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Message from the President: Continuing the Momentum

Oct. 25, 2010

Dear Alumni Friends,

It was good to see so many of you at this weekend’s Homecoming festivities. Sorry the weather didn’t quite cooperate, but that just made us appreciate your presence all the more – especially those of you who shrugged off the rain to help us dedicate Schneider Stadium.

As you may have heard, the momentum at St. Norbert continues unabated. The latest examples are two exciting projects that, like the stadium, will keep us moving into the front ranks of America’s liberal arts colleges.

The most ambitious of the projects will be the expansion and renovation of our student union and cafeteria. 

SNC alums Pat (a trustee), Kevin and Tim Michels, their mother Ruth, and the entire Michels family have committed $7 million for a major addition and complete overhaul of the cafeteria and union complex – in one bold stroke bringing it into the 21st century in terms of the standards and expectations for such facilities. Construction will likely begin toward the end of the current academic year and be finished in May 2012. 

The newly expanded complex will be named Michels Commons. (The Sensenbrenner name will be retained for the current and enhanced “union” spaces inside.)

Sensenbrenner is almost 50 years old, built at a time when enrollment was about 60 percent of what it is today. The strain of this growing demand has been evident for years now, and expansion/renovation has been in our facilities master plan for at least a decade.

When completed, Michels Commons will expand the cafeteria seating by at least 50 percent; will renovate that dining space (called Ruth’s, after Mrs. Michels) into a beautiful and state-of-the-art environment punctuated by “marketplace”-style food stations; increase our ability to host much larger groups in the upstairs banquet and reception areas; and create a multimedia sports lounge to be called Dale’s, after the late Dale Michels. Just as important, Michels Commons will create a dramatic new “front door” to the cafeteria/union complex with an elegant rotunda facing Third Street. Here’s a link to a recent press release with more information about the project:

And speaking of Third Street ... The second major project will be a significant expansion of our current admissions building, which is located on Third at the Baer Mall. Our board of trustees voted to name this revitalized resource the Ariens Family Welcome Center, in recognition of the primary donors behind the $1 million project, Mike and Mimi Ariens. Mike is a trustee emeritus and former board chair, and he and Mimi sent six of their children to St. Norbert – and they have a granddaughter here now. 

The project will, for the first time, bring together under one roof the operations of the enrollment management and communications division, enhancing its impact and efficiency. A major portion of this consolidation will be the Ed and Sally Thompson Office of Communications, in recognition of the project’s secondary donors. Ed and Sally were the original sponsors of the Knights on the Fox concert series to extend the use of the Thompson Marina behind the campus center (which is named on their behalf). In addition to this project, Ed has also recently established an SNC scholarship in honor of Sally, who passed away following a long illness in August.

The existing Roland and Helen Murphy Office of Admission will remain at the center of this project, providing the engine behind our recruitment operations. 

The project’s highlight will be an attractive new welcome rotunda to be built just west of the existing admissions building. This feature will dramatically enhance the initial impression we make on campus visitors, especially prospective students and their families. Most of our visitors today approach campus from the west and thus arrive quite literally at our back door.

We will break ground on this project in March 2011, with completion the following August.

More information regarding the welcome center can be found in the press release at

Both of these projects advance numerous goals in our newly adopted strategic plan. More to the point, both will help ensure that outstanding young men and women keep coming to St. Norbert for their college experience.