Grace McDonald Tribute

We mourn the passing of Sister Grace McDonald, a remarkable leader who was president during a time of great transformation. Under her visionary leadership, Viterbo became a co-educational institution. During her presidency, for the first time, lay members were appointed to the Board of Trustees, Marian Hall was constructed, and she led the process that resulted in the decision to build the Fine Arts Center, one of the finest facilities of its kind in the Midwest. In all, Sister Grace served Viterbo as a history professor, president, and trustee for 48 years, an inspiring achievement that defined her commitment to her beloved Viterbo and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. We are often reminded that leadership is a gift, and at this time, our entire community pauses to give thanks and to reflect on the powerful legacy of Sister Grace McDonald and for all that she meant to so many of us.

Richard B. Artman
President, Viterbo University

Hearts are heavy as we grieve the death of Sister Grace McDonald, fourth president of Viterbo University.  Whether someone knew her as Sister Justille, her name during part of her religious life, or as Sister Grace, her baptismal name used the rest of her life, everyone recognized "grace" in action.  There was a grace about this special woman which was evident in every situation.  Always gracious, courteous, hospitable, and cheerful.

Sister Grace fulfilled her ministries at Viterbo with extreme professionalism and incredible competence.  Permeating everything she did was a love of God along with a love of her birth family and of her FSPA family.  And always there was a special love for Viterbo which she served faithfully as professor, president, trustee and trustee emeritus.  To know Sr. Grace was to be "graced" by her.  While we mourn her death, we celebrate her life and her enduring influence on  the mission of Viterbo University.

Mary Ann Gschwind, FSPA
Chair, Viterbo Board of Trustees

Of Viterbo's eight presidents, Sister Grace was the true visionary. The campus plan she fashioned for Viterbo in the 1960's continued to be fulfilled through her successors Fr. Tom Finucan, Bob Gibbons, Bill Medland and Rick Artman. Even today's strategic plan is simply completing her vision; nothing new has been added. Not only was she a visionary but she also was a revoluntionary for her time with developing a lay board and deciding to go co-educational. Much of what Viterbo is today owes its existence to the visionary leadership of Siter Grace Mc Donald. She will be deeply missed but fondly remembered. May her soul rest in the Lord.

 Bill Medland
Former President, Viterbo University 1991-2006

Sister Grace interviewed me as I was one of the first Lutherans to enter Viterbo in Nursing. Her caring impression is still carried in my heart. Her soul is at peace with the Lord. Thoughts and prayers to her family.  

 Joanne Klankowski Lighter '75
Former Student

It is truly with a deep sadness that we say "Farewell" to Sr. Grace McDonald. She not only was an outstanding leader for Viterbo University but for our entire FSPA community for many years in many areas. Her leadership was with care and concern for each individual. We would often apply the phrase, "Amazing Grace" to her for what she was able to help all accomplish. Her physical presence will be missed, but we know she will still be a guiding light.  

Sr. Georgia Christensen '71, FSPA
Former Student

Sister Grace was teaching history at Viterbo when I entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. And a great teacher she was! When I graduated from Viterbo in the summer of 1969 there were only two of us FSPA doing so that summer, so we went to her office to receive our diplomas. She made the occasion special for us. When she came back West and was our Western Province Provincial, I remember spending a summer at Mary of the Angels Convent when the big project was painting the outside of many of the buildings. She wielded a mean paint brush! Our Province gathered a couple of those summers at Camp Field near Leavenworth, Washington. She loved to hike and the group accompaning her had to work to keep up with her - and she became known as our "fearless leader." I especially remember her sense of humor. So now our "fearless leader" is in heaven and leading us again by her prayers and intercessions to be fearless in our pursuit of the Franciscan Vision of joy, and working for justice and peace.

Sharon Bongiorno '69, FSPA
Former Student

As a visionary and a leader bestowed on us and the entire Viterbo Family, we are all recipients of a blessed and invaluable education. May Sr.Grace Rest in Peace!

Gustavo E. Matus '85
Former Student


 May God bless you. I will keep you in my prayers.


   Kelly Jean Bianco '93
Former Student

Sister Grace was a kind and gracious woman. I will miss her Irish sense of humor and the twinkle in her eyes. She was tremendously supportive of me thru the years in her prayers. She will be deeply missed as friend and Sister.

Sr. Theresa Keller '80, FSPA
Former Student 

Thanks for moving Viterbo into the 20th century. The Fine Arts Center was built because of your strong leadership, prayers and guidance.There is just one more angel in heaven praying for Viterbo.

 Nola Jo Starling-Ratliff '74
Former Student

I remember Sister McDonald fondly as the pillar of Viterbo administration during my years as student. She especially took care of International students who needed much guidance. She knew all the students and attended their presentations, including my recital. We all benefitted because of her dedicated work at Viterbo. 

 Cecilia Chu Wang '70
Former Student

Grace made history come alive to me. I was not concerned with dates of events and happenings, and found clases with Grace very interesting and fun. She will be missed, but always remembered. 

Sr. E. Neumann, FSPA
Former Student

Sister Grace McDonald was a generous and thoughtful person. She had a great love for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. It was a privilege to know this great woman. Rest in Peace Dear sister.

Jacinta Jacks '03, FSPA
Former Student 

What can one say of such an amazing person?  The minute I met her she captured my heart. The world will have to adjust! 

Kirk Tornga '96
Former Student 

Sister Justille was a wonderful woman who wore many hats while I was a student at Viterbo and after I graduated she put on even more. She was a remarkable history teacher as well as a Marian Hall staff member. I remember her pushing a mop, running Marian Hall, teaching challenging and mind provoking history classes, and always being a good friend. Her niece Raphael lives in the same town that I do so I had the pleasure of inviting her to my home there when she visited Raphael and those are happy memories for me. She has a special place in my heart and truly represented Viterbo to me.

 Sharon Bauer Vincent '61
Former Student

I was a student from 1972 - 1976 and appreciated Viterbo as Sr. Grace McDonald had made it. I was in nursing, but the Fine Arts Center was the center of the school at the time with a spectacular music and theater department. I give my thanks to her vision for Viterbo.

Victoria A. Lee, RN, MAJ - USAR, '76
Former Student

How many hours she gave to her students, we'll never know. She touched my life, as she offered herself to Viterbo. An amazing woman, and one to model.

Carol Heilman Smith '66
Former Student  

Dear Sisters of St. Rose Convent and Viterbo College, My Sympathy and prayers at the loss of Sister Grace McDonald. I was a summer school student during the years that she was President. I had heard much about her since our sisters had attended there for years. I had fond memories of her. Will remember her in Prayer. God bless you in your wonderful work of education.  Sincerely,

Sister Dominica Gerszewski, '70
Mount St. Benedict Crookston
Former Student