2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Community Service - Marie Kyle, FSPA '57, '60

Sr. Marie Kyle graduated from the St. Francis School of Nursing in 1957 and from Viterbo in 1960. It was her privilege to practice nursing at St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse; St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Hillsboro; Sacred Heart Hospital in Idaho; and Loeb Center for Nursing at Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, N.Y. . After earning a master’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University in 1963, she taught nursing at St. Francis School of Nursing, Viterbo University School of Nursing, and Idaho State University School of Nursing. In 1985, she became a certified gerontological nurse practitioner and practiced at Eau Claire Family Medicine Clinic in Eau Claire.

Most of Sr. Marie’s extra-curricular activities were also nursing and health-care related, such as holding office in the La Crosse District and Wisconsin Nurses Association. As she became involved in the practice of geriatric nursing in hospitals and home and long-term care settings, her passion quickly moved her to help improve the quality of life for seniors. As director of the retirement community for Franciscan Sisters at St. Rose Convent, she listened to the desires of Sisters in retirement. Their hopes prompted her to become involved with Pioneer Network, an organization that promotes culture change in long-term care, with an emphasis on the potential of elders, including making choices for themselves and nurturing their life and spirit.

In her own retirement, Sr. Marie has found life and energy in serving meals and visiting with guests at Place of Grace, connecting with people who are homeless through the Warming Center, maintaining personal connections with Sisters at Villa St. Joseph, and in staying connected with professional nursing through serving on the Viterbo University School of Nursing Advisory Board. She also supports Viterbo University and its students by serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. A favorite part of this is working at the Quick Stop station on graduation day to see that the graduates’ caps are straight, gowns are without a wrinkle, and a few of the jitters are calmed.

According to her nominator, “Sr. Marie has lived a life of bringing good news to the poor and announcing God’s year of favor every year. In her calm unassuming manner, she models the Viterbo University values in each choice she makes to serve in the spirit of St. Francis.”

The Viterbo values of contemplation, hospitality, and service are very important to her.

Professional Development - Therese "Terri" (Hess) Pedace '77

Terri (Hess) Pedace is a 1977 graduate of Viterbo’s School of Nursing. Terri plans to retire from Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare-La Crosse in the fall of 2016, having worked there for 42 years. During her career, she held positions as a staff nurse, nurse clinician, hospice and home health director, and for the past 17 years, research operations supervisor. She has presented at regional, state, and national conferences and has served on numerous committees and project teams over her career, within the organization and in the community. Terri is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

In addition to her clinical roles at Mayo Clinic Health System, Terri traveled to Dubna, Russia twice as part of a health care exchange, assisting in the establishment of that city’s first hospice. She served a term as president of the Hospice Organization of Wisconsin and on the Board of the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium for six years. Terri has also volunteered in various capacities, including as a parish nurse, a lector and Eucharistic minister for her church, pastoral council member, and as a staff volunteer for the Breast Cancer Recovery Foundation.

According to one nominator, “It is evident that Terri loves helping those in need using a holistic approach that is based on the Gospel mission of compassion and service. She listens respectfully to the opinions of others, adds her thoughts after careful consideration, and advocates for the needs of our community regarding health and education.”

Terri’s husband is John. They have two adult daughters and a nine-year-old grandson. Terri loves to be physically fit, prepare and eat healthy foods, ride her bicycle and paddle dragon boats.

Service to the University - Mark Franz '84

Who would have guessed that a career of over 30 years and counting of service to Catholic higher education in the field of Information Technology would have begun as a work-study project for the Viterbo biology department. Back then, Mark needed to use a mainframe computer (PCs weren’t readily available in 1982) to organize the inventory of chemical and reagents used in the department. The only available mainframe was in the business office and his skill in using the system brought him to the attention of the Computer Center director who asked him to consider working for this relatively new department. The opportunity to work with the computer system fit very well with Mark’s planned career path. Following about two years of work-study with the Computer Center, Mark began working for Viterbo just one month after graduating in 1984, serving as Programmer Analyst for two and half years prior pursuing a graduate degree in microbiology at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. As it became more apparent that his interest was in computer science, he returned to Viterbo in 1989 as a programmer analyst. He also worked to complete a second undergraduate degree in business administration followed by earning an MBA at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Mark was asked to assume the role of Computer Center director in 1990 and continued to oversee an ever growing influx of administrative and academic technology over the next 19 years. During that time, he was instrumental in undertaking a vast array of projects including laying the foundation of fiber optic cables crisscrossing the campus, installing data wiring in all academic buildings and residence halls, equipping faculty and staff with computers, creating multiple computer labs, installing classroom multimedia podiums, assisting in writing Title III grants to fund technology, ensuring the university survived the scare of Y2K, installing the first wireless access points on campus, and chairing the Computer Committee. Mark was very involved at many levels in building projects such as the Murphy Center library, the Reinhart Center, and Rose Terrace. He served on many committees and in 2006 he was asked to serve as the chairperson of the Presidential Transition Team for President Rick Artman. Some of his most treasured opportunities were participating in travel with the university to a sister university in Luoyang, China and to experience the Franciscan heritage and charisms through the lens of a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.

Mark left Viterbo in 2009 to further his professional career at Fontbonne University, a Catholic university in St. Louis, where he currently serves as the vice president of information technology and is a member of the university’s leadership team. The Viterbo values of service, hospitality, integrity, and stewardship continue to influence his leadership and management style. He resides in O’Fallon, Mo. with his wife Sheila (Nolan) a 1985 graduate of Viterbo’s dietetics program. His step-daughter MacKayla is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Viterbo.

According to one nominator, “A testament to Mark’s careful selection in hiring employees was in finding those who were a ‘good fit’ for the university’s Franciscan environment. Many of the long term employees Mark hired continue to remain, even after he has been gone for more than seven years.”

Spirit of Francis - Fr. John Lasuba '12

Fr. John was born in southern Sudan during a 50-year-long civil war. When he was a small child, soldiers barged into his home, forced everyone at outside, and beat the young men. Fr. John was forced to watch three of his older brothers and his father be beaten by members of the Sudanese army. His father was hit with an axe while trying to protect his children. The beating continued until the soldiers shot and murdered his father and three of his brothers. They reached for Fr. John and his mother grasped him and cried for mercy and by the grace of God, Fr. John was spared.

Fr. John’s remaining family lived a life of exodus and was scattered. His oldest brother would also meet his death at the hands of the Sudanese Army. In 1973, Fr. John was able to begin school at St. Joseph Primary School in Juba, Sudan. During this time, he was called to go into the seminary. On May 2, 1993, he was ordained a Priest for the Archdiocese of Juba. Because of his service, he was threatened many times and eventually had to leave Africa. In 2004, he came to the U.S. and currently serves as a Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Catholic church and helps the Sudanese community in the area.

Fr. John earned a Master of Arts in Servant Leadership degree from Viterbo in 2012. He wanted to study servant leadership because he has seen leaders who have misused their positions and he hopes that eventually he will be able to impart the principles of servant leadership in his hometown of Yei, Sudan. During his time at Viterbo, Sees of Wisdom (SOW) South Sudan was born out of Fr. John’s call to servant leadership and his desire to build a school, St. John’s Elementary, for his community. He is proud to say that a primary school has been started with approximately 200 children attending. Nine buildings have been built and two wells dug, one for the school and one for the community.

According to a parishioner, “In summary, I think of St. Francis’ A Simple Prayer, which basically asks God that wherever there is bad, let him sow goodness. It has been a life changing event for me to know a man that has experienced the evil of evils in his life and yet responds with compassion and goodness.  The future generations of people in Pukuka will be impacted by the actions of Fr. John Lasuba. Let us all reflect on this example within our own lives.” 

If you would like to read more about the new school that Fr. John was instrumental in building please visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/sowsouthsudan or on their website at www.sowsouthsudan.org.

Young Alumni - Sonja Larson '14

Originally from a farm near Dawson, Minn., Sonja Larson graduated from Viterbo with music degree in vocal performance. While at Viterbo, a Summer Research Fellowship brought her to Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom to research Music of the Holocaust: A Means of Survival. She later continued her research with a Fulbright Student Research Grant, focusing on contemporary Jewish Social Music in Krakow, Poland. Through this grant, she also organized projects bridging geographic, generational, and cultural differences through music. These projects included the United International Virtual Choir, which premiered during her talk at TEDxKazimierz, and Peace in Motion, a multicultural music workshop which brought young people from the United States, Poland, and Israel to Krakow to sing, dance, and engage in dialogue together.

During her stay in Krakow, she also served as cantor/fellowship leader in the St. Giles International Congregation, and music/media director for HCPT-Polska (the Polish branch of the Hosanna House Children’s Pilgrimage Trust), which brings disabled and disadvantaged children to Lourdes, France on an annual Easter pilgrimage. She continued her service after the end of her Fulbright grant, remaining in Krakow for an additional year to teach English. She has returned to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver.

Sonya’s hope is to “create a model of community building and cultural revitalization that can be applied to international communities damaged by genocide and war as well as underprivileged communities within the United States."

An avid photographer and poet, she invites you to view her work at www.leonarose.weebly.com and www.notesofworth.weebly.com.