Mankatoan gifts more than $1M to historical society, orchestra

Published 6:57 am Saturday, July 28, 2018

By Trey Mewes

The Mankato Free Press

MANKATO — A former Mankatoan bequeathed almost $1.1 million to two local nonprofits when he died a year and a half ago.

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The Blue Earth County Historical Society and Mankato Symphony Orchestra announced Tuesday they will each receive about $540,000 from Edward McLean, who died in December 2016.

“Every time when he was in Mankato, or many times when he was in Mankato, he’d always make a point to stop by the historical society and have a conversation with me about our activities,” BECHS Director Jessica Potter said.

McLean was a Mankato native and a 1960 graduate of Mankato High School. McLean later earned degrees from Hamline University in 1964 and the University of Oregon in 1968.

He spent four years teaching math in Anoka County before he switched to the insurance industry. He worked for State Farm until 2007 in Bloomington, Illinois, before he retired and moved back to the Mankato area.

McLean spent much of his time volunteering as a tutor, and his obituary states he enjoyed reading, traveling, music, politics and history among other passions.

Though he wasn’t a regular member of the historical society, Potter said she missed McLean’s conversations.

Yet Potter and the symphony orchestra didn’t know until recently McLean had specifically named the two organizations in his will.

“We take it very seriously to be good stewards of that money,” Potter said.

The orchestra plans to form a committee to determine how to spend McLean’s money. It will be chaired by a friend of McLean’s, Mankato native Jim Johnson of St. Paul. Orchestra officials say they may start an endowment fund to ensure the organization’s continued growth.

“This gift from the Edward McLean estate came as a complete surprise,” said Kenneth Freed, music director and conductor, in a statement. “It is gratifying to learn that our music has touched someone in our community in such a profound way.”

The historical society plans to explore adding more exhibit space or get more space to store the thousands of artifacts the organization oversees. The nonprofit also could pay to fix up the historic Hubbard House or add more programming to the historical society’s museum.

Both organizations hope to reach out to McLean’s surviving family, all of whom live out of state, to get their input on how to honor McLean. They are also planning coordinated exhibits, such as an upcoming program on the county’s history combined with music from the late 19th and early 20th century.

“It’s really exciting,” Potter said. “He didn’t say that was his plan, but you can tell that with his gift it’s bringing his two passions to life.”