by Steve Johnson
Special to The Leaven
ATCHISON — Benedictine College here announced its new strategic plan, “Transforming Culture in America,” on Sept. 9. The initiative is designed to extend the college’s longtime mission — “the education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship” — to America’s most pressing needs.
“The Benedictine mission of community, faith and scholarship transformed culture in Europe and it can transform culture in America today,” said Benedictine president Stephen D. Minnis. “In a world of loneliness and polarization, community is the key. In an age of hopelessness and incivility, faith is the key, and in a ‘post-truth’ era that is information-rich but analysis- poor, scholarship is the key.”
The plan has four priorities: formation, profession, extension and excellence. The plan will:
• form students on campus in the mission through programs, including the Raven Standard, intentional disciples and the Catholic intellectual tradition
• advance alumni professionally to succeed through the mission with programs, including: the Raven Walk online platform and alumni formation
• extend the mission beyond the campus through Centers of Distinction, including: the Center for Catholic Media, the Center for Beauty and Culture, the Center for Constitutional Liberty, the Center for Eco-Stewardship and the Center for Family Life. The interface with the Benedictine College extension content is the new site: Ex Corde.org.
• build upon the school’s commitment to excellence in all aspects of the college, especially in academic excellence, a strong endowment, a vibrant student life program and a beautiful campus. Possible capital projects include: an iconic library renovation; an architecture wing to historic Fink Hall; a high-performance athletics facility; residence life expansion; and a fine arts building.
The plan was produced by a process that began in 2018 and through which the college’s faculty, board of directors, staff and administration met with leaders from all walks of American life.
“We had spent 10 years with the goal of building one of the great Catholic colleges in America and had made huge gains,” said Minnis. “So, we started asking the questions: Why? What can a great Catholic college do?”
The college’s vision statement dedicates the college to educating students to “become leaders” who would “transform the world through their commitment to intellectual, personal and spiritual greatness.” So, the college turned to nationally known experts, from Kansas City television anchor John Holt to author and speaker Christopher West, to discuss how the college can impact the culture.
• Architect Duncan Stroik, along with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and others, participated in the Arts and Media subcommittee.
• Nebraska congressman Jeff Fortenberry served on the Civic Life and the Law subcommittee.
• Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia, Mary Hasson at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and the Rev. Eugene Rivers of Boston’s TenPoint Coalition helped address the Family.
• Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society met three times with the Academia subcommittee.
Each of three meetings with the group were led by speakers addressing author and Time magazine columnist David French and author and American Enterprise Institute fellow Timothy P. Carney.
Jack Newman, the chair of Benedictine College’s board of directors, said, “The college has a proven track record of success, and this is a tremendous opportunity to give back to the communities where our alumni live. This plan was designed to turn lofty goals into pragmatic, practical solutions, and the college gathered people who excel at that.”
The college recently completed its previous strategic plan, “Benedictine 2020: A Vision for Greatness,” which also expanded the college’s mission of community, faith and scholarship.
• “Benedictine 2020” opened nine new residence halls, a new dining hall, the Murphy Recreation Center, and updated or expanded every athletic facility.
• The college was consecrated to Mary, enthroned the Sacred Heart, opened three new chapels with 24-hour access to the Blessed Sacrament and greatly expanded mission trips.
• The plan built five new academic buildings, including America’s finest small-college science and engineering building; added an architecture major; began a Great Books Program ranked in the top 25 nationwide; added $1 million to the yearly academic budget; and attracted the highest academically achieving students statewide.
“A college whose motto is: ‘Forward, Always Forward,’ can never be satisfied with past successes,” said Minnis. “We truly believe God blessed Benedictine College — not for our own sake but for the sake of others, and we will be judged on our generosity.
“I think we found some wonderful ways the college’s mission of community, faith and scholarship can transform culture in America.”