Pope John XXIII Award Article

April 4, 2006

Contact Pat Kerrigan at 608-796-3041 or


LA CROSSE, Wis. – Bill and Donna Medland, the husband and wife team who have individually and collectively overseen the transformation of Viterbo University and who have served as foster parents for 17 infants, and Parker Palmer, the nationally renowned writer, teacher, and activist, have been named the 2006 recipients of the Pope John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service.

The Pope John XXIII Award is the highest non-academic award bestowed by Viterbo University. The Medlands and Palmer will receive the award at a banquet and ceremony Thursday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. Recipients are determined by the Viterbo University Board of Advisors.

Viterbo has enjoyed tremendous growth during Bill Medland’s tenure as president, both in enrollment and endowment. The campus has also undergone vast improvements, including the construction of four new buildings. He has also been the recipient of several other prestigious awards: the La Crosse Tribune Person of the Year for 2003, the Iverson-Freking Ecumenical Award, the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award, and the National Man and Youth Award from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse.

While Bill Medland has been busy changing Viterbo, Donna Medland has turned their home into a place of love and kindness for some of society’s most vulnerable members.

The Medlands serve as foster parents for newborn infants. Donna Medland has been a foster mother to 17 infants in the past five years, serving as a “bridge-mom” between the biological mother and the adoptive family. This act of kindness makes a lasting impression in the lives of these children, and in society in general. She is also a former member of the Franciscan Skemp Foundation Board.

Palmer is the senior associate of the American Association of Higher Education, senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute, and the founder of the Courage to Teach Program. He is also the author of seven widely-used books: The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, The Promise of Paradox, The Company of Strangers, To Know as We are Known, The Active Life, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, and his current bestseller, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life.

His outstanding and important work has been recognized with seven honorary doctorates and several prestigious awards, including the Outstanding Contributions to Higher Education award from the Council of Independent Colleges. His work has also been published in many prominent publications and scholarly journals. He is often cited as a master teacher.

Call 608-796-3070 for banquet and ceremony ticket information.


Sidebar – Palmer to Speak While in La Crosse

While in La Crosse to receive the Pope John XXIII Award, Palmer is scheduled to speak at two other events on themes that have attracted a popular following across the nation. Palmer travels widely in this country and abroad, giving lectures, workshops, and retreats. His work has been featured in a wide range of venues, from the New York Times, to CBS-TV News, to the Voice of America.

The noted author will speak to the topic of his book, “The Courage to Teach,” Thursday, May 4 from 4-–5 p.m. at San Damiano Chapel on the Viterbo campus. The free talk, which will focus on the role parents, instructors, and lifelong learners assume to serve as teachers to others, is part of the university’s Paula Ripple Comin Lecture Series. Space is limited, and people may call Chris Sanger at 608-796-3070 to register.

On Friday, May 5 at 8 a.m., Palmer will attend and participate in a book discussion on his latest work, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life. At noon, he will present “Work as a Vocation,” in the Reinhart Center board room. Contact Rick Kyte at 608-796-3704 for details.