Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center has had several leaders and administrators in its fifty-year history, and each had their own unique influence on Dunrovin. Brother Laurence Walther left a sizeable impact on Dunrovin in the 1980’s, as his love for music and service enriched Dunrovin’s programs and the surrounding community.
In 1940 Brother Laurence became part of the Christian Brothers, an organization of schools, services, and ministries following the example of founder Saint John Baptist de La Salle, a priest who devoted his life to helping students and the poor. In addition to his religious vocation and talent for the piano, Brother Laurence had a zeal for learning and wanted to continue his education. Just four years after he became a Brother, he graduated with an English degree from St. Mary’s College in Winona, MN. He soon found himself starting the Fine Arts Department at St. Mary’s in 1970, and founding and chairing the Music Department in 1975. In this way, Brother Laurence was able to combine his passion for music with his love of teaching to provide musical education for young college students.
Throughout Brother Laurence’s life, he continued to educate youth as he taught at several colleges and high schools nationwide. Early in his career, his specialties were English, Latin, religion, and music. Eventually, Brother Laurence earned Master’s Degrees in administration, religious studies, and piano. He was even given an honorary doctorate from St. Mary’s College in 1991 for his years of service and his lifelong commitment to education! No matter where Brother Laurence ended up, though, he brought along his love of music and shared it with those around him.
An impressive concert pianist as well as a devoted educator, Brother Laurence embarked on a professional performance circuit with fellow Brother Vincent Malham in 1974. The “Brothers in Concert” toured cities across America and even ventured worldwide to venues including Rome, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. A few decades later, in 1993, the two added Brother Michael Collins to their performance group and held several concerts with “a variety of musical genres, including vocal solos and duets and original piano arrangements” (according to a flyer for the event).
In 1985 Brother Laurence became the administrator at Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center, and several popular programs sprung to life because of his enthusiastic leadership. He established the Christian family retreats that were held at Dunrovin in the 1980’s and 1990’s, which helped families connect to God and communicate better among themselves. Along with this significant program addition, Brother Laurence instituted monthly, Sunday night concerts at Dunrovin that were open (and free) to all. Musical acts varied, but they never failed to bring in quite a large crowd from the surrounding community.
While all of Dunrovin’s leaders are significant to the Retreat Center’s outreach and success, Brother Laurence Walther holds a special, musical place in Dunrovin’s history. His life was centered on educating youth and playing beautiful music, and Brother Laurence brought these passions with him everywhere he went. Whether performing in Rome or organizing small Sunday concerts for the community, Brother Laurence left a lasting impression on the world and especially at Dunrovin.
To learn more about Dunrovin’s history, read more of our blog posts!Research taken from St. Mary’s Magazine Volume 37, Number 1 (Winter 2003), Country Messenger Newspaper : December 12, 1990 (reprinted from Catholic Bulletin : November 22, 1990), and a 1990 edition of the Stillwater Evening Gazette.