Seton Legacy - Sister Victoria Marie Gribschaw
“Sister Victoria Marie Gribschaw, recently retired from the faculty of Seton Hill University, is a champion of many causes, all growing out of her keen interest in economics and social justice and how they intersect. She studied housing issues, the plight of single women with children, and the management of family resources. She was certified in Family and Consumer Sciences by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Sister Victoria Marie cared for her students and her colleagues, always quick to offer help and solutions for their difficulties. She was active in her professional associations and encouraged her students to participate as young professionals.”
—Sister Vivien Linkhauer, SC
Vice President for Mission and Identity of Seton Hill University
Written by Jane Strittmatter, Director of Public Relations
Her scores of professional appointments, achievements, and awards are remarkable. Still, after a career at Seton Hill University that spanned over four decades, Sister Victoria Marie is quick to assert, “My most important accomplishment has been the success of my students. I wanted to fit students for the world in which they would live.” It is clear that Sister Victoria Marie has lived the legacy of Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Sisters of Charity who served before her at Seton Hill University.
During the 2018 Centennial Year of Seton Hill University, the members of the Business Administration Department were honored at a special celebration.
“Forward at 40,” recognized four successful decades of business studies at Seton Hill. As faculty, staff, and alumni shared memories of the past forty years, one name surfaced with regularity—Sister Victoria Marie Gribschaw. It was evident from the stories that Sister Victoria Marie passed on the legacy of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton with her business colleagues whom she helped to hire and mentor. As their department and division chair, Sister Victoria Marie helped to shape the success of the business program as it morphed over the years to meet the needs of the college/university and adapt to new technologies and resulting business strategies of our changing society.
When Seton Hill included business classes in the curriculum to help bolster enrollment, Dr. Paul Mahady, Assistant Professor of Accounting, was one of the first business instructors to be hired. Paul fondly attested to Sister Victoria Marie’s generous spirit and her expertise as a family and consumer economist as evidenced by her homemade brownies:
“One of the things I best remember about Sister was the way she would take a person under her wing. It didn’t matter if the person was a student, faculty, or staff member. When Sister recognized she could make a difference in that person’s personal, professional, or academic life, she never hesitated to act as a mentor. I always looked forward to Division meetings when Sister was the Chair of the Division of Social Sciences because she often would bring her homemade brownies to the meeting. Her brownies were never too sweet or too gooey. She is a master brownie maker.”
Dr. Cathy Giunta, Professor of Business at Seton Hill, recalled that Sister Victoria Marie was part of the faculty team that developed the idea for the Management Program which is now the Business Administration major. True to her charism of charity, Sister Victoria Marie demonstrated her steadfast support, encouragement, and concern for others, professionally and personally.
“I have known Sister Victoria Marie as a friend and colleague at Seton Hill University for decades. I know that when I need a friend to talk with, she has always offered prayers and has been supportive of me and my family through good times and difficult times. When she was my Division Chair, she encouraged me as I completed my doctorate, and we would use our late work hours to find time to update each other on our families, our joys, and our concerns.”
Sister Victoria Marie was a guiding force for Dr. Doina Vlad, Associate Professor of Business, during her first years at SHU. A native of Romania, Doina recently became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She invited Sister Victoria Marie to attend her naturalization ceremony in Pittsburgh. Doina embraces and demonstrates Sister Victoria Marie’s legacy of Setonian excellence in her current roles as the University’s faculty development representative to the International Academy of Business and Economics Association and to the Northeast Business and Economics Association. Doina recalled:
“I remember her sitting in the classroom while I was teaching and needed guidance. She gave me good feedback, and told me some ways to improve my style and delivery. To help me grow as a teacher, she sent me to a four-day workshop on teaching economics in Washington, D.C. That helped to improve my course design and classroom pedagogy. Sister is very much dedicated to SHU’s growth and did everything in her power to make sure that growth happened, while she was Chair of the Division of Social Sciences for seventeen years.”
Lyzona Marshal, Assistant Professor of Business, sees Sister Victoria Marie as a visionary leader and as a compassionate colleague.
“In April 2005, I was invited to interview for a position to manage SHU’s E-Magnify Women’s Business Center. I decided to attend the center’s signature event in Pittsburgh, as it would eventually become one of my responsibilities. During my ‘secret’ reconnaissance mission to look behind the scenes, Sister Victoria Marie was the first person to spot me as a new face. Her approach was in classic Sister Victoria Marie style, direct yet cordial, while she conducted her own informal interview of me. I didn’t know at the time if she was a committee member or not, so I responded to her questions as best I could during that fortuitous hallway meeting. Once she was satisfied with my responses, she looked me directly in the eyes and said, ‘We need you to be a faculty member over in the Business Division.’ I was stunned yet intrigued and could only half babble out a response about needing to complete my current interview.
Fast forward 13 years and I find myself working as full-time faculty member in the School of Business (formerly the Business Division) because Sister Victoria Marie offered me a different opportunity. She was clear that her goal as division chair was to have a diverse faculty to reflect the changing demographics of the student population. Honestly, my first thought was this was her only interest in me, but I later learned that she also sought to find and develop talent. She worked with and coached me as I transitioned from staff member to an adjunct faculty member to a full-time faculty member in the School of Business.
Sister Victoria Marie’s formal role has changed but she remains a true colleague, sharing tips and strategies on classroom management, course design or redesign, and a general concern for her colleagues. When I fought to destroy cancer’s grip on my colon, she offered prayers, support, and compassion. When I casually disclosed how I went alone to chemo treatments, in true ‘Sister Victoria Marie form’ she demanded to know the date of my next appointment and announced that she would be coming with me because I am not alone. Today, I’m thankful for good health and a great career because of a nun that unwittingly foretold my future as she sought out diverse talent on a cold day in April.”
Sister Victoria Marie’s investment in the students at Seton Hill did not go unnoticed by former Dean of Students, Charmaine Strong. Charmaine recalled that as a class advisor, Sister encouraged students to pass on the Setonian legacy.
“Sister worked diligently with the new student class of 1990 until their graduation in 1994, teaching the students the traditions and the meaning of the traditions. The class gift was a cash donation to Seton Hill to help with expenses for the renovation of the Canevin/Lowe stairs. Then she served as the advisor for students entering the college in 1996. When they graduated in 2000, the millennial year, the class gift was the establishment of the Millennium Scholarship. This fund provides financial aid for Seton Hill junior or senior level students serving as class officers and/or Seton Hill Government Association (SHGA) officers with academic merit and need, and recognizes in perpetuity the generosity of the Seton Hill College Class of 2000 and their advisor, Sister Victoria Marie Gribschaw.”
Charmaine has also witnessed Sister Victoria Marie share a spiritual legacy with students, most notably the Women’s Basketball Team. For nine years, Sister Victoria Marie has supported the team through prayer and friendship at their games. Team members affectionately refer to her as “Sis.”
Seton Hill University Associate Professor of Communication, Dr. Jen Jones, now occupies the office that once belonged to Sister Victoria Marie. As one whose research attends to social issues in communication, corporate ethics, and leadership, Jen feels at home with the mission and identity of the University founded by the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and values her friendship with Sister Victoria Marie.
“I wrote a reflection for the SHU Centennial time capsule, and in it I stated how fortunate I am to know the Sisters of Charity. They have made a profound impact on my life, and now, especially after participating in the Charity charism formation program, I feel the torch passed to me to carry on their legacy. It is a great thing to carry forward; I am made stronger through God’s power and the sisters’ prayers.
Writing this reflection, I sit in my office at St. Joseph Hall, which was once Sister Victoria Marie’s. I feel the presence she left here as I look out the same windows she gazed through. She has helped me to see the world with eyes of humility, simplicity, and charity. Our conversations in this office were often about those values. For example, when I wanted to take students to serve homeless in Pittsburgh, she gave me the courage to do it. Another time, when I wanted to help a family in need, she provided resources to pass along to them. She also showed me how to integrate Catholic Social Teaching into very practical courses in Business. By doing so, students learn that business is not just about making money; it’s about contributing to human flourishing by valuing human dignity and uplifting human rights. Sister and I have attended weekday Masses in St. Joseph Chapel together. Faith and prayer are other important lessons Sister Victoria Marie taught me.
I felt called to work at Seton Hill after reading about the University’s history and the Sisters of Charity, and this calling has grown stronger over the years as I’ve been able to learn about and live the mission. As such, I am able to truly experience my work as a vocation, and to do my part with humility, simplicity, and charity to cultivate Setonian students committed to transform the world. I am sincerely grateful to the sisters for cultivating this in me, as well as to my beloved Setonian colleagues, who are filled with the charism and contribute to the cultural ethos of Seton Hill. I am grateful to be in community with them and pray we may make the sisters proud.”
After having been a huge part of campus life for 44 years, Sister Victoria Marie is irreplaceable. But her legacy lives on through the lives she touched. Sister Vivien Linkhauer says it best:
“Her ‘can do’ spirit modeled on Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of her Sisters of Charity community will continue to inspire all who have known her and seen her in action. May her legacy live on!”