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“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” said the late Pope.
Less than a year since the dedication of the “finest science STEM facility of any small college campus in America” the college celebrated the installation of the Ravens Will Rise statue on June 11. The sculpture is the latest campus addition from alumnus artist, Tim Mispagel, class of 1994.
The Ravens Will Rise statue resides in the entrance pavilion of Westerman Hall, flanked by images on the walls of some of the giants of Benedictine faith and scholarship, such as Fr. Eugene Dehner, OSB ’37, Fr. Felix Nolte, OSB ‘02, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai, PhD ’64.
“Steve Minnis called me a on a weekend around a year ago,” said Tim. “He’d been looking at the St. Benedict statue that I’d sculpted, in front of the Haverty Center. He was particularly struck by the Raven at Benedict’s feet. And he’s a creative guy. He said to me, ‘Timmy, could you do something like this?’”
What he had was a vision of a raven, wings spread, rising up, about to take flight.
“It would need to illustrate this quote from John Paul II,” said President Minnis. “I just thought it fit nicely with the concept of the building — rising with faith and reason.”
That’s really what Benedictine College is all about — the marrying of faith and reason within this community of faith and scholarship. Empowering Ravens to rise up in an unbelieving world with the message of the Gospel, fortified through exploration of the arts, sciences and all aspects of a liberal arts education.
That conversation set Tim on a quest — a quest to really, really get to know ravens. He researched the great bird, studying dozens and dozens of photographs to get it just right. He wanted to know every detail as intimately as possible, right down to how many feathers protrude from the bird’s tail.
“I sculpted every single feather individually,” said Tim. “That’s not a common way to do this. I have taken up welding in the past few years, and that came in handy, to be able to individually weld in each and every feather. The result is a look that’s light and thin, but in actuality, each feather is about an inch thick.”
The statue is the perfect introduction to the Westerman Hall science building, which the National Catholic Register described last year, noting the college’s recent “big push in STEM studies — ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.’”
The article quoted Dr. Darrin Muggli, chair of the college’s engineering department, saying students “don’t have to make a choice or a sacrifice between professional preparation and their Catholic identity.”
“In the past 10 years, the Atchison, Kansas, college has hired 15 new STEM faculty — more than in any other academic area,” reported the paper. “STEM majors receive the largest academic scholarships of any majors on campus. The college’s approximate annual investment for STEM fields in the yearly operating budget is far more than for any other department. And the $25-million recently completed science and engineering building project is the college’s largest capital project ever.”
Muggli said the approach is different at Benedictine College’s engineering department. “Instead of teaching engineering, I look at it … as ‘I’m teaching this child of God engineering skills.’ It’s a whole different way of interacting with the person in front of you.”
He said that doesn’t mean you can skimp on the quality of the teaching. “Being Catholic means you have to excel at your work; that’s what the faculty do,” said Muggli.
The paper also quoted Ben Bogner, who recently graduated from Benedictine with bachelor degrees in astronomy and physics.
“I would not be the same Catholic I am now if I had not studied in a Catholic environment. I would have gone through some very intense struggles,” he told the paper. “I want to be a respectable scientist — with research and papers and teaching experience — but to also be a solid witness to the Catholic faith.”