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Marquette University Alumni Association

Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award

Herman ViolaDr. Herman J. Viola, Arts '60, Grad '64
Falls Church, Va.

Herman is quite the adventurer, fitting for a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution.

For the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, he developed and curated two major exhibitions, Magnificent Voyagers and Seeds of Change, in addition to serving as director of its National Anthropological Archives. Currently, he is a senior adviser to the National Museum of the American Indian and the historian on the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee for the U.S. Mint.

Herman also taught courses on archives and American Indian History and Culture for the University of Wyoming at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody and as an adjunct professor at George Washington University, American University, the University of Virginia and the Catholic University of America.

Two legendary Marquette figures, history professors Dr. Frank Klement and Rev. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J., had profound impacts on Herman's life.

Klement encouraged Herman to major in history at the undergraduate and master's levels. Father Prucha was his graduate adviser, a mentor and life-long friend who urged him to seek a doctorate in history. “As a result, I left Milwaukee and spent my professional career in Washington D.C., first at the National Archives and then at the Smithsonian Institution,” Herman says.

In addition, Herman lectured at Marquette when the university hosted a national traveling exhibit, Lewis & Clark and the Indian Country at the Raynor Memorial Libraries in 2012, and Marquette gave him a Merit Award for distinguished professional achievement in 1984.

Herman and his wife Susan Bennett Viola, Arts ’63, Grad ’64, traveled the famous Lolo Trail on horseback about 20 times, venturing through the more than 70-mile stretch of unforgiving mountain terrain made famous by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. Another of his travelling companions over the trail’s Bitterroot Mountains was his friend, Library of Congress scholar Ralph Ehrenberg, with whom Herman recently published Mapping the West with Lewis & Clark, the only book that focuses on the maps developed by those famous explorers.

Fun Facts
Favorite Marquette Memory: Meeting Susan Bennett, my future wife-to-be, at registration for the fall semester 1962.
Marquette faculty members who made an impact: Dr. Frank Klement recommended me for a teaching assistantship although I was a sailor in the U.S. Navy. As luck would have it, Mieczyslav Godek, the captain of my ship, had been a teacher in Milwaukee before joining the Navy and granted me an early discharge in time to enter graduate school just before my ship was deployed to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and all discharges were frozen.