Gebhard receives Athena Award

NEW ULM – Darla Gebhard was named the 2013 Athena Award recipient Wednesday at an informal ceremony at the BCHS Museum.

Darla Gebhard, a Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) employee of more than 30 years, appeared pleasantly surprised when she was presented a bouquet of flowers from New Ulm Chamber of Commerce President Audra Shaneman.

Junior Pioneers of New Ulm and Vicinity President Lori Otis nominated Gebhard for the award that recognizes recipients for their professional and personal leadership and community service.

“I’ve watched this woman work so hard. Tirelessly. I’m proud to nominate her,” Otis said.

Gebhard also received a large box of chocolates. The actual award will be presented at a formal ceremony during the third week of April.

“I love my job. I love working here. It’s a wonderful place,” Gebhard said.

Her BCHS duties have included office management, collections and exhibit work and educational programming. She is also the museum’s research librarian and archivist.

Gebhard expanded family files from 1,500 to more than 5,500 and tripled the number of historical files and library books, according to the nomination.

She researched major museum exhibits including Immigrant’s Dream, Wanda Gag: Drawing From Her Past, Building a New Home Land, Brush Strokes From the Past, Made in Brown County, and Never Shall I Forget: Brown County and the War of 1862.

Gebhard worked on the installation of an art exhibit “Wanda Gag: 120 Years. ” The exhibit honors Gag’s 120th birthday, March 8. It opened earlier this month.

She has worked with many historians, television and film crews, authors and artists, promoting Brown County and the BCHS. She co-authored a book on Brown County and the Dakota War titled “Eight Days in August” that was published last year to coincide with the observance of U.S.-Dakota War’s 150th anniversary.

Gebhard has served on many city commissions and committees. The list includes nine years on the New Ulm City Cemetery and Monuments Commission, the Hermann Monument Cornerstone Centennial Committee, Hermann Monument Centennial Committee, Hermann Monument Perpetual Maintenance Society and Hermann Monument Interpretive Committee.

She is a Hermann Monument Society board member, Brown County Historical Society life member, and Lind House and Wanda Gag House Association charter member. She served on the New Ulm 150th Anniversary Committee and 150th Anniversary of the Dakota War Steering Committee as well as the Junior Pioneers board and New Ulm Turnverein board. She belongs to Turner Ladies.

Gebhard volunteers time in the Right to Read Program, teaching adults with reading disabilities, mentors History Day students and served on her church archive committee.

She has mentored college students and summer interns at the BCHS for more than 25 years. In her free time, she helps aspiring authors with research and manuscript preparation.

Gebhard offered her time to film crews and volunteered many hours in 2012 with two young women working on a Dakota War film to appear on public television, taking them to county historic sites.

She mentored young women in the State History Day program including a women who did a character performance of Wanda Gag that won local and state contests.

Gebhard created BCHS educational walking tours. One of the most popular is the Katie Gropper tour that tells the story of a 10-year-old New Ulm girl who became New Ulm’s first female school teacher.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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