2011 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Spirit of Francis - Shawn Wedlund '11
While earning a nursing degree, Shawn Wedlund traveled to Haiti in the wake of the island's devastating earthquake to provide care to some of the world's most vulnerable people. He wrote a personal account of his experience, which was published in Strides.
The experience speaks volumes of Shawn's dedication to selfless service and the desire to serve the oppressed and the vulnerable. By answering the calls of his conscience to return to Haiti several times after the disaster, he has clearly demonstrated his commitment to providing care-wherever needed-that is steeped in love and compassion.
Shawn's observation, "In a place where despair should thrive, I found true happiness that was provided by faith and relationships" is an insightful, humbling message that captures the essence of St. Francis's teachings. Shawn's good works are a testament to the value he places on Viterbo's mission to prepare students for faithful service and ethical leadership.
Professional Development - Mark Skogen '92
Through Mark's leadership as president and CEO of Festival Foods, the company has grown into one of the Upper Midwest's most successful grocers. Mark has done this through hard work, a warm and sincere "hello," to customers and attentiveness to their needs, and an unremitting commitment to upholding the Franciscan values of contemplation, hospitality, integrity, service, and stewardship
Mark Skogen is the third generation of Skogen grocers and carries on traditions that began with his grandfather Paul in the La Crosse area in 1946. Mark joined the company full-time after earning a degree in business administration from Viterbo and worked alongside his father, Dave, as they expanded the business across the state of Wisconsin.
In 2006 Mark became president and CEO of Skogen's Festival Foods. Mark's vision and commitment to the principles of servant leadership has enabled the company to grow, currently operating 16 retail grocery stores statewide and employing nearly 4,000 associates.
Mark has applied the lessons that have built a flourishing business to the benefit of other not-for-profit enterprises including the Green Bay Packers, the Boys and Girls Club, and other difference-making organizations in the communities served by Festival Foods.
Service to the University - Mary Ann Gschwind, FSPA '65
Born and raised in La Crosse, Mary Ann Gschwind has been a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) for 51 years and the chair of the Viterbo University Board of Trustees since 2004.
Sr. Mary Ann has an extensive background in education, serving as a junior high school and high school English teacher, a high school principal, and the diocesan superintendent of schools in Omaha, Neb., and Stockton, Calif. From 1974-79, she was chair of the Viterbo education department. During the summers of 1984-91, Sr. Mary Ann was an adjunct professor in the University of San Francisco's Private School Administration program. She also taught English as a second language at the International Institute in St. Paul and in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
She served as the vice president of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from 1990-98. In that role, she served as a Corporate Member for Viterbo. She also was a Viterbo Trustee from 1994-98. Her current ministry is as the archivist for the FSPA. She is also the vice president/president elect for the Association of Women Religious Archivists.
A tireless advocate for Viterbo, the students the university serves, and the general community, Sr. Mary Ann is involved with numerous organizations, including the Catholic Residential Services Board, the Catholic Charities Board for the Diocese of La Crosse, the La Crosse Symphony Board, the Ethics Advisory Committee at Viterbo University, and the Family and Patient Advisory Committee and the Diabetes Advisory Committee at Mayo Clinic Health System.
Community Service - Brenda Armstrong '78
Through Brenda Armstrong's service as president of the Belize Association of Principals of Secondary Schools and the Caribbean Association of Secondary Schools, and as board member for the Belize Board of Teacher Education and the Region Educational Council, Brenda has a strong influence on the development of education and young people.
Equally notable are Brenda's advocacy for the rights of women, youth, and disadvantaged persons that led to her appointment as a senator for Belize, and the many contributions of time and talent she has given both her church and Wesley University.
A story entitled The Mothers of Belize, makes note of the saying posted on Brenda's door at Wesley College, "Only positive attitudes allowed beyond this point." Brenda's positive attitude and deep faith have inspired her to do many great things for the benefit of others.
Her thoughts on Vitebro were published in Strides in 2001. "Viterbo was very special," she said. "I have fond memories of Sr. Thea Bowman and Bob Richgels, whose lectures have influenced my teaching and my life."
Young Alumni - Kristina (Smaby) Schoh '10
Holmen native Kristina (Smaby) Schoh earned a degree in business management and is now the community relations manager for Courtesy Corporation, which owns and operates 44 McDonald's restaurants.
Kristina's life-long goal is opening a national chain of intergenerational family support centers that provide integrated care for young and old alike. She hosted three Intergenerational Fairs in Holmen and La Crosse and later organized two Intergenerational Proms where university students, nursing home residents, and the entire community were welcome. She also led a program with young dance students who traveled to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in La Crosse and surrounding areas, cheering the residents with their artistic dance and musical talents.
With her platform of "Connecting Generations" and passion for community involvement, she reached her childhood goal of reigning as Miss Wisconsin in 2009. Today she shares her personal story while speaking to youth and community organizations.
Kristina's service as an emissary for our community and the state, tireless efforts to connect young and old through her platform "Connecting Generations" and her always-positive manner have made her a role model for young women everywhere.