ATCHISON — President Stephen D. Minnis of Benedictine College here was among a number of Catholic leaders honored by Caritas in Veritate (CiV) with the organization’s papal award on Nov. 21.
“This award is a tremendous honor for Benedictine College,” Minnis said. “It is gratifying to know that the effectiveness of our mission is being recognized on an international level.”
The award is given annually by Caritas in Veritate “to distinguished leaders in the international community and in the church for outstanding work in charity and leadership.” The episcopal advisers of Caritas in Veritate include U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
The award comes on the heels of the launch of the college’s “Transforming Culture in America” plan formed after three years of meetings with board members, faculty and leaders in all walks of life.
“Benedictine College’s new visionary plan is an exciting development for the whole church,” Minnis said. “Caritas in Veritate shares our vision that Catholic truths about the human person are the answer to the deepest needs of the human person today.”
A native of St. Joseph, Missouri, Minnis graduated from Benedictine College in 1982 and obtained a Juris Doctor degree from Washburn University, Topeka, and an MBA from Baker University, Baldwin City. Minnis worked as a prosecutor and corporate attorney for 19 years before becoming president of Benedictine College in 2004.
Since his appointment, the college has seen unprecedented growth. The enrollment has doubled to over 2,000 full-time undergraduates. Benedictine has opened 10 new residence hall buildings; six new academic buildings; a Marian grotto; a student recreation center and dining hall. The college has either built new or renovated every dorm room, every classroom and every athletic facility during this time. The college opened a campus in Florence, Italy; began a nursing program as well as ones in engineering and architecture, making it one of few liberal arts schools in America — and only the fourth Catholic university — with engineering and architecture programs.
Minnis was one of only five Catholic university presidents to be appointed to a U.S. bishops’ conference committee on Catholic universities in America and one of only four Catholic university presidents to be appointed to the Vatican Commission on the Church in America.
During this time, Benedictine College also committed itself to serving the poor around the world. International mission trips expanded from one in 2004 to more than 25 per year, along with the same number of domestic mission trips — meaning more than 75% of Benedictine College students will be on mission before they graduate.
Minnis also participated in a student- initiated project to help fund and build a new Catholic church in Guatemala.
Minnis is married to Amy (Kohake) Minnis, a 1984 graduate of Benedictine College. The couple has three grown children — Molly, Michael and Matthew — and three grandchildren — Joseph, Mary and Benedict.