Who was Todd Wehr?
C. Frederick "Todd" Wehr (1889-1965), industrialist and philanthropist, was co-founder of the Wehr Steel Company and founder of the Todd Wehr Foundation, Inc. Wehr was a graduate of West Division High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He and his brothers comprised the executive team of the Wehr Steel Company, which was founded in 1910 by his father, Henry Wehr. The company manufactured steel alloy castings for machine parts, as well as magnetic separators and brakes. During World War II, it received numerous "E" awards from the government for excellence in steel production. In 1958, the company was reorganized as a division of the Wehr Corporation. Wehr became the chairman of the board, a position he held until his retirement in 1963.
Wehr left the bulk of his estate to a trust set up for charitable religious, scientific, and educational purposes. Many Wisconsin universities and cultural organizations have benefited from the Todd Wehr Foundation, including Viterbo University, which received a grant to renovate the facility that now bears the name Todd Wehr Memorial Library.
St. Rose Library
Some sixty years ago, in 1941, the St. Rose Library used by Viterbo was moved from St. Rose convent, third floor, to what became Viterbo College library, third floor. To execute this Herculean task, Sister Mary Catherine Walljasper, the librarian at that time, organized a human chain of three hundred to pass the books hand to hand to their destination.
The chain was made of Sisters from St. Rose and students and teachers from Aquinas High School and the city parochial schools. This extended from St. Rose, third floor library on Market Street, through the corridors and down the steps at St. Rose to the tunnel that runs under Winnebago Street to the Murphy Center and then up the three flights of steps to the new library where Sisters were waiting to shelve the books one after the other as they arrived from the human chain. There were little slips of paper that designated which section and where the next book belonged: five thousand books arrived safely to the new library. The first book to come was Twenty Years at Hull House written by Jane Addams.
For nearly fifty years, the Viterbo College Library was located on third floor, Murphy Center. During these years, Viterbo College was growing in numbers and size. Books, periodicals, and librarians increased. The quality of the library became a matter of great concern. A separate standing library was desirable. However, financing was not available.
In 1974, after St. Wenceslaus Church relinquished its property to Viterbo College, the idea of converting the church to a library arose. However, since the library was growing, the additional space gained by moving to St. Wenceslaus Church would be used up in five years, and Viterbo College was growing, too, projecting over 1,000 additional students by the end of the decade. What to do next was a problem. Suggestions for additional space on the third floor were given:
- Build an addition to the east side of the library for periodicals, magazines, etc.
- Move the Biology Department to another place and have the library use their space.
- Give up the space north of the library used by the Museum Collection and have more space for the library. However, none of these ideas seemed possible.
In 1991, college officials sent a newsletter saying the Viterbo College Library would have a major renovation as part of a 1.35 million dollars which was planned for the Murphy Center. So, in 1991, the library was relocated from the third floor of Murphy Center to the first floor. The space converted was formerly occupied by a small gymnasium and the old Book Store as well as first floor offices. The space of the third floor library was to be used for classrooms and offices. In February 1991, the library was moved. The library books on third floor were backed in courier boxes and placed on the first floor shelves by students and staff.
Library Rite of Passage
On February 28, 1991, Dr. Gibbons began the moving by taking the Bust of Shakespeare from the third floor to its new home. The books packed in boxes were taken by the elevator to the new library and placed on the shelves by the students and the staff.
In 1990, Viterbo University received a grant from C. Frederick (Todd Wehr, 1889-1965) that now named the new library Todd Wehr memorial Library. In 1991, when the new library opened, the logo "Sapere Aude: Dare to be Wise" was chosen to grace the entrance. The Todd Wehr Memorial Library Dedication and Open House was on Monday, May 13, 1991. Some of the features in the "new" library included:
- Twice as much floor space as the old Murphy Center library
- 100,000 volume capacity, a third more shelving
- Microcomputer room, audio room, multi-media room
- Archives and Rare Books room
- Faculty designated research room
- Update security system
- New library automatic catalog system
- Centralized smaller library collections throughout the campus
2006 - Present
During Summer 2006, the library went through more changes. The entire library received a makeover with new paint, ceiling tiles, and carpeting. Additional space was added to the second floor. More study rooms, a new computer and instruction lab, and office space were also added. One prominent and popular new feature was Franny's, a 24/7 study cyber cafe.
In 2011, the library won the Pax et Bonum (Peace and All Good) award. This is given to a team, group, office, department, committee, or organization in recognition of demonstrating the Franciscan values of quality service, respect, hospitality, stewardship, and joy among the constituencies of Viterbo University.
In 2014, the library curated and managed 67,000 books, 88,000 eBooks, and 5,000 audiovisual items. The library staff provided research assistance seven days a week and staffed a facility open 100 hours a week.
The library strives for a Franciscan approach the service in order to fulfill student needs, faculty and staff concerns, and the Viterbo standard of hospitality to all.
Note: Some photos are from Viterbo University's yearbooks