New Wisconsin Lutheran College president brings mix of business, academic experience
By Jordan Fox, for SBT
Tim Kriewall has packed a lot of living and accomplishments into his 57 years on this planet. After a successful career as a college professor and another one as an electrical and biomedical engineer, he returned to academia as president of Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee July 1.
In his capacity as president, he hopes the college will better prepare its graduates for their business and personal lives and instill excitement in their quest for future successes. He became only the college’s second president, replacing the well-respected Gary Greenfield, Ph.D., who has retired.
Kriewall, a native of Bay City, Mich., graduated from the University of Michigan in 1963 with a B.S. in electrical engineering and went to work for Bell Telephone Laboratories.
"It was a very special place to work," Kriewall says. "Lots of very smart people there." He recalls walking behind two coworkers in the cafeteria and overhearing them playing a game of mental chess – without a chessboard, relying only on their memories and visualizations.
"Bell Labs was where the technology for minicomputers was developed," he says. "I worked there in engineering and power systems and spent a good portion of my time writing software programs."
While there, Kriewall and an associate, using interactive computer graphics, developed a printed circuit board layout program that would allow board designers to lay out cards in a day, a process that previously would take six to eight weeks. "It was advanced enough that we earned an audience for our work."
He earned an M.S.E.E. degree in 1968 from Stanford University on a fellowship from Bell Labs, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 1974 at the University of Michigan. Kriewall spent several years as an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the medical schools of both the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota.
"I first became interested in biomedical engineering, which was then in its infancy, because my wife Sally was an RN, working in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. I would pick her up at work and thought that I could apply my electrical engineering knowledge to help improve medical care."
When the Kriewalls had their first child, he was surprised "at how little the doctors were able to monitor labor in the delivery room." Once they knew that labor had begun, they were uncertain as to how long it would last, what the outcome would be, and if the baby might suffer from the trauma of labor, he says. "We were sending astronauts up and knew everything about their physiology but didn’t know enough about the physiology of infants during birth."
Returning to the University of Michigan for his Ph.D., he studied the field of perinatalogy, researching the dynamics of the birth process and applying engineering principles to measure labor. He developed technology that allowed obstetricians to look inside the uterus without the ionizing radiation that could affect the fetus. He stayed there another eight years as a professor.
He devoted most of his professional life to developing medical products ranging from cochlear implants to heart/lung machines and is named as one of the inventors on patents for three such products.
Prior to joining Wisconsin Lutheran College, Kriewall had spent the last six years of his career at Medtronic, XOMED, in Jacksonville, Fla., as vice president of research and development. While there he focused on the development of surgical, diagnostic and therapeutic products for ear, nose and throat surgeons.
He had worked for 3M Co. in Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as Minneapolis/St. Paul, for 15 years, where he directed the development of powered surgical instruments.
"While I was at 3M I learned what it meant to work in cross-functional units and to depend on people who had different abilities and different responsibilities. This was such a contrast to academia, which is very political. I thought if I could go back to a campus, I’d be a much better teacher than I was early in my career because of my business experience."
It was never Kriewall’s plan, however, to become a college president, he admits. But one day he read about the impending job opening caused by the retirement of Gary Greenfield and decided to go for it.
"I didn’t know if I was qualified to be a president of a college but thought it would a privilege to be in a position where I could help students anticipate what life has in store for them. To help them choose a career for the right reasons. To have them look forward to going to work each morning. To use their talents so they can enjoy their careers. To recognize that liberal arts majors have many more career opportunities than do engineers or chemists."
When Greenfield announced that he would be retiring, a search committee was created and conducted a nationwide search. Kriewall, the committee’s recommendation, was approved by the college’s board and accepted the position.
Now located at 8800 W. Blue Mound Rd., Wisconsin Lutheran College opened its classroom doors in 1973 as a junior college with approximately 10 students. Today it’s a four-year liberal arts college with approximately 700 students. The college has a two-semester academic year and awards bachelor of arts and bachelor of sciences degrees with liberal arts and professional majors and several pre-professional programs.
Sept. 5, 2003 Small Busines Times, Milwaukee