Late MSU professor honored with dance studio

Florence Cobb became the first Black female professor at Minnesota State University in 1968 and founded the dance program. Now, as of December and nearly 30 years after her retirement, the department has named the former Highland Center North dance studio in her honor.

“I think it’s really important to honor her legacy on campus,” said Corrie Eggimann, director of public relations for the MSU Department of Theatre and Dance. “She really advocated for dance for all people, people with different abilities, and so I think it’s really exciting and really important to have that space kind of right in the middle of campus that so many people have access to.”

Before her 2016 death, Cobb studied at Lincoln University, Tennessee State University and Temple University after spending her upbringing in a “predominantly white neighborhood” in Oklahoma, according to her biography on the MSU website, which identifies her as the “dance founding mother.” 

She founded the dance program at MSU and established the Dance Education Minor. The biography says she had a goal to teach Minnesota students about diverse cultures through guest artists, workshops and study abroad trips. She taught at MSU for over 20 years before retiring in 1990, according to her obituary in the Star Tribune.

She received a special citation at the Twin Cities SAGE awards in 2013 and said in her acceptance speech, “I’ve shared time and space and energy with all of you. And that’s all it’s about on this Earth.”

The studio is in Highland North, on the way to the Myers Field House. The studio, which was already built before being dedicated to Cobb in December, features a mural by the entrance of Cobb in purple with her arms stretched outwards. Another nearby wall shows the same picture in black and white with a biography about her life and career. These graphics were created by the department’s Creative Production staff, according to their Facebook post about the dedication.

This space was chosen for re-naming because she taught her classes in it during her time as a professor in the late 20th century. She taught a variety of classes in this space and it will continue to be a diverse learning area with different disciplines taught including ballet, contemporary and yoga, according to Eggimann.

The Florence Cobb dance studio joins the Schellberg Gym in campus spaces named after MSU legacies. According to Eggimann, Cobb and Ruth Schellberg, former chairperson of women’s P.E., were friends during their time on campus.

“Having that studio named after her will help the legacy of the dance program and help the dance program remain a prominent program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. We really owe to her the founding of the dance program itself,” said Eggiman.

Header photo: ​​The Florence Cobb Dance Studio was renamed in early December to honor the late MSU professor. The Highland North studio was where Cobb taught several classes in the late 20th century. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Carly Bahr at

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