“I couldn’t be happier”: Rick Trietley named 10th President of Viterbo


Mitchell Shaw, Editor

The ink has dried on the Board of Trustees’ decision to a appoint Rick Trietley as Viterbo University’s 10th President. This was the result of a lengthy process which began April 2021, following former President Glena Temple’s departure. The Lumen had the opportunity to sit down with Trietley to reflect on this process and learn his goals as president in the years ahead. 


On Feb 10, 2022, board chair, John McHugh announced Rick Trietley had been chosen as 10th President of Viterbo. It was stated in the announcement that both the board and Viterbo Ministries approved Trietley’s appointment unanimously. According to McHugh, there were three elements which contributed to this all-in response. 


“First of all, he is committed to the Catholic, Franciscan vision of Viterbo,” stated McHugh. “Secondly, throughout his career, Dr. Trietley has demonstrated a student-driven focus. Throughout the fall semester, the Board has received unsolicited comments from students praising Dr. Trietley’s work. Thirdly, the most common phrase we heard in our listening sessions was the desire for stability and calm leadership. Dr. Trietley certainly demonstrates that.” 


“I couldn’t be happier,” said Trietley. “I thought [the board’s process] was transparent and fair; I thought the community had input.” The Viterbo community, through an online survey and two listening sessions, were given the opportunity to provide their input; however, Trietley said he acknowledges “that some constituents within the community would’ve liked to either had the chance to participate in an interview with [him] or to at least provide feedback on what they would consider to be [his] strengths and perhaps areas needing improvement.” 


With the board’s choice of an internal candidate, a national search was deemed unnecessary. The decision to not conduct a national search has resulted in certain constituents asking ‘why?’ Trietley weighed in on this saying, “I think it is a very legitimate question to ask and certainly I could see the benefits of a national search… A lot of the higher education search firms today and consultants would say that, in this particular time and place, internal candidates make more sense. Because there are no commodities.” 


Trietley, now official President of Viterbo, shared with the Lumen his goals for Viterbo in the near future. “We will be the premiere Franciscan Catholic institution in the Midwest.” Trietley began. “I think, everything we do begins and ends with our values, our mission, and our history. We have to embrace that, that’s who we are.” Trietley said he believe this goal is “real and obtainable, it is distinctive, and will benefit Viterbo in many ways.” 


Another goal Trietley shared is that Viterbo is a place which has the support systems necessary to ensure incoming students of all backgrounds and identities feel welcomed. In doing so, Trietley hopes Viterbo will attract more students of color. “I think we have a golden opportunity to diversify our campus,” he said. “One population I feel real strongly about are Hispanic students; that’s a growing population in America, that will eventually be 50% of America, and there are a large population of Hispanic students in Wisconsin.” 


Trietley also recognized Viterbo’s growing number of student veterans. A veteran himself, Trietley believes “there are a lot of military veterans, out there, returning to civilian society and are going to go to college—why not Viterbo?” He said Viterbo’s growing influence, in shaping servant leaders, widely benefits those currently serving in the armed forces. 


Regarding academics, Trietley stated, “We’ve gotta be bold with our academic programs.” He noted the success of Viterbo’s Music Theatre & Theatre’s transition to a Conservatory for the Performing Arts as the campus is “seeing more students, it is a diverse student body, we are recruiting nationally, and I want to continue to see that grow.” 


This growth Trietley speaks of will soon be visible in taking Viterbo’s nursing program to new heights. “I want to expand our school of nursing to a school of health science,” He announced, “so, in addition to our great strength of nursing, what other what other medical majors can we offer in partnership with Mayo, Gunderson… to meet the needs of society.” In doing so, Trietley believes Viterbo students will be valuable hires due to these connections and in being trained servant leaders. 


“We are the top ranked servant leadership university in the United States,” he said. “I think about, ‘Why can’t every student from Viterbo undergrad graduate with not only their major but a minor in servant leadership?’ That would be something I know we could put together; we could do it pretty easily, and it would be distinctive and give value to every graduate.” Trietley also proposed the idea of extending these trainings to local businesses and military training centers. 


Though Trietley promises to be the same friendly face at Viterbo athletic events and theatrical performances; he admits he has a privilege to uphold. Looking toward the future, Trietley said, “I want to be able to tell our community where I see us 20 years from now, as a university, and how we will be thriving. And this university will not just be a current 132-year-old university, but we’ll be around for another 132 years. Because these FSPA set the example and showed us the way; we owe it to them to continue this legacy.”