Erwin, instrumental in launch, success of the Weidner Center, dies at 69

The UW-Green Bay community lost a former leader earlier this year, when Linda B. Irwin died 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. You can view a short obituary, which includes a  portrait of her taken in the Weidner’s Cofrin Family Hall, online.


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