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August 30, 2000


LA CROSSE, Wis.—Is it Viterbo College or University? The Viterbo campus community celebrates its official transition to Viterbo University on the first day of classes, Tuesday, Sept. 5.

"The long wait is over and we are very pleased to be officially marking our change in status from college to university," said Dr. Medland, Viterbo University president. "Viterbo has a 110-year history of progressiveness and change and becoming a university simply continues that tradition and acknowledges, in name, that which we already are, in fact, and have been since 1994. Though our name may be changing, our commitment to providing students with a high quality education and personal attention has not."

According to Campus Minister Fr. Tom O’Neill, the transition celebration next Tuesday has been designed to reflect Viterbo’s history of change and continuity. Events begin at 2:10 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center parking lot near the flag poles (Jackson Street side) where the new Viterbo University flag will be raised. The procession will move throughout campus, pausing at a few historic spots until reaching V-Hawk Court*, the campus’ newest green space, for its "unveiling." Finally, the group will pause in front of the new signage on the exterior of Murphy Center for an official proclamation of Viterbo’s university status. In addition, Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, president of Viterbo University’s Board of Directors, will bestow the new Viterbo University President’s Medallion upon Dr. William J. Medland.

"Though we’re making an important change with the transition from ‘college’ to ‘university,’ we’re also remaining true to Viterbo’s history and mission and remembering our heritage ," said Fr. O’Neill.

The decision to adopt university status, announced last January, was approved by the Viterbo Board of Directors following discussions with campus faculty and staff, community advisors, alumni, donors, students leader, and members of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. All of these groups expressed unanimous or near unanimous support for the move to University status. Furthermore, Viterbo was reclassified by the U.S. Department of Education as a comprehensive institution, that is, a university, in October 1994.

The timing of the change in status has never been better for Viterbo to assume its role as one of America’s newest universities. Undergraduate enrollment during the last decade of the 20th century doubled and Viterbo experienced phenomenal growth in the expansion of its graduate programs, a major prerequisite for university status. In 1990, Viterbo awarded its first 41 graduate degrees. Ten years later, the number of students receiving master’s degrees exceeds that of the combined total of all undergraduate degrees awarded by Viterbo. In all, thousands of students are enrolling in graduate courses offered throughout the region, supplementing the strong and growing undergraduate programs offered at Viterbo’s La Crosse campus. Today, Viterbo has graduate program facilities in Milwaukee and Appleton, and in Des Moines and Marshalltown, Iowa.

This is not the first time that Viterbo has changed its designation. In fact, it is the fourth name change since its founding by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration:

  • In 1890, the FSPA established Saint Rose Normal School to train the nuns and vowed religious as elementary school teachers.
  • In 1934, after approval from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the school was formally elevated to the status of Saint Rose Junior College.
  • In 1937, following approval of a third year program, the school became Viterbo College. Two years later, four-year degrees were offered.
  • In 2000, Viterbo University is announced.

V-Hawk Court, located on Winnebago Street between the Student Activities Center and Rose Terrace, beautifies the campus and the neighborhood.  The new green space’s distinguishing features include park benches at which students will be able to connect to the internet, a Viterbo clock tower, picnic tables, a student announcement center, and a walkway complete with engraved bricks with messages from friends of the university.  Construction of the V-Hawk Court project completes another of the initiatives identified in Viterbo’s strategic plan: "Vision 2005: A Renaissance for Living and Learning in the 21st Century." Over the past three years, Viterbo has acquired land and created an outdoor athletic complex in Medary, renovated the Fine Arts Center to create an atrium entryway to campus,  and constructed Rose Terrace, an apartment-style living complex for sophomores, juniors and seniors, and, last year, added the Viterbo Court green space on Ninth Street between Winnebago and Mississippi.

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