Silver Lake College of the Holy Family is a four-year, private liberal arts college located in east-central Wisconsin, not far from the shores of Lake Michigan. It is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, who founded the college in 1935.

The college’s board of trustees is seeking to appoint the next president of the college and invites inquiries and applications from potential candidates.

The new president will succeed Silver Lake College’s 10th president, Dr. Chris E. Domes, who left the college at the end of July 2017.


In the last several years, Silver Lake College experienced a period of historic transformation and growth. With the leadership of Dr. Domes and his team, the vision translated to an upswing in student enrollment numbers.

As of June 30, 2017, Silver Lake College’s total undergraduate applications for fall 2017 were up 86 percent compared to fall 2016 applications at the same time a year ago. That’s head and shoulders above 18 other private colleges belonging to the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The college with the closest numbers came in at less than 48 percent.

Between the years of 2015 and 2017, freshman inquiries were up 21.8 percent, while freshman applications were up 114.32 percent. In addition, freshman acceptances were up 135.1 percent, freshman deposits were up 62.5 percent and freshman enrollments were up 89.1 percent.

Among the key initiatives credited for this growth include the college’s move in 2016 to distinguish itself as the first Catholic college in the nation — and the first college in Wisconsin — to adopt the Work College model. Called SLC Works, the initiative offers an enhanced educational experience integrating work, learning and service throughout a student’s college career.

That same year, the college introduced a four-year traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and completed a $1.6 million renovation project housing the nursing program’s state-of-the-art learning and laboratory space.

The college also accelerated the expansion and development of intercollegiate athletics and was accepted as a full member institution of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

In addition, the institution embarked on a strategic plan to guide the college into the future without losing sight of its past. The Foundations for the Future strategic plan was designed to grow the institution and help it not only survive, but thrive.

In the fall of 2016, the college approved Vision 2020, a five-year investment plan, which provides financial support and debt restructuring to ensure the college’s long-term sustainability.

Silver Lake College has a well-managed endowment that totals $6.4 million and a 2017–18 budget of $8.5 million. The college is tuition-driven, with a strong focus on growth in traditional and graduate student numbers.

At the same time, Silver Lake College helps make a quality liberal arts education affordable by offering $2.6 million per year in institutional aid, according to 2016–17 figures. This helps make college possible for many of its students, who are first-generation college students or come from families that are historically underrepresented due to socioeconomic challenges.


Silver Lake College is Manitowoc County’s only four-year institution of higher learning. It offers the only Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in a large region encompassing south of Green Bay, north of the Greater Milwaukee area and east of Lake Winnebago.

The college offers 21 undergraduate programs and three graduate programs. Degrees offered include: Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Music; Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Science in Nursing; Master of Arts in Education, teacher leadership or administrator leadership; and Master of Music in music education with a Kodály emphasis.

Generating a lot of buzz is the Master of Science in Leadership and Organizational Development, which is new this fall. The program focuses on meeting the needs of our students and employers. It has been redesigned to align with industry standards in leadership, health care and organizational development.

Another recent offering is the college’s Graphic Design program, which helps students develop a command of visual language, and art and design principles. They can then put these skills into practice with theory, imagination and technology.

Silver Lake College was the first to offer a master’s degree in Kodály music education and has since enjoyed a coveted reputation in excellence. Its summer program keeps attracting more and more students. Music educators can earn a Master of Music in Music Education with a Kodály emphasis in just four summers.

Area teachers also are earning their Master of Arts in Education degree at Silver Lake College in just 12 months. The program’s interactive cohort model is designed for the busy professional. Students can earn a master’s degree in Administrator Leadership or Teacher Leadership.


Silver Lake College is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity who founded it in 1935 to prepare young women entering the religious community for the work of teaching. The institution, then named Holy Family College, was originally part of Holy Family Convent. Mother M. Generose Cahill was its first president, serving from 1935 to 1939.

Silver Lake College began admitting lay women in 1957 and became coeducational 1969.

The move to its current location, which is within walking distance of the convent, took place when present-day Main Hall opened in 1960. The college became a separate corporation in 1972 and its name was changed to Silver Lake College of the Holy Family.

In response to changing professional needs during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Silver Lake College of the Holy Family expanded major programs of study — including business and computer science— for traditional and nontraditional students alike.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the college also offered degree-completion programs and professional development coursework in various Wisconsin locations for business people, educators and those who were already in the workforce. The era of the adult learner served to provide the next level of enrollment growth for the institution.

The century-old St. Joseph Parish church and adjoining school, located between Holy Family Convent and Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, was renovated and opened in 2003 as the Generose Enrichment Center. It offers additional space for classes, meetings and offices.

In other milestones, Dr. George F. Arnold was appointed the college’s first lay president and served from 2004-2013.

In 2009, on-campus housing became a reality with the renovation of Clare Hall.

Silver Lake College’s Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance debuted in the fall of 2013. The 35,000-square-foot building is home to the college’s music program and the Holy Family Conservatory of Music, which provides lessons to youth in the community. The building features a 464-seat theater, a glass-and-stone atrium that seats 200 for meetings and banquets, classrooms and the Zemke-Daniel Rehearsal Hall.

In 2014, the Silver Lake College Dining Hall was renovated, resulting in a more efficient and attractive space. The college also contracted with Sodexo food service, making possible more menu choices, with an emphasis on nutrition, appeal and variety.

Also in 2014, Silver Lake College added the Ariens Family Welcome Center, an open, light-filled space featuring Mimi’s Café, which serves Starbucks items; a school spirit store; a lounge area and welcome desk.

The remodeled space, located inside the entrance to the main building, also provides a convenient, central location — a one-stop shop — for enrollment and student services including the registrar, financial aid, admissions, student accounts and bursar.

In 2015, the 2,000-square-foot Silver Lake College Fitness Center opened to students and employees.

Physical improvements in 2016 include the addition of a renovated patio space, designed to foster a greater sense of community on campus.

An extension of the Endries Family Heritage Room, the patio allows additional space for campus gatherings.

The patio overlooks the Robert Lawler Jr. and Diane Vanne Lawler Reflection Garden, a circular raised-bed garden surrounding a walled area, where visitors can think, pray and reflect. A focal point of the garden is a five-foot, bronze-hued statue of St. Francis, the college’s patron saint.

The most recent improvements include the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and nursing wing; the Work College program, SLC Works; and the expansion of the athletics program.

Surrounding Community

Silver Lake College is located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, along Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Manitowoc River. The city of more than 30,000 people takes pride in its beautiful scenery and inviting lakefront.

Football fans will be pleased to know that Manitowoc is just 45 minutes away from Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.

Named “home of the great spirit” by its native inhabitants, Manitowoc also is known as Wisconsin’s Maritime Capital. It is home to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, which offer visitors a chance to tour the fully restored World War II submarine moored just outside its doors.

Along the city’s shoreline is the multi-million dollar Manitowoc Marina, a state-of the art, full-service marina complex only a half-day’s sail away from popular Door County, a 90-minute drive from Milwaukee and three hours from Chicago. The Mariners Trail, which wends along the lakeshore for about six miles, offers the opportunity to bike, walk, roller skate or jog from Manitowoc to its sister city of Two Rivers.

Each year, thousands of visitors are drawn to the Manitowoc-Two Rivers area, to these and other maritime activities including visiting the Rogers Street Fishing Village, diving to view shipwrecks or sailing across Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger car ferry.

Manitowoc’s historic downtown district includes dozens of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can enjoy such gems as the Capitol Civic Centre, a 1920s renovated vaudeville theater featuring national and local acts, and the Rahr-West Art Museum, a Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion that is home to artworks by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.

The family friendly Manitowoc area boasts quality public and private schools, plenty of parks, an outdoor swimming complex, golf and disc golf courses, attractive beaches, outdoor festivals, active farmers markets, a county fair, quality libraries, live music offerings and more.

Manitowoc County also enjoys a vibrant economy, featuring a broad range of businesses, from manufacturing to retail, wholesale, recreation, health care and dining.

The local economy is healthy thanks to efforts by area companies to upgrade facilities and use new technology to remain competitive.

Sources: City of Manitowoc, Manitowoc Area Visitor & Convention Bureau, The Chamber of Manitowoc County