St. Olaf College announced Thursday the establishment of two new centers, made possible by two $1 million gifts to the college.

The Glenn and Myretta Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion and the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community will serve the campus in new and impactful ways.

“The timing of the establishment of these two centers is not accidental,” said St. Olaf President David R. Anderson '74. “St. Olaf College is lifting up two of its foundational commitments that are knit together in our mission. One is to ‘examine faith and values, and explore meaningful vocation’ and the other is to welcome all into ‘an inclusive, globally engaged community.’ Both of these occur in an environment ‘nourished by Lutheran tradition.’ We are most grateful to the generous donors who made them possible.”

The Glenn and Myretta Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion

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Glenn and Myretta Taylor

Glenn and Myretta Taylor, of Libertyville, Ill., provided a $1 million gift to St. Olaf College to establish a new center for equity and inclusion. (Photo courtesy of Anne Ryan)

Regent Glenn Taylor ’73, who co-chaired the college’s Working Group on Equity and Inclusion during the 2017-18 academic year, and his wife, Myretta Taylor, have made a $1 million gift to support the new Glenn and Myretta Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion. St. Olaf will provide a matching grant from an established fund that enhances large gifts that support the college’s strategic plan.

“My experience co-chairing the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion was a big part of the reason Myretta and I wanted to make this gift,” said Taylor. “We wanted to do something that would help the college sustain the important work that the group started. It is our hope that the services provided by this gift support the full welcome, inclusion, and success of all students.”

The Taylors’ gift will bring renewed energy and resources to St. Olaf’s commitment to nurture an inclusive environment that is welcoming to students, faculty, and staff across all races, identities, and beliefs. The center will expand and house services currently provided by the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement. It will be part of the college’s Student Life Division, as recommended by St. Olaf’s Working Group on Equity and Inclusion. St. Olaf Vice President for Student Life Hassel Morrison will shape the center’s vision, operations, and staff, and will hire a new director this year.

The Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community

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Tim and Jan Maudlin

Tim and Jan Maudlin provided a $1 million gift to St. Olaf College to establish a new center for faith, values and community. (Photo courtesy of St. Olaf College)

Regent Tim Maudlin ’73, who chaired the college’s Title IX Working Group in 2016, and his wife, Jan Maudlin ’72, have made a $1 million gift to open the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community. St. Olaf will also provide a matching grant for this donation from the same fund dedicated to projects that support the college’s strategic plan.

“There is a particularly pressing need for expertise in inter-religious dialogue and relationship, not only because the St. Olaf community is increasingly diverse but because the contemporary Lutheran tradition of grace and reconciliation, healing and hope, and equality and invitation calls for it,” said Maudlin.

The Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community will provide new opportunities for examining faith and values and discerning vocation in ways that enrich relationships in the college’s religiously diverse community. The initial idea for the center came from a Board of Regents task force (Maudlin served as a member) formed in 2015 seeking ways to build upon the strengths of the college’s Lutheran tradition. Subsequent planning of the center’s mission and programming was led by an interdisciplinary and interfaith committee of St. Olaf students, faculty, and staff.

The center will be developed over the next several years, focusing first on programs for students, faculty, and staff, then expanding to include programs for external constituencies. Plans include orientation programming for students, faculty, and staff that enriches understanding of the contemporary Lutheran tradition at St. Olaf; expanded opportunities for interfaith dialogue both within and beyond the campus; conversations about discerning and pursuing vocation beyond professional work (e.g., through service, civic engagement, family life, philanthropy, and participation in faith communities); and a seminary exploration program with student internships in churches and other faith-based organizations.

St. Olaf is the only college that has an ELCA student congregation that worships on Sundays in addition to daily weekday chapel services, but it also welcomes people of many different faiths or no religious affiliation. It is home to more than 15 different student religious organizations, and offers classes in Christian and Lutheran theology as well as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the religions of China and Japan. The goal of the new center — consistent with St. Olaf’s Lutheran tradition — is to deepen the engagement of all members of the St. Olaf community, regardless of their fundamental beliefs.

Kari VanDerVeen is the associate director of communications at St. Olaf College.

Northfield News and Faribault Daily News reporter. Email at pweyhe@northfieldnews.com. Call at 507-333-3132.

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