Maxine Ronglien, Owatonna

One person can make a difference, especially one that inspires others to take action.  Maxine Ronglien is one person who has made a difference for thousands of Minnesotans.  She and her husband, Harvey, have been stalwart advocates for the preservation of the West Hills, the former Minnesota State Public School Orphanage campus in Owatonna.

Built between 1886 and 1931, the Orphanage campus is comprised of 18 historic administrative and residential buildings that housed more than 10,000 children before it closed in 1945.  One of those children was Maxine’s husband, Harvey Ronglien.  The City of Owatonna purchased the campus in 1974 to use for its administrative offices.  The removal of the 1898 school in the early 1990’s prompted Maxine and Harvey to begin a campaign to protect and restore the West Hills campus.

Maxine chaired the West Hills Commission, a mayoral-appointed body to ensure the Orphanage’s preservation and operational sustainability.  In 1999, the Orphanage Museum was incorporated as a nonprofit with Maxine serving as Chairperson and Chief Operations Director until her retirement on June 14, 2011.  Having raised thousands of dollars, and dedicating thousands of volunteer hours, Maxine contributed to the significant preservation successes at West Hills, the most recent of which was its 2011 listing as a National Register Historic District.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is proud to recognize Maxine Ronglien with an Advocacy Award for the more than two decades she has dedicated to the preservation of the West Hills Campus.  Her efforts have ensured that future generations will continue to experience this important Minnesota story where that history happened.