St. Thomas Newsroom

Forty Years of Coeducation: Rachel Wobschall ’81

Following her introduction of the president of the university Dr. Julie Sullivan, Rachel Wobschall, Executive Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations, claps at the podium during the Alumni First Friday Christmas luncheon held on December 6, 2013 at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

“Almost everything that I have done since I became an alumna has its roots in the education, experiences and friendships I developed at St. Thomas.”

There was a time when Rachel Wobschall was just a recent Waseca High School graduate. That was well before she had earned the St. Thomas triple crown: a bachelor’s, master’s and Ed.D. all as a Tommie. That was before she had become the first female Tommie Award winner and before she was the first woman to serve as All-College Council president.

Then, she was the first in her family to go to college, and spent the summer before fall semester hanging out on the St. Paul campus.

“The only coed dorm for that first year was Murray Hall, and when I visited they still had scaffolding up on the two floors that make up the residence. So that was like, ‘Whoa,’” Wobschall said.

While there was still work that needed to be done at that point, the finished product for Wobschall and her female classmates in that first year of coeducation was worth the wait.

“We had suites of three or four women, but we had our own private bathroom. That,” Wobschall said, “was luxury.”

With plans to study political science and leverage the proximity to the state’s political system for job opportunities, Wobschall quickly started taking advantage of more than just the notable restroom resources at St. Thomas. In fact, she famously introduced herself to the dean and the president at orientation, walking right up and shaking their hands. Soon they, and most everyone at St. Thomas, would know who she was.

“The size of the college at the time was such that you could get involved with extracurricular activities a lot. I lived on campus all four years so I wanted to do things on the weekends, and I didn’t have a car so I was hanging out. I just followed my interests, really,” Wobschall said.

That recipe helped Wobschall become a campus leader for many extracurricular organizations, leading to the prestigious undergraduate honor of the Tommie Award. After graduating, Wobschall worked in state government, including on the senior staffs of the late Gov. Rudy Perpich and former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Wobschall also went on to serve as the executive director of a program studying technology for people with disabilities, an area with extra meaning for her as she has cerebral palsy. On top of her subsequent degrees in international management and organization development, Wobschall remained tied to St. Thomas as a member of the Alumni Association Board from 1989-95, and as executive director of Alumni and Constituent Relations from 2002-16. In 2000, she received the Monsignor James Lavin Award for volunteer services.

“Almost everything that I have done since I became an alumna has its roots in the education, experiences and friendships I developed at St. Thomas,” Wobschall said.

Today, Wobschall is a senior major gifts officer for Gillette Children’s and remains a Tommie in every sense of the word.

“Staying connected [to St. Thomas] is just natural. There is that foundational nature of St. Thomas that it’s a value-orientated and service leadership-orientated place, which really resonates with me. I like to help people,” Wobschall said. “The value of [my career] is service and giving back. Those were foundational values that were really developed when I was at St. Thomas, especially as an undergrad.”