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Past Presidents

Bishop Patrick R. Heffron


Bishop Patrick R. Heffron, the second bishop of Winona, founded Saint Mary’s College in 1912 to provide education for young men in the southeastern Minnesota Diocese of Winona and surrounding areas. In its early years, the college operated as an academy and junior college, and in 1925 it became a four-year liberal arts college.

Monsignor William E.F. Griffin


The Very Reverend William E.F. Griffin brought priests and laymen together to form the faculty at Saint Mary’s in the areas of business, commerce, science, and mathematics while Monsignor Griffin himself taught Latin, English, and religion. While president, he also moved athletic teams into interscholastic sports. The Students’ Army Training Corps was established during his tenure, as well as the definition of the college into three levels: academy department, junior college, and commercial courses.

Monsignor John H. Peschges


Known as the “friendly one” during his administration, Monsignor John H. Peschges was a Latin scholar who taught English, Greek, and German. During his presidency he ran a successful fund drive for new buildings and phased out the high school program. He was also successful in expanding the curriculum and boosting enrollment. In 1926, he awarded diplomas to the first 10 men who completed the four-year college sequence.

Brother Leopold Julian Dodd, FSC


Brother Leopold Julian Dodd negotiated with Bishop Kelly for the 1933 transfer of Saint Mary’s College from the Diocese of Winona to the Christian Brothers. During Brother Leopold’s presidency, Saint Mary’s received full four-year accreditation. He also guided the college to financial stability.

Brother Landrick Jerome Foy, FSC


Brother Landrick Jerome Foy’s most notable achievement was guiding the college through arduous times and declining enrollment during World War II. Because of this enrollment decline, he worked to acquire a Navy V-12 unit in 1943, which was an officer training program and offered accelerated instruction.

Brother Joel Stanislaus Nelson, FSC


During Brother Joel Stanislaus Nelson’s presidency, the first student union was built, an addition was built on the dining hall, and Saint Joseph’s Hall was enlarged to house the Christian Brothers. Moreover, he guided the college through the war and the Navy V-12 era. Brother Joel was an enthusiastic teacher and combined principles of love and hope with creativity and human potential.

Brother J. Ambrose Groble, FSC


Many changes took place at Saint Mary’s College during Brother Ambrose Groble’s presidency. Aquinas (now Vlazny Hall) and the science hall were built, a graduate program was developed, enrollment grew slowly but consistently from 542 to 780, and government-funded programs and grants were introduced. Brother J. Ambrose laid the foundation for the growth of Saint Mary’s by developing the faculty and a summer school session.

Brother Basil Rothweiler, FSC


The most significant physical growth on campus took place during Brother Basil Rothweiler’s administration. Construction included new dorms, a chapel, library, the Christian Brothers faculty residence, the novitiate, and a minor seminary. Brother Basil’s presidency at Saint Mary’s is still remembered as one that formed a solid alliance with the Winona community and Minnesota businesses.

Brother Josephus Gregory Robertson, FSC


Under the leadership of Brother J. Gregory Robertson, Saint Mary’s College became co-ed and the board of trustees allowed laymen to be members for the first time. The expansion of the campus continued; the old gym was converted into what is now Skemp Hall, and a new gymnasium was built. Psychology was added to the curriculum as were independent studies and some multi-disciplinary courses.

Brother George Pahl, FSC


On-campus housing improved during Brother George Pahl’s tenure with the addition of the Ek Family Village and the New Village. In addition, the Advanced Institutional Development Program federal grant was awarded to help improve the college during Brother George’s administration. A committee was formed to find ways to improve the college and its growing enrollment. At the end of his tenure as president, Brother George received the Bishop Heffron Award, acknowledging his dedication to the development of Saint Mary’s. Brother George was also well-known for his research of radiation and cancer.

Brother Peter Clifford, FSC


Brother Peter Clifford brought fiscal security to the college, leaving his successor a $3 million balance in the endowment and physical plant funds. Brother Peter also fostered close relationships between Saint Mary’s College and the City of Winona by being an active member of the community. During his presidency, he served on the boards of both the Winona Chamber of Commerce and Norwest Bank.

Brother Louis DeThomasis, FSC, Ph.D

President 1984–2005, Chancellor 2006–2011

Brother Louis DeThomasis guided Saint Mary’s through an exciting period of change and growth in enrollment and programming. The college became a university, with successful new graduate and special programs at the Twin Cities and Winona campuses and Rochester Center, as well as classes in Apple Valley and more than 50 off-campus sites throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Nairobi, Kenya campus (closed in 2019) was founded during his presidency, and international programs were added for undergraduates. Extensive building and remodeling and various entrepreneurial endeavors were the hallmarks of his presidency.

Brother Craig J. Franz, FSC, Ph.D


Brother Craig J. Franz, FSC, Ph.D., served as the 12th president of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Under his leadership, the university accepted the challenge to become a nationally recognized teaching institution by its centenary year, 2012. Brother Craig was the founding president of the International Association of Lasallian Universities (IALU), a global consortium of Lasallian institutions promoting excellence in Catholic higher education among approximately 65 member universities.

Brother William Mann, FSC

2008 – 2018

Brother William Mann left behind a visible legacy at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota after a decade of significant building projects and acquisitions including the Science and Learning Center, a baseball clubhouse, and Brother William Hall in Winona; Cascade Meadow in Rochester and its subsequent expansion; and the mansion and Saint Mary’s Event Center in the Twin Cities. During his tenure, Brother William was also instrumental in the success of a historic capital campaign, which raised $72 million by the end of his term (surpassing its $57 million goal). Under his leadership and vision, the university also saw significant growth in its online programs, initiated a collaboration with Mayo Clinic for a Physician Assistant program, and founded the First Generation Initiative. Describing the Lasallian educational vision as the commitment and passion of his life, Brother William shared and strengthened the Lasallian charism throughout the university and established the Institute for Lasallian Studies.