August 27, 2007

CSB and SJU receive commitments of $10.3 million to establish Academic Centers

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have received pledges of $10.3 million to establish two centers of academic excellence and distinction that will engage students in making connections and crossing boundaries in the 21st century. The centers will enhance student learning, promote faculty development and raise public awareness about pressing issues of our day.

The College of Saint Benedict received a $5.3 million commitment from Tom Petters, founder, chairman and CEO of Petters Group Worldwide, for the creation of the Thomas J. Petters Center for Global Education. Petters, a St. Cloud native, is a member of the CSB Board of Trustees. His company has investments in a collection of more than 60 companies around the world including Polaroid, Sunbeam and Sun Country Airlines. Petters is an active philanthropist with particular interest in the development of young people pursuing global understanding and international business. He previously provided funding for the Petters Auditorium of the Benedicta Arts Center at CSB.

Saint John’s University received a $5 million gift pledge from Dan and Katharine Whalen for the creation of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement. Dan Whalen, who began his career in the public policy arena, is a 1970 graduate of Saint John’s and immediate past chair of Saint John’s Board of Regents. Katharine Whalen, who has an M.A. in public policy from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Affairs, has held various positions in city and environmental planning at the local, state and federal level and at Stanford University.

The Petters Center will help broaden understanding and strengthen engagement of students and faculty in looking outside the United States to understand the global nature of business and model citizenship in our world. It will also build on a nationally-recognized study abroad program. CSB and SJU operate 17 separate study abroad sites on six continents including a 25-year partnership with Southwest University in BeiBei, Chongqing, China.

“The future is dependent upon our youth having a broad understanding of other cultures,” Petters said. “It’s essential to teach students about the importance of understanding cultural differences and exchanging ideas that can be used to enhance the lives of all people, and encourage dialogue for a more peaceful world.”

“Tom Petters has a gift for bringing people together,” said Mary Ann Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict. “Whether supporting our award-winning performing arts center, offering scholarships to students passionate about international business or giving our interns challenging and engaging work around the world, Tom has had a profound impact in the lives of our students, their families, our faculty and staff and our global community.”

The McCarthy Center, named after the late Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, who was a 1935 graduate of Saint John’s, will grow on a strong foundation in the academic exploration of public policy, governance and citizenship at CSB and SJU and their record in bridging the classroom to the wider world. “I’ve seen what Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s does for students,” Dan Whalen said. “This place really does transform people. And it’s a first rate education. I can’t think of a better investment.”

“We are extremely grateful to Dan and Katharine for this generous commitment and are pleased to meet their request to honor Senator McCarthy in this way,” said Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, president of Saint John’s University. “Our institutions have a long record of producing prominent political leaders and developing programs in the area of public policy. Through Dan and Katharine’s generosity, this center will prepare our students to serve and help address real-world challenges in our communities.”

Both gifts were announced nearly two years after the institutions jointly publicly announced the largest fundraising drives in their respective histories, together totaling $230 million. To date, the institutions have raised $212 million in current and deferred gifts and pledges toward the $230 million goal.