Wayne State College
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Foundation Projects

Willow Bowl Restoration

Willow Bowl restoration

A dedication ceremony was held for the newly restored Willow Bowl in September 2013. The restoration and improvements of the historic Willow Bowl were made possible by the generosity of many alumni and friends. By coming together, you made it happen, and every gift made a difference.

With every successful initiative, there are key events and leaders who create the necessary momentum. Alumnus Irv Hoffbauer ’51 has always been an important donor to the Willow Bowl and funded improvements in 2002 to install irrigation and plant new willow trees. He did not hesitate in 2011 when asked to fund the cost of hiring an architect who would put the plan together to restore the Willow Bowl. 

Because we needed broad alumni support, 76 class leaders volunteered to contact members of their class for contributions, including trustees of the Wayne State Foundation Darold Bobier, Mac McManigal, Irv Hoffbauer, Carol and Don Bremer, Dwain and Carole Petersen, Dennis Korth, Dick Keidel, Bill Reeg, Diane Schreiber, Adrian Minks, Terry McClain, Don and Diane Soukup, Cap Petersen, Greg Allen, Regg Swanson, George Shuck, Kirk Hutton, Kent Riesberg, Joyce Reeg, Ron Holt and Norman Small. We are grateful to all the class leaders.

At a pivotal point in the fund raising campaign for the Willow Bowl, when the college needed to move forward with hiring the contractor and making other commitments, Barb ’76 and Jim Kanter, trustees of the Wayne State Foundation, stepped forward and guaranteed the project.  This allowed us to move forward with confidence to complete the project. Barbara Kanter has also endowed a scholarship for Wayne State students and the Kanters funded the renovation of the alumni house on the edge of campus. The alumni suite is named in their honor.

More than 70 years ago, then President Dr. J.T. Anderson, 1935-1946, with the aid of a Works in Progress Act (WPA) grant, launched the plan to create the Willow Bowl on the campus of Wayne State College. The Willow Bowl, completed in 1938, evolved from what was originally a campus lake completed in 1922, which for two years allowed Wayne State students to ice skate in the winter and swim in the summer. Later, a cracked cement base ended these student activities and a mess was left behind.

The Willow Bowl was constructed using the broken cement from the pond and mortar to form the stage and seating of the amphitheatre. From this modest beginning, the Willow Bowl became not just a landscape feature on campus, but according to alumni, a place central to their hearts and minds. It is an icon, a representation of the college that is unique and special.

Alumni frequently share stories about the Willow Bowl: spring commencement, marriage proposals, a rendezvous with someone or just enjoying its beauty. It is one of the reasons Wayne State College was named most beautiful campus in North Central United States.