Warren Gerds column: Weidner's former manager bridged key areas
Brushes with showbiz types brightened the days of Linda Erwin at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
A dance troupe from Bali needed raw chicken livers for a ritual. Erwin helped round up some “from Col. Sanders.”
She got exotic meal requests. Preservation Hall jazz band from New Orleans desired only to eat at Woolworth’s, a kind of Dollar Store.
Erwin rubbed shoulders with stars of stage and screen, plus such eminent figures as anthropologist Margaret Mead. Erwin’s chance to share an hour of brilliant byplay on a drive from Fond du Lac turned out to be silence. The exhausted Mead fell asleep.
Erwin would smile and laugh in telling anecdotes. “I still get goose bumps when I meet these people,” she said.
For 28 years, Erwin was part of the show business part of UWGB – the arts and entertainment programs booked to perk up the local culture and draw the public to the campus.
Erwin was aboard when the Weidner Center was built on campus. She was around for the Weidner’s early heyday and retired in 2001 to move close to her family in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Her Christmas cards were chipper, usually noting she savored retirement.
Word came this week that Erwin died April 29 after what was described as a period of declining health. She was 69.
“I found the business of show business very challenging, and I enjoyed it,” she said in 1990. “I have met some wonderful people and have had some wonderful experiences along the way.”
She said this before she was pulled headlong into the Weidner’s sensational shows and had more chances, as she said, to be “swept up in the glamour.”
(Published August 10, 2012, Green Bay Press-Gazette; reprinted with permission from Kevin Corrado, president and publisher, Green Bay Press-Gazette.)
Passing of Linda Erwin
(Published August 4, 2012, Log newsletter, UW-Green Bay)
The LOG newsletter is saddened to make note of the passing earlier this year of Linda B. Erwin. She died April 29 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. after what was described as a period of declining health. She was 69.
Erwin retired from UW-Green Bay in September 2001 as managing director of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts to cap a 28-year career in which she was instrumental in helping launch, guide and expand the early programming success of the Weidner Center, which opened in 1993.
Her multi-faced role in booking artists and hosting performers at UW-Green Bay dated to 1973 and the earliest years of the Visiting Artists Series, which for many years brought nationally acclaimed performers and lecturers to the University Theatre to entertain and enlighten campus and community audiences. She also coordinated the institution’s own Arts and Performances Series promoting student music, theatre and dance productions.
In a 1990 profile of Erwin — one of several he wrote over the years in his ongoing role as arts and entertainment columnist — the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Warren Gerds described her contributions to the community: “Through her work, Green Bay has become a more interesting place for people who savor the joys of live performances that cut across a wide spectrum.”
Erwin assumed full responsibility for managing arts and performances in 1983 with the departure of her colleague and predecessor, Tom Birmingham. She oversaw stage rehearsal schedules, promotion, ticket sales, programs, ushers and other house functions. Under her direction, the University extended its outreach to local schools and increased the number of master classes and daytime shows for schoolchildren.
A new era began in 1987 with Dr. David and Mary Ann Cofrin’s announcement of a multi-million-dollar challenge gift to establish a community performing arts center at UW-Green Bay. Erwin was heavily involved in community relations, planning and preparation that culminated in the Weidner Center’s grand opening in January 1993. She was widely respected in both state and national professional organizations and presenters’ networks.
When Erwin left the University a decade ago to be closer to family and her native North Carolina, she told the Press-Gazette she wouldn’t rule out involvement with the arts and theatre scene in her new community, Myrtle Beach, S.C. The public record, however, indicates she quietly dedicated herself to volunteer service, faith and healthcare causes in retirement. Those included Meals on Wheels, the Community Kitchen of Myrtle Beach, the Good News After School Church Program and the H2U Hospital Group of the Grand Strand Medical Center.
She was survived by her mother, one brother, one sister and other relatives. A short obituary, which includes a portrait of her taken in the Weidner’s Cofrin Family Hall, was posted last spring online.