By Kris Leonhardt
Continued from previous week
In 1983, Dr. Thomas Manion became president — inaugurated as the fifth for the school now in its 85th year — succeeding Neil Webb.
Manion’s goal was to make St. Norbert one of the most well-known Catholic liberal arts colleges in the Midwest.
“All of the elements are here,” he told the Press-Gazette. “We have to pull them together. We’re clearly moving in the right direction.”
“The fundamental purpose of liberal arts is to help people become better human beings,” he added.
Manion was coming in at a time when the college-age population was declining, but St. Nobert’s enrollment appeared to be holding steady.
“If we do the right things, we should be able to maintain our enrollment,” he stated.
The school was also experiencing a decline in government support.
“It is obvious we have been much richer in our spiritual and intellectual endowment than we have in our financial endowment,” he said during his inauguration.
But enrollment climbed to 2,000 over the next five years, as the school saw Manion deliver on his goals.
In 1990, Main Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while the school began work on the Bemis International Center; it opened in 1996.
In 1995, St. Norbert’s survey center conducted a community economic impact study.
Results reflected that the school’s 2,000 students and over 500 staff spent more than $24 million in Brown County by those directly tied to the college — $9 million by staff, $8 million by the college, $5.5 million by students and $1.5 million in visitor spending.
In 1998, the college celebrated its centennial.
When Manion retired in 2000, Dr. William J. Hynes replaced him as president.
During Hynes’ tenure construction began on the $20 million Miriam B. James J. Mulva Library.
Work began in March 2008 and was completed in August 2009, with SNC’s seventh president, Thomas Kunkel, at the helm.
Under Kunkel’s leadership, the campus also saw the addition of a long-awaited swimming pool with a $25 million expansion and renovation on the Schuldes Sports Center — built in 1979 — to create the Mulva Family Fitness and Sports Center.
Dr. Brian Bruess succeeded Kunkel as president in 2017 but resigned in 2022.
Kunkel returned to the post as interim president until the hiring of current president, Laurie Joyner, who took the position as the ninth president and first female president in the school’s history.
Once again, as Joyner takes the helm educational institutions across the country face declining enrollment, but she feels that the college’s emphasis on student success gives it a competitive edge.
“This definitely is something impacting the entire education sector,” she said earlier this year.
“But colleges with great reputations and with a very clear value proposition and that can point to all the success that their graduates are having I think have a distinct edge. And based on everything I’ve seen at St. Norbert College, the one thing that really stands out is this is a place who knows what it values, knows who it is and has a very clear identity and I think that is going to serve us really well moving forward.”