Eight Receive 2020 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Monday, October 12, 2020

Oct. 10, 2020

Contact Kathy Duerwachter at 608-796-3072 or kaduerwachter@viterbo.edu


LA CROSSE—Viterbo University honored eight graduates Friday, Oct. 9, at its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony, an online event part of the annual Viterbo Days alumni weekend.

Malinda Gerke, FSPA, who graduated in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in music, was honored with the Spirit of Francis Award. A music teacher for 30 years, Sr. Gerke has liberally shared her musical gifts since retirement, as liturgist at St. Rose Convent and playing harp in a wide variety of settings. An expert St. Rose tour guide, she was inspired to write her third book in 2017, “Mary of the Angels Chapel: God’s Answer to a Bold Promise.”

Colleen Walsh, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Viterbo in 1963, was honored with the Service to the University Award. In addition to her unwavering financial support for Viterbo and its students going back 34 years, Walsh served six years on the Viterbo Alumni Association board and is an active emeritus alumni board member, organizing reunions and helping at the alumni children’s Christmas parties, commencements, and other events.

Viterbo’s alumni award tradition, which goes back to 1967, got a new twist in 2019, with each of the university’s three colleges honoring two alumni, one for professional development and one as a rising professional.

Those honored this year from the three colleges include the following:


College of Business, Performing Arts, and Leadership

Professional Development Award: Julianne Brienza (Class of 1999), founding director and president of Capital Fringe, an organization responsible for the annual Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C.

Rising Professional Award: Samantha Pauly (Class of 2012), a musical theater performer who made her Broadway debut this year in “Six.”


College of Education, Engineering, Letters, and Sciences

Professional Development Award: Naomi (Hemesath) Harm (Class of 1999), founder and CEO of Innovative Educator Consulting.

Rising Professional Award: Amanda Vetsch (Class of 2017), graduate theology student at Luther Seminary and Riverside Innovation Hub coordinator at the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University.


College of Nursing, Health, and Human Behavior

Professional Development Award: Lisa Skemp (Class of 1977), professor, researcher, and mentor in the Department of Health Systems, Leadership, and Policy at Loyola University in Chicago.

Rising Professional Award: Angela Mensink (Class of 2012, master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2014), a licensed professional clinical counselor and adjunct faculty member at Viterbo who is working on a doctoral degree at Viterbo.

 A recording of the awards ceremony and more detailed biographies of the award winners are available for viewing.

More details on the award winners can be found at https://www.viterbo.edu/alumni/2020-distinguished-alumni-award-recipients.