Viterbo University School of

Yesterday's Leaders

It is not every day that Viterbo gets a new president; in fact, it’s not very often at all as the university has been blessed with strong and committed leadership. When Rick Artman assumed the presidency July 1, 2006, he became only the eighth individual to be named “president” of the university, a title that was first used in 1946. Prior to that time, the Mother General of St. Rose Convent served as the head of what was then called Viterbo College. Each president shared unique gifts and talents:

Roth, JosinaJosina Roth, FSPA

assumed the presidency in 1946 only to resign a year later. Although her tenure was short, she is credited with establishing a separate post and responsibilities for the newly created and fledgling position. She reputedly argued long and hard for policies which would allow for the active recruitment of lay students. 

Sebold, TheodineTheodine Sebold, FSPA

president from 1947–52, established the lay board of advisors and prepared Viterbo for the much needed and coveted accreditation process. Sr. Theodine, previously the academic dean, continued to serve Viterbo long after her resignation from the presidency. In fact, she authored Continuity & Change: The History of Viterbo College, which was published just prior to her death in 1989.

Zoeller, FrancescaFrancesca Zoeller, FSPA

came from the ranks of the music department. President from 1952–60, she supervised the successful effort to receive accreditation for many of Viterbo’s programs. During this time, Marian Hall, Viterbo’s first dormitory, was constructed reflecting the growing presence of laywomen.

McDonald, GraceGrace McDonald, FSPA

president from 1960–70, was known as “the builder.” Hers was an era characterized by great change, and a much needed campus expansion took place during her tenure. The commitment to build the magnificent Fine Arts Center was made at this time and Viterbo also acquired the former St. Wenceslas School which was converted for use by the developing nursing program.

Finucan, ThomasRev. J. Thomas Finucan

1970–80, made history in his appointment as Viterbo’s first non-FSPA president. Viterbo assumed a very public image during this time. Male students were accepted and enrollment grew at a rapid pace, as Viterbo College became a very visible presence in the La Crosse community.

Gibbons, RobertDr. Robert E. Gibbons

1980–91, made further history, becoming Viterbo’s first lay president. During his decade in office, Viterbo’s very small endowment began to show growth, nine new academic programs were added, and Viterbo’s first master’s program was introduced. A new student activities center and student union were constructed and the library was relocated and modernized as part of the $4.9 million “Building the Future” capital campaign.

Medland, WilliamDr. William J. Medland

served as president from 1991–06, the lengthiest tenure in the history of the university. Under his leadership, the university grew and changed in many ways: setting enrollment records, expanding adult and graduate programs, dramatically increasing endowment, and transitioning Viterbo from college to university status. Many building improvements and construction projects, most notably the Mathy Center and Reinhart Center were added to the campus as part of the ambitious strategic plan entitled Vision 2005: A Renaissance for Living and Learning in the 21st Century. Nine undergraduate and three master level programs were developed under his tenure as well as planning for the university’s first doctorate program.