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Thornburg Fitness Center

Story Series
Behind the Name

Physical educators emphasize the importance of staying fit. So, it’s apt that BSU named a facility on campus dedicated to exercising after a longtime faculty member in the discipline. 

But Dr. Mary Lou Thornburg’s impact stretched far beyond her classroom. 

Named For

Dr. Mary Lou Thornburg 

The Backstory

Mary Lou Thornburg poses for a photo in front of the fitness center named for her.
Dr. Mary Lou Thornburg

A first-generation college student, Thornburg could no doubt relate to the many students she taught at Bridgewater. She likely also understood the challenges they faced juggling academics and multiple jobs.

As one of six children, she had to pay her own way through her undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

Thornburg went on to teach physical education at Bridgewater State for 33 years, retiring in 1997.

She remained connected to Bridgewater by serving as acting dean and leading the planning committee for the Adrian Tinsley Center. The center opened in 2002 and houses BSU’s first field house and the fitness facility that bears her name.

Thornburg continues to help today’s physical education majors through a scholarship she started with a gift to BSU. The scholarship, which has been supported over the years by additional donations, is awarded to physical education majors. Preference is given to students with financial need who are involved on campus or in the community and have at least a 3.3 GPA.

“Many of the best years of my life were spent on that campus, and I have many wonderful friends as a result of my work there,” Thornburg said in a 2006 Bridgewater magazine article. “I’m happy to do whatever I can to help the college.”

Use Today

Located inside the Tinsley Center on the east side of campus, the fitness facility is available to students for free. Faculty, staff and alumni can purchase memberships. Guest passes are also available. Staff will provide a free orientation to the exercise equipment.

Material in this article comes from the Winter 2006 Bridgewater magazine article “Dr. Mary Lou Thornburg, Tireless Advocate for Bridgewater State College” by David Wilson ’71, the BSU Bears athletics website and the Winter 2012-2013 edition of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse’s magazine.