by Elizabeth P. Latt
The Divinity School will establish a chair in Roman Catholic studies in honor of one of its best-known graduates, the Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy, president the University of Notre Dame.
Gifts totaling $1.5 million from several sources have made possible the endowment of a Roman Catholic studies chair. Efforts will continue to raise additional funds to endow a Roman Catholic studies program, including a student scholarship fund and library fund, according to Divinity School Dean Joseph C. Hough Jr.
"The establishment of this chair represents yet another important step in the Divinity School's efforts to expand the range of its ecumenical vision," Hough said. "For the growing number of Roman Catholic students, it is important that a strong Roman Catholic presence be assured in the future of the Divinity School. For students preparing for the ministry in Protestant churches, studies in the Roman Catholic tradition will provide a very necessary expansion of their understanding of the ministry in a religiously pluralistic context."
Malloy, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross religious order, said he had been aware of the plans to establish a Roman Catholic studies chair. "I knew that there had been efforts and I encouraged it. " But he said he was "flabbergasted" by the news that the chair would be named for him. "I am honored and thrilled to be remembered in such a way."
Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame since 1987, was one of the first two priests to enroll in the Vanderbilt Divinity School. He spent four years in Nashville in the 1970s teaching at nearby Aquinas Junior College and working toward his Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Vanderbilt. He received his doctorate in 1975.
After having received all of his education at Catholic institutions, Malloy said he saw Vanderbilt's Divinity School, with faculty from a variety of Christian denominations, as an opportunity "to broaden my horizons." He said he was pleased with the education he received at Vanderbilt. "All of my expectations were fulfilled. It was a very positive experience."
The chair in Roman Catholic studies is the latest devoted to the study of a particular religious tradition to be announced recently at the non-denominational divinity school. In 1996, the Mary Jane Werthan Chair in Jewish Studies was established. Last month, the school announced that Dollar General CEO and Vanderbilt Board of Trust member Cal Turner Jr. had endowed a chair in Wesley studies. The school also is the home of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute for African American Church Studies, which recently received an endowment to continue the work it began in 1984. It is the only program for the study of the African-American church at a non-denominational, university-based divinity school.
The effort to establish a chair in Roman Catholic studies was initiated by a challenge bequest from Anne Potter Wilson, a Presbyterian laywoman and longtime champion of the Divinity School who died in 1986. She left income from a trust to help establish a program to ensure an ongoing Roman Catholic presence at the Divinity School on the condition that the sum be matched in gifts and pledges by December 1989. The Divinity School met that challenge by raising $250,000. Since then the efforts have continued and steady progress has been made through a combination of gifts and pledges from interested individuals, Hough said. The William K. Warren Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. completed funding for the chair, with gifts totaling approximately $476,000.
Although the Divinity School traces its origins to Vanderbilt's founding in 1873, the Roman Catholic presence was limited and occasional until the mid-1960s when a few Roman Catholic students began to enroll in the school's master's and doctoral programs. Today 18 of the 200 students in the Graduate Department of Religion and 12 of the students in the divinity programs are Roman Catholic. Two of the full-time faculty members are Roman Catholic.
Posted 11/17/97 at 10:00 a.m.