President Hermann Viets, Ph.D. will retire from Milwaukee School of Engineering on June 30, 2015. He is only the fourth president in MSOE’s 112-year history, and currently the longest serving president at any college or university in Wisconsin. Viets has guided the university for 24 years. During that time the university’s campus footprint has grown dramatically and expanded degree programs fueled enrollment.

According to the American Council on Education, in 2011 the average length of service for a university president was seven years. MSOE is fortunate to have Viets at the helm and with the long-term vision he provided, the university is poised to continue its success for a long time.

“MSOE’s national academic reputation has grown under the steadfast leadership of Hermann Viets,” said Scott Moon, chairman of the MSOE Board of Regents. “His vision has kept MSOE firmly on the path for success and students choose to attend the university because they know they’ll achieve success in their careers upon graduation.”

“Throughout Dr. Viets’ tenure, the economy has seen ups and downs, yet the demand for MSOE graduates hasn’t wavered,” he continued. “Employers know that MSOE graduates have an immediate and significant impact on their workplace. At Res Manufacturing we hired our first MSOE student in 1995 as an intern, and last year he became president of that company.” Moon is chairman and CEO of DLSM Inc., a holding company comprised of Res Manufacturing and Kondex Corporation.

Viets’ vision for MSOE is to remain at the forefront of professional education with an emphasis on both theory and technology coupled with an intensity of appropriate laboratory experience and career practice. He has worked to broaden the academic scope of the university while maintaining its “application-oriented” philosophy and at the same time supporting those initiatives that promote a well-rounded college experience.

During Viets’ presidency, MSOE has implemented new programs including several undergraduate international study-abroad programs and a baccalaureate two-degree program. The university added a number of Bachelor of Science degrees such as actuarial science, biomolecular engineering, construction management, nursing, operations research and software engineering, as well as a freshman-to-master’s degree in civil engineering. New Master of Science degrees also were added, including perfusion, construction and business management, medical informatics (a joint program with the Medical College of Wisconsin), nursing, an MBA, MBA in education leadership and MBA in STEM leadership.

Technology continues to advance at an unbelievably fast pace as a generation of STEM professionals is beginning to retire. Recognizing the greater need to fill the pipeline with young students who are prepared to pursue a STEM education at the collegiate level, Viets partnered with Robert Kern, MSOE Regent and retired chairman of Generac Power Systems, and the Kern Family Foundation to bring Project Lead The Way to Wisconsin. This nationwide program is helping curb the ever growing shortage of STEM professionals by encouraging K-12 students to enter those fields. PLTW is a leading provider of curricular programs featuring hands-on, project-based engineering, biomedical sciences and computer science courses that expose students to these areas of study and provide a foundation and proven path to college and career success. MSOE is the National Affiliate University for PLTW programs in the state of Wisconsin. As the affiliate, MSOE’s role is to train middle and high school teachers in the curriculum so they can teach it in their respective schools; serve as an accreditation agent; educate high school counselors about the program; provide transcripted undergraduate course credit for high school students who complete the PTLW classes; and advocate for and raise awareness of the program throughout the region.

The Kern Family Foundation, a major proponent of PLTW, played a significant role in providing Wisconsin with the distinction of having the fourth largest number of schools that have adopted the PLTW curriculum. MSOE is the second largest PLTW teacher training site in the nation, and has trained more than 1,500 teachers.

MSOE is the only university in the state of Wisconsin to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in BioMolecular Engineering. The program came to fruition because of Viets’ vision, the hard work of MSOE faculty and staff, and the support of Kern and his wife Patricia. The program has put MSOE on the map as a leading institution in biomolecular engineering education, with facilities that rival those of industry leaders.

Students at MSOE are encouraged to develop their entrepreneurial skills. Under Viets’ leadership, the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship was established to advance creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism and develop success in all fields and disciplines. MSOE received a grant from the Kern Family Foundation to help build a spirit of entrepreneurship among students, faculty and alumni. The KEEN grant, MSOE’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the Rader School of Business provide resources to launch businesses, create new products and turn innovation into success. KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network) is a consortium of 20 universities around the U.S. that strive to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineering and technology students. Its mission is to graduate engineers who will contribute to business success; and in doing so, transform the American workforce.

The university’s downtown campus increased to 20 acres with the addition of Krueger Hall; Rosenberg Hall, which houses the Rader School of Business; Humphrey House; the Kern Center, a 210,000-square-foot recreation, athletic, health and wellness center; the Grohmann Museum which houses the Eckhart Grohmann Man at Work art collection; Pamela and Hermann Viets Field, a soccer/lacrosse field built atop a 780-car parking garage; and the new Grohmann Tower student apartment building. The Murphy House, in Belgium, Wis., serves as a retreat center for MSOE and provides rooms for seminars. The two-acre property was donated by the late Greta Werwath Murphy, the daughter of MSOE’s founder.

The Grohmann Museum is home to the world’s most comprehensive art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work. The Man at Work collection features more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures from 1580 to the present. The collection and the funds to acquire and renovate the museum building were donated by Eckhart Grohmann, MSOE Regent. Students are learning their disciplines with an appreciation of how the fields have evolved. They are able to see the history of health care, business and engineering in the pieces at the Grohmann Museum.

Other highlights include MSOE’s implementation of the state’s first all-notebook computer campus at a university, and the establishment of the Rader School of Business and MSOE School of Nursing. In addition, the Pieper Family Endowed Chair for Servant-Leadership and Uihlein/Spitzer Chair of Entrepreneurship were established.

Viets received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and both a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Astronautics, all from Polytechnic University in New York City and Farmingdale, Long Island. He was a visiting scientist, aerospace engineer and research group leader for Wright Patterson Air Force Base Aerospace Research Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio; lecturer at the Von Karman Institute in Brussels, Belgium; and a research associate at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, N.Y. His other academic experience includes serving as dean of engineering at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston; associate dean for research and professor at West Virginia University, Morgantown; and professor of engineering at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.

In 1997, Viets was named “Engineer of the Year” by Engineers & Scientists of Milwaukee Inc. (known today as STEM Forward), He also received the 2008 World Citizen Award from the International Institute of Wisconsin and the 2014 CTSI Bolger Award. He holds seven U.S. patents.

Viets announced his retirement to the MSOE Board of Regents in July 2014. A search committee led by Moon is currently conducting a nationwide search for Viets’ successor.

MSOE’s presidents include:

  • Oscar Werwath, founder, 1903-1948
  • Karl Werwath, 1948-1977
  • Robert R. Spitzer, Ph.D., 1977-1991
  • Hermann Viets, Ph.D., 1991-2015