr. Winona in that town,” Olson said. “He was always wearing our school colors and school apparel.”