Long time Faribault resident Richard Kettering believes in being part of the solution rather than complaining about what needs to change.

The South Dakota native moved to Faribault in 1978, the same year he was appointed to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s faculty as the school’s librarian. Throughout his 40-plus years in Faribault, and promoting the arts in particular, he’s lived by his philosophy taking action.  

“We’re fortunate that we have such a giving and caring community, and there’s lots of great things happening here,” Kettering said. “It doesn't just happen; people have got to get together and say, ‘Let’s make this happen’ … We’ve got a wonderful, diverse community here, and it’s a great place to live, and it’s because people are doing things.”

Over the course of a few decades, Kettering has witnessed and helped influence changes that occurred on and off the Shattuck-St. Mary’s campus. When he began as a faculty member, he remembers being encouraged to become active in community service organizations. Like a college town, there existed a natural division between Shattuck’s campus and the rest of the community. He and the other faculty members made efforts to open the school’s doors to Faribault as a whole, by involving students in community service projects like sandbagging after severe floods impacted the area.

Fine arts events also gave Shattuck opportunities to invite the community to the campus. With performing arts being a particular passion of Kettering’s, he became involved in booking performances for the Fesler-Lampert Performing Arts series and Acoustic Roots Series, which both feature music and entertainment acts that are open to the whole community. Shattuck’s historic Newhall Auditorium, which seats 425, hosts all of these events.

Matt Cavellier, Shattuck-St. Mary’s head of school, said it would be difficult for Shattuck to host some of the verge-of-success performances in the Fesler-Lampert series if not for Kettering’s connections.

“His ability to work with getting grants and getting top-notch performances has been phenomenal,” Cavellier said. “ … He’s a great community member here, and he’s been a loving, caring Faribault community member for a long, long time.”

Apart from inviting performers to Shattuck, Kettering has advised a few student activities throughout the years. He was the advisor for the school’s crack squad, a precision drill team that formed in 1882 and retired last year. For 40 years, he served as boys’ tennis coach. He also directed and provided technical direction for plays in the theater department for a number of years.

“But my primary job here at Shattuck is I’m the school librarian, and it's a very, very important time for librarians right now,” Kettering said. “These past four years, with the rising climate of misinformation and disinformation, librarians feel our job is more important than ever, and we’re really trying to provide our patrons with reliable information resources.”

Outside of his responsibilities on the Shattuck campus, Kettering has offered his time to Buckham Memorial Library in the greater community. He served as a Library Board member for several years and took on the role of board president in the mid-1990s.

Buckham Memorial Library was a standalone facility at that time, but the two sides of the building had levels that didn’t match up, creating accessibility issues. Kettering recalls the board and the city of Faribault together developed “an elegant solution” of connecting the library with the Faribault Community Center.

“It was happening right at a time when a lot of things were changing in the library world,” Kettering said. “The library needed more space for computer stations and that type of thing. It was really a big step for the library. And the library had to close for like a year; they had to put things into storage in order to complete that project. That was a big deal.”

After his time on the Library Board, Kettering devoted more time to Infants Remembered in Silence (IRIS), which provides healing support and resources to families impacted by all types of infant and early childhood deaths. Kettering’s wife, Anna, serves as president of the IRIS Board, and the two of them have helped the nonprofit phase out of its previous locations and into its current building.

The Paradise Center of the Arts is another community organization the Ketterings serve together, both as volunteers. Working closely with the Paradise Center through his work with the Fesler-Lampert Series, Kettering has coordinated booking efforts and done collaborative projects with Faribault’s downtown entertainment venue. He also serves on the Paradise Music Committee.

“I just think it’s so great that a town like Faribault has two presenting organizations,” Kettering said. “Paradise is doing such wonderful things. In the pre-COVID time, they were doing something almost every weekend, and it’s a real example of how the arts are an economic driver for our community. When there's an event going on at the Paradise, it just adds to the vitality of the downtown.”

In the mid-1990s, Kettering helped launch an outdoor music festival in Faribault that generated community hype for about 16 years. The Tree Frog Music Festival was a grassroots development that stemmed from a group of friends wanting to attend a local outdoor music festival. Shattuck hosted the event for the first year, said Kettering, but it moved to Tee Pee Tonka Park and presented nonstop music and vendors for two days each September.

“Sixteen years is a pretty good run for a music festival,” Kettering said. “It was a victim of the recession. The recession hit, and sponsorship money dried up. We always tried to keep it affordable … It was a good run, and I think a good example of how a group of people could come together and say, ‘Let’s do this.’”

When the Faribault Foundation began over 20 years ago, Kettering was nominated to join the Board of Directors as a charter member. He believes his connection to the arts inspired his nomination.

The Faribault Foundation can act as an umbrella organization for other startup groups until they acquire their own nonprofit status, or if they have a costly one-time project to complete. One of the first projects of the Faribault Foundation, said Kettering, was a fundraising effort to start up the Faribault Aquatic Center. Since then, the Faribault Foundation's assets have grown to the point of offering Community Pride Grants of $500 to different local projects like a pollinator garden at Buckham Memorial Library and the Community Thanksgiving dinner at the Faribault American Legion.

“I think the Faribault Foundation is a great way to help groups like this,” Kettering said. “We don’t expect them to be our community partners forever; eventually they’ll be able to go completely on their own, but we’re able to help things get started.”

If anyone has an idea to improve the community but doesn’t know how to get started, Kettering’s advice is to form a small group, brainstorm together, and approach the Faribault Foundation.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

Load comments