2012 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Spirit of Francis - Eileen (Sullivan) Schrager '63

After graduating from Viterbo with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Eileen worked full-time as a teacher at St. Henry's and later at Northside Catholic Academy, St. Ita Campus, IL while she and her husband, Herb, raised their three boys.

Yet during these busy years, Eileen and her husband repeatedly opened their home and became loving caregivers for critically ill and elderly parents, acquaintances, and strangers. Today, she works to prepare meals for the hungry in Chicago area neighborhoods and helps to find furniture for immigrants who have just moved to the country.

Eileen and Herb never talk about any of their selfless works. If it is paying a light bill, a ride to a medical appointment, a friendly visit, or a long-term place to stay in someone's greatest time of need, Eileen and Herb are there-open armed and gracious and truly making a difference. They have fed the hungry, cared for the sick and the unfortunate, and taken in the homeless.

As one of Eileen's nominators wrote, "To give and not to count the cost. To labor and not seek reward." That's the essence of Eileen's spirit, which makes her a very worthy recipient of the Spirit of Francis Award.

Professional Development - Karolee (Hogden) Sowle, SFSN '62, '77

Karolee retired on Aug. 1 as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif. Karolee joined the hospital in 1997 and immediately put her Franciscan values to work as a servant leader as the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO). In November 2006, she was named interim CEO and COO and then became president and CEO in March 2008. In 2011, U.S. News and World Report named Desert Regional Medical Center as Best Regional Hospital for the Inland Empire region of California.

Karolee has been recognized for her work in the community, receiving the Palm Springs Athena Award in 2008 and the 100 Women Award at Desert AIDS Project's Steve Chase.

Humanitarian Awards. She received the Circle of Excellence Award in 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2008 for her leadership in health care management from Tenet Healthcare Corporation and the 2011 Bronze Eureka Award from the California Awards for Performance Excellence.

Prior to her career at Desert Regional Medical Center, Sowle was COO and CNO at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, and CNO at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah. Karolee graduated from the St. Francis School of Nursing and from Viterbo with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She also earned a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin.

Service to the University - Joyce (Waldenberger) Hagmann, SFSN '47

Joyce Hagmann comes from a family very familiar with the Saint Francis School of Nursing. Joyce, an older sister, and five aunts graduated from the school, and Joyce feels her years as a student in the nursing program prepared her for a lifetime of caregiving.

Joyce worked at St. Francis Hospital for 41 years. After retiring in 1988, she cared for her granddaughter, who was born with a hole in her heart, and later her ill mother.

In 2001, she became president of the St. Francis School of Nursing Alumnae Association and assumed the role of editor and publisher of the organization's annual newsletter. Joyce was instrumental in coordinating an annual picnic for the group so that the group stayed connected and engaged. She continued her role and was proud in 2011 to join the rest of the Saint Francis School of Nursing Alumnae in becoming honorary alumnae of Viterbo University. She resigned from her position in 2012 after a very successful tenure.

Joyce was able to realize the dream of overseeing the creation a Saint Francis School of Nursing Scholarship at Viterbo that has generated over $25,000 to date that will honor all the graduates of the school and will be a legacy that will live on for generations.

Sandra (Dutcher) Schwalbe '63

Sandy has dedicated her life to volunteerism and the preservation of archival items of historical significance for people to appreciate and learn from for years to come.

After graduating with a degree in chemistry from Viterbo, Sandy was offered a job at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., conducting DNA research. She made a home there with her husband Tye, whom she met while going to school at Viterbo. After the birth of their two sons, Sandy and Tye moved to Naperville, Ill., where they established an antique store that evolved into a thriving lighting store after years of passion for collecting antiques at garage sales, auctions, and flea markets.

Over the years, Sandy has been instrumental in community restoration projects, helping restore historical buildings in Stephenson and Joe Daviess counties in Illinois. These buildings include the first stone house that was built in Stephenson County in 1839, an old fire station, and turning a Stage Coach trail into a museum and rest stop for tourists.

Sandy was instrumental in forming the Warren (Ill.) Historical Society, was an active member of the American Breweriana Association and Postosi Brewery Foundation. In 1992, Jo Daviess County honored Sandy with a Woman of the Year award. In 2006, Sandy and Tye moved back "home" to La Crosse and are celebrating 49 years of marriage this year. Sandy and Tye saved and renovated a church in La Crosse and donated the facility to the local historical society. They are zealous supporters of Viterbo through their philanthropy, which supports first generation college students through a scholarship in Sandy's mother's name.

Young Alumni - Zach Johnson '11

In fall 2009, Zach Johnson traveled to Rome, Italy, to study English Literature. After returning to Wisconsin, he was offered an opportunity to live and work at the Place of Grace Catholic Worker House. He accepted and moved into the small house on the south side of La Crosse. There, Zach began the curious life of purposeful solidarity. He began coordinating the Place of Grace in June 2011 after graduating from Viterbo with a degree in English Composition with a minor in Servant Leadership.

In the fall of that year, Zach was asked by Catholic Charities to coordinate the first full year of the La Crosse Winter Warming Center project. Over the course of the five open months, the Center warmed 113 homeless guests in 1,975 overnight stays. Zach oversaw the facilitation and scheduling of over 200 different volunteers who gave over 4,000 hours of volunteer time to teach and learn with the guests. Zach often worked the night shift himself.

Since becoming a Catholic Worker, Zach has put his Franciscan values and servant leadership skills to use by writing articles on modern poverty and the nature of both the personal and collective responsibility to respond. These thoughts are periodically published in the Place of Grace newsletter.

In July, Zach accepted a position with the Homeless Project in Minneapolis, where Zach works with a new housing initiative in Hennepin County coordinating housing options for those that have had long-term homeless situations.  Zach has been busy with his new position and also planning for a January wedding with Molly Pach, also a Viterbo alumnus.