Richard “Dick” Robertson believes his interest in arts education had its origins from Wadena High School, where he graduated in 1947.
WDC names new theater after '47 alum and donor
Wadena-Deer Creek Schools is honoring one of its distinguished alumni and major donors by naming its new 109-seat theater in the middle/high school after him.
The theater is being named in honor of Richard “Dick” Robertson, a 1947 Wadena High School graduate, who contributed $85,000 to the WDC Education Foundation in 2007.
WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom said the naming is a “fitting tribute to Dick because it recognizes his exceptional achievements, his generous spirit and his commitment to WDC schools.”
The Robertson Theater is a beautiful, multi-dimensional, handicapped-accessible auditorium (pictured below) that will accommodate performing arts, lectures and a variety of group activities and meetings. The 2,496-square-foot theater features a spacious stage, state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, LED lighting and comfortable theater seating with folding desktops. The stage features two video projectors and two 192-inch-by-108-inch video screens that provide widescreen HDTV format.
Robertson, 83, and his wife, Hadley, currently reside in the Philadelphia suburb of Gwynedd, Penn. Robertson was humbled by the news from Superintendent Dahlstrom when she shared the school’s wishes.
“My wife and I are pleased to have made a contribution to the Wadena-Deer Creek Education Foundation five years ago and honored to have an auditorium in the new school named after us,” Robertson said.
Payments from this gift to the foundation have been used to expand and enhance the school’s programs in the arts. The distribution of the money is made in perpetuity from interest earnings, so the contribution will never be depleted. As an endowment, only the interest earned is spent each year by the foundation. However, with a sum this size, the foundation has $4,500 to $5,000 per year to spend on the performing and creative arts.
Robertson said the decision to dedicate the donation to this part of the school’s operation is based on his and his wife’s agreement with the conclusion of experienced educators and experts in child development.
“They have concluded that response to the arts and participation in them broadens the scope of learning, stimulates creativity, provides amusement and excitement, improves interaction with others and enriches the lives of students in many ways as they grow to adulthood,” Robertson said.
The man behind the name
Robertson, who described himself as a youth who was involved in many activities at Wadena High School but admitted: “There was a bit of mischief as well.” He made this light-hearted comment in the August 2007 Wadena Pioneer Journal article announcing his significant gift of $85,000 to WDC for the school’s endowment fund.
During his high school years, Robertson immersed himself in the arts – not to mention, excelled in all that he was involved in. The young Robertson served as editor of The Tomahawk, the student newspaper, and Indian Trails, the yearbook. He was an accomplished cornet and trumpet player in the high school concert, marching, German and dance bands, the Wadena community band, the mixed chorus, the boys’ quartet and other instrumental and vocal ensembles. He also was involved in several class plays and theater productions.
“I may not have been obsessed with these and other activities, but came close to it in the case of music,” Robertson said, adding, “More than any other factor, this participation triggered the contribution to the arts through the WDC Education Foundation.”
After graduating from Wadena High School in 1947 with 66 classmates, Robertson attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and political science. He played in the university concert and marching bands, headed several student organizations and was president of his fraternity, Theta Chi.
After serving his country in the U.S. Army, Robertson began his illustrious career in communications, getting his start as press chief at Fort Carson, Colo., and director of public information at the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs – a post he held until 1959. He would then move on to the corporate world, where he held several public affairs and communications positions with Sperry Univac (then Sperry Rand) in St. Paul, Minn., which at the time was the largest U.S. location. From 1969 to 1973, served as the director of computer user relations and director of communications at the Univac and Remington headquarters in Blue Bell, Penn.
Robertson’s talent for creativity, personnel management and skillful use of the most effective communications media and techniques were recognized at the corporate headquarters in New York City, where he moved when promoted to vice president of public affairs in 1973. He concentrated on news media relations, employee communications, speech writing and community relations. He became recognized as one of the leading authorities on employee communications in multi-national corporations. In 1989, Robertson retired as vice president of communications.
His wife, Hadley, is a graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and Parsons School of Design in New York. Professionally, she has been a successful artist and cartoonist. She also does volunteer work for organizations that have touched her life. The Robertsons have been married 50 years.
Remembering our roots
Robertson deeply believes in supporting causes that are worthy and deserving of such support. He said many other graduates can look back on their high school days with fondness and appreciation for specific activities, such as athletic teams, for example.
“I believe that in their waning years, if not before, such alumni should remember and respect their roots by giving back to their schools what they can to strengthen and improve what they left behind – from sports teams to musical and theatrical groups to art projects to academic programs to other sources of student enjoyment and lasting value. Contributing to the WDC Education Foundation is a great way to do it.”
Robertson has remained in contact with Wadena school administration over the years and gave two commencement speeches in 1963 and 1972, and one at M|State in 1974. He was a close friend of former Wadena schools superintendent Ted Tofte, who retired in 1972.
Today, Robertson and his wife enjoy traveling, music, art, films, theater, current issues and community service.
A display featuring Robertson’s life with words and photos will be displayed in the theater as a way to educate WDC youth and the public on Mr. Robertson’s contributions and legacy to WDC Schools.
Go to the WDC Education Foundation page and learn ways you can contribute to WDC.
Robertson (second from left) was a member of Wadena’s German band called “The Hungry Five.” The band played mainly traditional German and American folk music. Also pictured, from left, Warren Hartman, Robertson, Vernell Goldsmith, Jim Zosel and Dave Storvick. This photo is from the 1947 Indian Trails yearbook.
The Boys’ Quartet (above) presented programs at many civic meetings and school functions throughout the year. The Boys’ Quartet, from left, included: Bob Aaberg (second tenor), Ben Larson (first tenor), Robertson (baritone), Harold Wilcox (bass) and Dave Storvick (accompanist).
Robertson was a member of a nine-piece dance orchestra his senior year in 1946-47. The band was under the direction of Mr. Harry Malm. First row, from left: Pat Kingsley, David Storvick and Jim Zosel. Second row, from left: Warren Hartman, Ken Krause, Dick Robertson and Marilou Bluhm. Third row, from left: Keith Engh, Arden Kvamme and Mr. Malm.