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Not Just a Gym

Not Just a Gym

A Brief History of the Winter Educational Complex. 

By Jessi Vietz 

The Winter Educational Complex is named after Eugene “prof” Winter, and houses the school of nursing, social work and the health and education department. Pre-pandemic era, the WEC was highly involved in the community, offering swimming and gymnastics lessons taught by Walla Walla University students. [1] 

The WEC contains many recreational facilities including, “a fitness center, gymnastics gym with rock climbing wall, racquetball, tennis, and beach volleyball courts, and fields for soccer, softball, and football. A pool, remodeled in 2013, is also available as well as a main gym for varsity, club, and intramural sports.” [2] 

The “W” in WEC gets its name from Eugene Winter, nicknamed “prof.” Around the nineteen forties, there was no WEC, instead there was the Columbia Auditorium which had recently been granted new status for physical education classes on campus. After the end of World War II however, “it was evident that the PE program would have to be expanded,” who better for the job than “Eugene Winter, who arrived in 1946.” [3] 

The new physical education program graduated its first students, Robert M. Reynolds and Helen Ward in 1949. Despite limited funding and sports being viewed as a low priority to education, the program expanded. Change was needed as the department struggled with small and scattered spaces to work. [4] 

“The only playing field was behind Sittner Hall, and sometimes stray home run balls smashed the windshields of parked cars.” With the new engineering building under construction in 1963, the academy baseball field was eliminated. In 1961 the PE department created many playing fields on land west of Rogers School, but the learning facilities were still outdated and small. [5] 

Eugene Winter himself had graduated from Walla Walla College Academy in 1935 and was offered a golf scholarship at the University of Washington but chose to continue his education at Walla Walla College. “He often attended school two quarters a year and spent the other two cutting wood to pay for his educational expenses.” [6] 

“Prof” Winter graduated in 1941 with a history major and taught elementary school for several years. “In 1946 he was preparing to attend medical school in Loma Linda when George Bowers invited him to become the head of the physical education department at Walla Walla College and to develop a PE major.” [7] 

He was the only PE faculty member for many years and would work from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day. In 1946 he began scuba diving and went on to become one of the first certified scuba instructors in the U.S. In 1963 he became the first Seventh-day Adventist physical education teacher to obtain a Ph.D. [8] 

When lack of funding was still an issue, Winter opened a store in S College Ave, called “Prof’s Rock Shop,” the proceeds of which he used to buy new equipment for the department. During alumni weekend in 1989, after his retirement, the complex was officially renamed the Winter Educational Complex. [9] 

See Also

“When the Collegian interviewed him in 1955 he explained why he felt a sports program was necessary: less than 5 percent of the students were employed in jobs that vigorously exercised all of the muscles in the body, and the most industrial work on campus was repetitious and monotonous.” [10] 

When concerns were raised by Seventh-day Adventists about the spirit of competition, Winters responded, “Competition is not basically wrong. If it were we could not hold an evangelistic effort.” He pointed out that Mrs. White herself had approved of ball games if they were not excessive. [11] 

Without Eugene “prof” Winter, the physical education department would not be what it is today. He created the program and sustained and grew it with his own income for over thirty years.  

References 

  1. Winter educational complex. (n.d.). MYWWU. https://mywwu.wallawalla.edu/directory/buildings/wec  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Aamodt, T. D. (1992). Bold venture: A history of Walla Walla College. The College.  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 

Photo 

  1. Eugene 1. Winters taught PE classes, became a scuba instructor, and was the first Adventist physical education teacher to obtain a Ph.D. Eugene Winter from the WWU Archives Digital Photo Collection, accessed 5/6/22. 
  1. Eugene 2. Winters opened “Prof’s Rock Shop” where he turned profits into funds for the PE department’s equipment. Eugene Winter from the WWU Archives Digital Photo Collection, accessed 5/6/22. 
  1. Eugene 3. Prof Winters spearheaded the PE program for Walla Walla College. Eugene Winter from the WWU Archives Digital Photo Collection, accessed 5/6/22. 
  1. Old Photo of WEC. The foundation of Walla Wall College’s PE program is now known dearly as the Winter Educational Complex, home to the social work, nursing, and health and education programs. Photo of WEC from the WWU Archives Digital Photo Collection, accessed 5/6/22. 
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