In the world of education, there are individuals whose impact extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. William “Bill” Wingren, who was a dedicated teacher and musical theater enthusiast, is a shining example of how one person can leave a lasting imprint.
Born and raised in Oshkosh, Bill attended St Mary’s Grade School, Oshkosh High School, and finally the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and History Education. After completing his student teaching, he found his calling and was hired the following fall as a special education teacher. Dear friend and former colleague Helen Limberg shared that in the thirty plus years that Bill taught, he always believed that the students should have practical projects and learn life skills. He was sure to add humor to every lesson and gave his students the true gift of time.
Although teaching was his first love, Bill also enjoyed music and drama. After seeing Les Miserables on Broadway for the first time in 1997, he was so captivated that he saw it dozens of times more in places as far away as London and San Francisco and as close as local high schools. He loved pop-oriented productions like Cats, operatic shows with elaborate sets like Phantom of the Opera, and classics like Annie Get Your Gun. Bill took great pleasure in recounting his musical experiences with his students back home.
Bill strongly believed that life was not just a dress rehearsal but rather an opportunity to take risks, pursue passions, and make a positive impact on the world. In 2011, he established a fund named after himself and his parents—the Francis, Jean, and Bill Wingren Fund. Bill created a planned gift to ensure this fund would continue to support the causes that deeply mattered to him and his parents. Through your Community Foundation, Bill’s estate gift supports programming for dogs in the Oshkosh area, outdoor beautification at several Oshkosh organizations, and funding for public and private high school musicals in Oshkosh. His fund also supports organizations including Meals on Wheels in Winnebago County, the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Center, and Park View Health Center.
Despite his passing in 2022, the ghost light—a tradition to keep a light on in the theater at night—is shining bright through Bill’s charitable impact on the community.
The Francis, Jean, and Bill Wingren Fund will support future high school musicals in Oshkosh, such as Valley Christian School’s recent performances of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.