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130 Years & Counting! Highlights from Alverno's History

Sister Augustine Scheele
“Only by understanding and living up to the aims of a college, can we hope to attain the goal toward which we are striving.” -Sister Augustine Scheele


Sister M. Augustine Scheele was elected president of Alverno College in January 1948. She was the first to actually carry the title. As Alverno's fifth president,  her twenty years of leadership saw some of the most dramatic changes in Alverno College’s history. She retired on July 1, 1968. 

Continuing with the plans begun by Mother Corona, Sister Augustine opened Alverno College to lay women in January of 1948. She facilitated the 1950 merging of Alverno College of Music with Alverno College which was begun in 1949.  Sacred Heart School of Nursing was the last to merge with Alverno College, completing Alverno’s reorganization in 1951.

Steps for educational accreditation were well underway as the college’s reorganization was being finalized.  Sister Augustine and her faculty sought and received educational accreditation from the North Central Association on March 29, 1951. At the same time, construction also began on the new college campus which opened to students in the fall of 1953.

The focus of Sister Augustine's presidency throughout the remainder of the 1950's and 1960's was that of commitment to “right, justice and charity” by way of academic programs for social justice, activism and the awareness of current local and world events. Her optimism for the future of education can be seen in her reflection on her time at Alverno:

“Alverno students, past and present, generally are among the top quality American women in integrity, seriousness of purpose, social consciousness and conscience. I am not afraid of tomorrow, I have seen yesterday and I am in love with today.”


In January 1948, Sister Augustine Scheele became Alverno's fifth president and the first person to officially carry that title.

Announcement of Sister Augustine Scheele's Presidency


Sister Jutta Hollenbeck was named Academic Dean. She served until 1960.

Sister Jutta Hollenbeck
             Sister Jutta Hollenbeck



January 21, 1948 Alverno College officially opened its doors to lay students. That first semester thirty-seven lay students enrolled; thirteen were full-time students. Tuition at that time was $50 per semester.

Laywomen on the steps of the SSSF Motherhouse late 1940's



DePadua Hall--first Rsidence Hall
DePadua Hall, at 1343 S. Layton Boulevard, opened on September 5, 1948. It was the first free standing residence hall for Alverno students. Sister M. Gerard (Sr. Elizabeth Engel) was the first housemother. Students paid $200 per semester for room and board and dined family style.



On July 31, 1949 Marion Yochum received a Bachelor of Science in Education and became the first lay woman to graduate from Alverno College.

Marion Yochum 1949 Graduate

              Marion Yochum

The three School Sisters of St. Francis schools, Education, Music and Nursing operated independently of each other even though they shared the same campus. With such proximity, a reorganization into one institution seemed almost inevitable.

Although Alverno College of Music began functioning as the Department of Music of Alverno College as early as 1949, their merger was not completed until 1950. In 1951, Sacred Heart School of Nursing joined with the previously merged schools to form the Alverno College we know today. This completed the reorganization. On March 29, 1951 the new Alverno College was granted accreditation from North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (NCA).

April 7, 1951 Catholic Herald Citizen article on Alverno's accreditation by NCA
This account of Alverno's NCA accreditation appeared in the April 7, 1951 issue of the Catholic Herald Citizen.


With overcrowded classrooms and resident halls, it became apparent that a new, larger facility was needed to house the growing Alverno College.  A new Alverno College campus was designed by the St. Louis architectural and engineering  firm of Maguolo and Quick. With construction plans completed in October of 1950, groundbreaking took place on the old Fischer farmstead, a 52- acre plot at the corner of 39th and Morgan Avenue, in the early spring of 1951. 

Architect's rendering of new Alverno campus depicting original buildings
This is an architect's rendering of the original buildings found on the new campus: (from left to right) Auditorium (now Pitman Theatre), Gymnasium (now Athletic Facility), Founders Hall, Corona Hall (originally the first residence hall) and not depicted, the Powerhouse.


Alverno under construction-late 1951 or early 1952
Alverno under construction, late 1951 or early 1952.

Laying of the Cornerstone for Founders Hall October 19, 1952
The Cornerstone  for the "new" Alverno College was laid in a ceremony on Sunday, October 19, 1952.


This is a postcard of the newly constructed Alverno College. It opened its doors for the first time in September 1953.
Postcard of "new" Alverno College


On April 21, 1954 the School Sisters of Saint Francis brought together religious and civic leaders from Milwaukee,
the state of Wisconsin, and other states in the Midwest to celebrate the dedication of their “New Alverno College" with festivities held throughout the day.

Library entrance during dedication festivities-April 21, 1954
This photo depicts the library entrance during the dedication festivities on April 21, 1954.


As Alverno College grew, other buildings were added to the campus in the 1950's. Learn more about Alverno's buildings by visiting the Archives exhibit, What's in a Name? The Names and Places of Alverno College. [PDF]

Alverno Elementary School, now Elizabeth Hall in January 1954

First was Alverno Elementary School, a laboratory school, where elementary education majors would observe teaching at its best, which opened in January 1954. It is now called Elizabeth Hall and houses the Alverno Early Learning Center.


Next built almost concurrently at the north and south ends of campus were Alphonsa Hall and Clare Hall.
Both buildings opened in 1957.


Architect's rendering of Alphonsa Hall
This is an architect's rendering for Alphonsa Hall and including Lampe Recital Hall which was built in 1956 after it became apparent that more music practice rooms were needed.


Clare Hall under construction, ca. 1956
As the resident population outgrew Corona Hall, the construction of Clare Hall was also begun in 1956.


At Sr. Joel Read’s invitation, then Massachusetts Senator, John F. Kennedy visited Alverno May 17, 1958 to promote his book, Profiles in Courage.

JFK on Campus, May 17, 1958



The class of 1957 raised  $500 for their class gift and asked Alverno art instructor and artist Sister Helena Steffensmeier to carve a statue from the Pittsford Valley marble they purchased. The photo below shows the dedication ceremony for  the statue, “Mary, Queen of the Universe” held on May 28, 1958. It currently can be seen not far from the La Verna Commons patio.

Click here to learn more about the sculpture and its dedication.

Dedication of "Mary, Queen of the Universe" sculpture, May 25, 1958


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Upon the retirement of Sister Jutta Hollenbeck, Sister J. Dolores Brunner (then known as Sister M. Providencia) became Alverno's second Vice President of Academic Affairs/Academic Dean in 1960.

Sr. Jutta Hollenbeck          Sister J. Dolores Brunner
Sister Jutta Hollenbeck and Sister J. Dolores Brunner


The Society of Fine Arts (SOFA), later called Alverno Presents, was founded by Sister Laura Lampe (then known as Sister M. Laudesia) in 1960. It was the longest running performing arts series in Milwaukee when it closed its doors after 56 seasons in 2016.

Sister Laura Lampe

Sister Laura Lampe


Sister Augustine Scheele was invited to Washington D.C. by President John F. Kennedy to  meet with him and fellow educators  to discuss the Civil Rights issues facing the nation.  The June 19, 1963 meeting provided Sister Augustine and her fellow educators with valuable feedback and information on how academic institutions would play an important  role in shaping the national response to the Civil Rights movement and subsequent change.

Telegram from JFK to Sister Augustine inviting her to a meeting
This is the telegram sent by President Kennedy to Sister Augustine
inviting her to the White House meeting on June 19, 1963.


A special college institute was held on March 11, 1964 entitled, "Racism - Reason - Response." The one-day institute was dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy and the civil rights program that he encouraged educators to initiate. Alverno's institute provided a place for objective discussion about the basic issues of civil rights. Sister Augustine called for a renewed commitment to "right, justice and charity."

Learn more about Alverno's involvement with causes of social justice by visiting the exhibit,
"...alone doesn't matter if you are standing up for others"--Social Injustice, Activism and Alverno College  [PDF]

Racism Reason Response Program Cover      Racism Reason Response Program p2

Racism Reason Response Program p3

Racism Reason Response Program p4
These are pages from the program for the remarkable one day institute, "Racism - Reason - Response" held at Alverno College
on March 11, 1964.


Because of a need to house more students, Austin Hall, originally called Loretto Hall and later the Campus Center, was constructed from 1964-1965. The hall opened to residents as Loretto Hall in the fall of 1965. It was re-dedicated as Austin Hall on November 8, 2005 in honor of Sister Austin Doherty.

Loretto Hall shortly after opening in 1965
Loretto Hall (now Austin Hall) as it looked after opening in 1965. It was the first west-facing building on campus.



Construction of the Nursing Education Building (now Christopher Hall) was begun after the College was awarded a $563,450 federal government grant under the Health Professions Assistance Act of 1965. The total cost of building was estimated at $1,400,000. A ground breaking ceremony for the new building was held on March 2, 1966.

 The Nursing Education Building opened in September 1967. A dedication ceremony featuring the Honorable Clement Zablocki, U.S. Representative for the Fourth Congressional District of Wisconsin was held in the new building in Wehr Hall on October 15, 1967.

Learn more about Alverno's buildings by visiting the Archives exhibit, What's in a Name? The Names and Places of Alverno College. [PDF]


Aerial view of Christopher Hall construction
This is an aerial view of the construction site for the Nursing Education Building
(now Christopher Hall).



Alverno Campus News article from November 5, 1967 about the new play, "A Place of Springs"

Sister Celeste Raspanti’s drama, A Place of Springs, (now known under the title I Never Saw Another butterfly) had its world premiere on the newly opened Wehr Hall stage on November 10, 1967. The play is based on the true story of Raja Englanderova who was one of 15,000 Jewish children interred at the German concentration camp, Terezin.  She was one of only 100 children to survive that camp from 1942 until its liberation in May of 1945. The play was performed in the newly opened Wehr Hall November 10-19 and December 1-3, 1967.

Raspanti’s play was based on a collection of poems and drawings that were created by the children of Terezin and published under the title I Never Saw Another Butterfly.  The play follows Raja as she enters the prison camp with her mother, father, brother and uncle. 



History was made when the School Sisters of St. Francis transferred leadership of Alverno College to the first Lay Board of Trustees in February 1968.

Alverno's first lay board of trustees, February 1968
Alverno's First Lay Board of Trustees (from Left to Right): Sr. Samuel Nalefski, Sr. Maureen Hartnett, Dr. Barbara Ramusack, Dr. Robert Byrnes, Mr. John Sisk, Sr. Joel Read, Mr. Frank Zeidler, Dr. Kathryn F. Clarenbach (Chairperson of the Board), Sr. Augustine Scheele (Alverno College President), Judge Leo Hanley, Father William LaDue, Dr. Edward Bachhuber, Sr. Francis Borgia Rothluebber (President of the School Sisters of St. Francis)


On July 1, 1968 Sister Augustine Scheele retired as Alverno President. The capstone to her final year as Alverno President was to aid in the creation of a new Alverno College Board of Trustees.  This new board consisted of  both lay and religious members, a change from the previously all sister Board of Directors.  The Board of Trustees’ first act was to search for a new Alverno College President. Sister Augustine was succeeded in December 1968 by the appointment  of Sister Joel Read as Alverno's sixth president.

Sister Augustine Scheele, Alverno's 5th President
Sister Augustine Scheele


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