College of Saint Benedict Receives $3.6 Million Gift to Endow Chair

March 19, 2002

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. - The College of Saint Benedict has received a $3.6 million gift to establish its first academic chair, the Koch (pronounced Coach) Chair in Catholic Thought and Culture, CSB President Mary E. Lyons has announced.

The gift, the largest in the school's history, was donated by CSB Board of Trustee member Barbara Gray Koch and her husband David Koch of Long Lake, with $3 million designated for the endowed chair and $600,000 for the school's annual fund.

Barbara Koch said they established the chair because of the value and faith-based mission of the College of Saint Benedict, which seeks to "foster every woman's wisdom for a lifetime through discovery of her personal aspirations based in the Catholic Benedictine tradition."

The gift will provide opportunities to place the best of Catholicism's contribution to the intellectual life - in all its plurality - in conversation with the arts and sciences, Lyons said.

The gift marks a turning point in the college's history, according to S. Colman O'Connell, vice president for institutional advancement. "For many years, major gifts to the college had to be designated to build needed new facilities to serve a fast growing enrollment. Now that the campus is complete, it is possible for generous donors to contribute to an endowment to provide scholarships for our students or needed Chairs and Professorships for our faculty," she said.

The concept of the Koch Chair is unusual within Catholic higher education, Lyons said, because most institutions offer Catholic teaching within a single department. The intention of the Koch Chair is to provide professional development opportunities for faculty who, in turn, will offer students, regardless of their major, the opportunity to gain an enriched understanding of the heritage of Catholic thought that has shaped not just the faith tradition but also knowledge across disciplines.

Initially, Lyons said she expects the Koch Chair to attract visiting scholars distinguished by their knowledge of and commitment to bringing the Catholic intellectual tradition into dialogue with the academic disciplines and with culture. This would permit bringing to campus a full range of expertise - from science to the arts and humanities.

"Over time we hope that a 'person centered' rather than 'program centered' approach will enhance our academic mission," Lyons said. "This is a tremendous gift that is profoundly important in helping us to extend the legacy of Catholic thought to all of our students."

Lyons said she and Provost Henry Smorynski, in consultation with faculty, will establish criteria for the selection of the scholars and design the faculty development opportunities that the gift provides.

The College of Saint Benedict for women and Saint John's University for men are partners in liberal arts education, providing students the opportunity to benefit from the distinctions of not one, but two nationally recognized Catholic, Benedictine, residential undergraduate colleges. Together, the colleges challenge students to live balanced lives of learning, work, leadership and service in a coeducational environment.