Dr. Donna J. Helble (1948-2017)

Winona State University announces that Wabasha Hall will now be known as Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall, in honor of the late professor emerita, who passed away in March 2017.

Dr. Helble lived her life as a champion and advocate for education. She received her B.A. in elementary education and French from Simpson College, her MS in remedial reading from Winona State, and her Ed.D. in language arts education from University of Northern Colorado. She spent more than 16 years as an elementary teacher in Winona and was named Winona Teacher of the Year. In 1988 she began a 24-year career in higher education, serving as a professor of education at Winona State as well as an adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and the University of Northern Colorado

“Donna lived by the motto, ‘live well, laugh often, love much,’” recalled Debbie Greenwood, a close friend of Dr. Helble’s. “She was a very caring, giving and loving person.”

Dr. Helble was a supporter of many different causes and organizations, added Greenwood, and literacy and the ability to read and write were her passions. “It was important for her to give back. Donna loved Winona, and Winona loved Donna.”

The former Wabasha Hall, named for the city street on which it resides, was built in 1953 and has been part of the WSU campus since 2007. As Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall, the building will serve as the centerpiece of WSU’s Education Village and will feature state-of-the-art learning and teaching spaces designed to benefit more than 2,000 WSU students in education-related fields each year. Village facilities will be equipped with modern technologies, resources and mentoring necessary for the preparation of tomorrow’s teachers, counselors, coaches, and educational leaders. The two-year, $31-million project is scheduled for completion in fall 2019.

Dr. Helble, who served as a Trustee on the Winona State Foundation Board and was co-chair of the WSU Foundation Education Village Task Force, was a tireless advocate for the project.

“It’s only fitting that Donna’s legacy be honored through Education Village,” said Greenwood. “Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall will house elements of the elementary education and reading programs Donna held so dear.”

Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall – WSU Education Village

In February 2018, the Dr. Donna J. Helble Education Village Endowment was established through a legacy estate gift of nearly $2.5 million to the Winona State University Foundation. The endowment was created to support elementary education (K-8) teacher-training preparation and programming in the College of Education at WS

According to Dr. Tarrell Portman, Dean of the WSU College of Education, Education Village will combine the knowledge of WSU’s faculty, the experience of master Pk-12 teachers, and the insight and support of parents and our regional communities to prepare the next generation of educators.

“As communities change throughout Minnesota and across our nation, future teachers will require more intentional preparation, support and inspiration,” Portman explained. “Through Education Village and Donna Helble’s generosity, we are reshaping spaces and programs to ignite the spark of new talent and new ideas, and to renew our spirit of innovation and our commitment to excellence in teacher preparation.”

A formal dedication is planned in conjunction with the grand opening of WSU’s Education Village in fall 2019. Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall will stand as a reminder of the longtime educator’s substantial service to the university as well as her service to the greater Winona community.

“All who knew Donna recognize she was committed not only to students but to ensuring the future of education,” said WSU President Scott R. Olson. “Winona State University was established in 1858 as the first teacher training institution west of the Mississippi River. Our legacy, much like Donna’s legacy, is education. Through this gift, and the subsequent dedication of Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall, we can ensure that Donna’s passion and influence continue to impact future generations of educators. In the Education Village, Donna Helble’s life work will live on.”

For more information on WSU’s College of Education and the Education Village, visit winona.edu/education or call WSU Communications at 507-457-5024.