Welcome to Viterbo's New President
Describing himself as “(Vi)terbo charged,” Dr. Rick Artman told a jam-packed press conference last November that he was ready to go to work as the university’s eighth president, leaving no doubt that he is excited to be a part of Viterbo’s future. Viterbo’s newest arrival also revealed that he’s a good sport—quickly switching out his press conference suit coat for a V-Hawk sweatshirt.
The scene was a historic moment that offered a revealing glimpse into the personality and operating style of a man who is ready to lead, who can be refreshingly spontaneous or equally formal, depending upon the occasion.
Artman, 57, succeeded Bill Medland on July 1. For the past 12 years, he served as president of Siena Heights University, a Dominican institution in Adrian, Mich. There, he built a strong reputation as a successful fundraiser, astute planner, and trusted leader who very much enjoys the day-to-day contact he has with students and staff. He is the first sitting president to be appointed in Viterbo’s history.
“I am honored and privileged to have been chosen to lead and to serve this outstanding university and to follow the lengthy and superb leadership of President Medland,” said Artman, who prefers to be addressed as Rick. “Having served as president of a very similar Catholic university for 12 years, the fit feels wonderful. Viterbo’s values match my own.”
Saying he is “mission driven and student centered” and “energetic and hard-working,” Artman arrived at Viterbo with a leadership style that is anything but top-down and with a gift for building relationships. He is also very active on and off campus.
“Rick brings to the position a vast amount of expertise and boundless energy which will be invaluable,” said Mary Ann Gschwind, FSPA, chair of the Board of Trustees and head of the search committee. “His passion for the mission of Catholic higher education and his understanding of the Franciscan values which permeate Viterbo, convinced everyone involved in the search and selection process that he is the best person to serve as Viterbo’s president for the years ahead.”
While he certainly brings his own vision and plans for the future, Artman has a deep respect for the history of Viterbo and Catholic education, and especially for everyone who came before him.
“I am grateful for the support and confidence of the board of trustees and the corporate members,” he said. “The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have endowed the university with a tremendous heritage. I also greatly appreciate the leadership of the previous presidents. Viterbo has been a labor of love for everyone who has come before me, and I respect that legacy.”
The Road to Viterbo
Richard Bruce Artman grew up in a Pittsburgh neighborhood full of hardworking Catholics, the son of Ray and Marian Artman. Sports were his, and his two older brothers’, main interest and pastime. The three boys were the first generation in his family to attend college.
“I had wonderful parents growing up,” he said. “They instilled in us the importance of family and the church, and a strong commitment to faith and prayer. They also taught us a respect for work and responsibility, honesty, and fairness.”
After high school, he attended the University of Miami, where he studied psychology. He went on to earn a Master of Education degree in College Student Personnel and a Ph.D. in the Administration of Higher Education. Over the years, he served in a number of positions—the school’s graduate assistant to the dean of students, residence life area coordinator, assistant dean of students and international student advisor, acting dean of students, university ombudsman, and assistant to the vice president for student affairs, before moving on to another position, this time in the Midwest.
He accepted the position of vice president for student affairs and assistant professor of education at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1982, a job that provided a great deal of exposure to many areas of university administration. Twelve years later, he was named president of Siena Heights.
“Though the majority of college presidents come from academic affairs—the career path through student affairs is one of the best preparations for the presidency,” Artman said. “First, it grounds one in being student centered. It also requires strong relationship building across constituencies—students, parents, faculty, alumni, and staff. And, I was in charge of key areas as a vice president for student affairs—admissions, financial aid, athletics, and residence life.”
“I also taught and tried to maintain an active intellectual life via reading and involvement in professional associations,” he said. “In student life one is also accustomed to all hours of the day and night, similar to the presidency. So, for me, the career path was great preparation for the multifaceted responsibilities and many demands of the presidency.”
Artman performed a Medland-like transformation of Siena during his 12 years on campus. He oversaw the school’s change from a college to a university and numerous facility upgrades, he greatly increased the school’s Catholic identity, and completely updated Siena’s technology, making it the first college or university in the state to be completely wireless.
“Of all the things I’ve tried to do at Siena, the most important has been to maintain the focus on mission, and to make sure from the office of the president, that everyone was treated with respect and dignity,” he said. “We are all gifted in different ways, but we’re all the same in the eyes of God.”
Throughout Artman’s journey in life, his wife Joan has been a constant by his side. She has been invaluable to his success as a university president, he said, and she will be a familiar sight on campus. He and Joan are a team in every sense of the word, he said.
“She’s my best friend,” he said. “She’s the whole package. She makes me want to be a better man.”
Joan is a registered nurse who intends to continue her professional career in La Crosse. “She is the most caring person I’ve ever met,” he said. Both she and Rick enjoy entertaining and volunteering.
Eye on the Future
Artman doesn’t foresee any large-scale changes upon his arrival, but he does have some preliminary goals: continuing to increase the endowment, offering more degree completion programs, offering more online programs and degrees, expanding opportunities for global study, and improving the level of technology on campus. His first six months or so will be spent “learning by listening,” assessing needs, and gaining a sense of the faculty and staff.
“I plan to carry the ‘University of Opportunity’ banner,” he said.
As did Medland, Artman had a great deal of success at Siena building and maintaining relationships with benefactors and alumni, something he plans to continue at Viterbo. Viterbo’s Catholic and Franciscan identity is also important to him.
“I’ve never found a conflict between Catholicism and academics,” he said. “The church searches for the truth as well. And organizations need grounding. The Catholic church acts as a center.”
During his years as a university president, Artman has found the presidency to be both rewarding and challenging. The relationships he has been able to build and the success of the students have been the highlights of the job, he said.
“I feel good about new buildings and other accomplishments, but when you see an adult student going to school part-time for several years and finally earning a degree—that’s satisfying,” he said.
Governance at the university level is like steering a cruise ship—it’s a slow process and it takes a while to change direction, he said. It can also be difficult because the president is ultimately responsible for the success of the university, yet authority is decentralized and diffused throughout the campus. His job often involves “building bridges” between the academic and corporate cultures.
Artman Up Close
In both his professional and personal lives, four governing values guide him. He strives to be faithful to his family, to be a competent professional, to be physically fit (he’ll be a regular at the Mathy Center), and to live a Catholic and Christian life.
He enjoyed a close relationship with the students at Siena, something he plans to continue at Viterbo. At Siena, he established the Presidential Scholars program, which awarded half-tuition scholarships to approximately 15–20 incoming freshmen each year.
“I know many students by name,” he said. “But if I deal with their day-to-day problems, I wouldn’t be doing my job as president. An effective president must lead instead of manage. I’m not in the day-to-day trenches, but I still have a sense of what’s going on.”
Viterbo will also maintain its prominence in the surrounding area, he said. “Joan and I look forward to an active role in the La Crosse community,” Artman said. We intend to volunteer our time and talents with a variety of non-profit agencies and organizations.”
Artman began his duties as president July 1, but his official inauguration will be held Friday, March 30, 2007. For more information on Rick Artman, visit www.viterbo.edu.
Up Close and Personal…with Rick Artman
Full Name: Richard Bruce Artman
Age: “A young 58 this coming September”
Height: 5 feet 10 inches
Weight: 170 pounds
Family: Wife Joan and two children, Darin 36 and Joy 34, and four grandchildren
Pets: Two dogs, Ziggy and Zoe, Bichon Frise
Hobbies: Paddleball, racquetball, sports, reading, and movies
What hobbies you share with your wife: Entertaining and travel and a good glass of wine on the beach or in front of the fireplace on a cold night
Favorite Food: Carrot cake
Least Favorite Food: Onions
Favorite Books/Authors: Leadership literature, leader biographies
Favorite Movies: All kinds
Something not many people know: Has bungee jumped, parasailed, and taken a hot air balloon ride to conquer a fear of heights
Funny Personal Story: Ask him about the shrimp story