Retired CMN president returns as graduation speaker


The educator who presided over all previous commencement ceremonies at the College of Menominee Nation returns May 27 in a new role.

S. Verna Fowler retired as CMN’s president in June 2016, shortly after CMN’s last graduation celebration. This year, she attends as the guest speaker.

Ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. in the Five Clans Ballroom of the Menominee Casino Resort Conference Center, Keshena.

Fowler holds the distinction of being one of the longest-serving presidents in the history of the tribal college movement. She was hired by the Menominee Nation in 1992 to establish a tribal college. CMN opened in January 1993 with an original enrollment of 42 adult students taking general education courses. Today, the college is an accredited baccalaureate-level institution with nearly 1,200 graduates. It provides academic degree and technical diploma courses, non-credit personal and professional development workshops, and a variety of outreach services to hundreds of individuals from campuses in Keshena and Green Bay.

During her professional life, Fowler worked as an educator and administrator at every level, from elementary through higher education. After entering a religious order and graduating from the convent college that is now Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, she continued studies at the Catholic University of America, University of San Francisco and University of North Dakota, where she earned her doctorate.

Among many awards, she has been chosen for honorary doctorates by two Wisconsin universities, and received the 2010 Alumni Achievement Award from UND and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s George Washington Carver Award for work in the field of agricultural development in developing nations.

Fowler’s service in education included work on the boards of the American Indian College Fund, American Indian Higher Education Consortium and Higher Learning Commission.

The winter 2016 issue of Tribal College Journal called Fowler “a giant in the tribal college movement.” The article cited her work building an enterprise that today employs some 130 faculty and staff, has more than a thousand alumni, provides an estimated annual economic impact of $37 million in its service region and is “dedicated to the goal of nation building — one student at a time.”

Joining Fowler on the stage as the 2017 student speaker is Lloyd Frieson Jr. Frieson is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration.

Frieson’s selection recognizes his academic achievements and extensive service to the college, various student organizations and the Menominee community. He is an enrolled member of the Menominee tribe and during the 2016-2017 academic year served as president of CMN’s student government.

Graduation participants include students who completed studies during summer session 2016 and in fall and spring semesters of the 2016-2017 academic year. The current class includes approximately 80 bachelor’s and associate degree majors and students who completed their technical diploma programs at either the Keshena campus or Green Bay/Oneida campus.