Noted Newman Scholar Has Been Named the Inaugural Ryan Chair
A $2.5 million gift from alumna Catharine M. Ryan and her husband John T. Ryan III has established the new Ryan Endowed Chair for Newman Studies at Duquesne University. The gift, which is the largest commitment to Duquesne from a living graduate, marks the creation of the University’s 18th endowed chair.
Dr. Kevin Mongrain has been named the inaugural Ryan Chair. Recognized for his writings and scholarship, Mongrain will continue his inquiry while supporting the work of other scholars and fostering increased research about the noted religious and historical figure, Blessed John Henry Newman.
“This remarkably generous gift will anchor the relationship between two leading Catholic research centers, the National Institute for Newman Studies and Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit,” said Duquesne President Dr. Charles J. Dougherty. “It will make the Institute, Duquesne and the Diocese of Pittsburgh among the most important international locations for the advancement of our appreciation of the work of Blessed John Henry Newman.”
Catharine Ryan, who earned her master’s degree in theology at Duquesne in 1993, co-founded The National Institute for Newman Studies (NINS), located at the Gailliot Center in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. Since its inception in 2002, the NINS has developed the most extensive Newman library in North America and has hosted more than 40 Newman scholars from around the world.
“John Henry Newman was one of those rare human beings who was blessed with both an outstanding, inquiring intellect and a deep, personal spirituality and commitment to his faith,” said Ryan. “It seems highly fitting that the National Institute for Newman Studies should form an affiliation with Duquesne University, whose mission is to inform and inspire its students through study of the great teachings of the Catholic intellectual tradition. My husband and I believe that the establishment of this chair at Duquesne will provide assurance that knowledge of the life and works of John Henry Newman will be encouraged and advanced in perpetuity.”
Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik is pleased with the Ryan gift and the support it provides Duquesne.
“As bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, I believe that every gift to my alma mater continues the work of excellence that is a hallmark of a truly Catholic university,” added Zubik, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Duquesne’s School of Education.
As chair, Mongrain will support and encourage the production and publication of scholarly works as well as establish a reputation for The National Institute for Newman Studies in affiliation with Duquesne University (NINSDU) as a leader in promoting the study of and advancing knowledge of the life, thought and spirituality of Blessed John Henry Newman. He will train and mentor other faculty members pursuing similar research; organize, publicize and promote speakers to assist and further engage faculty in the production of Newman scholarship; and will teach courses about Newman at Duquesne.
Mongrain most recently was an assistant professor in the University of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies, and also taught at St. Mary’s University (San Antonio) and Yale Divinity School. His writings, which explore aspects of Newman’s thought, have appeared in Newman Studies Journal and Modern Theology. In 2007, he was one of the first visiting scholars invited to use the resources of the NINS, for which he received a Summer Research Fellowship.
“I believe that Newman ranks with the greatest nineteenth-century philosophers,” said Mongrain, who will also serve as executive director of the NINS in Oakland. “Newman has something to teach us. His is an important voice, and we should listen.”
Mongrain will report to the dean of Duquesne’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts and the NINS Board of Trustees. He has a doctorate in Religious Studies from Yale University, and a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.
Newman (1801–1890), who converted to Catholicism at age 44, rose to the rank of cardinal and authored a body of profoundly influential theological and spiritual writings that have inspired Catholic reformers in areas such as ecumenism, engagement with the world and the role of education. He is widely recognized as the composer of the hymn Lead, Kindly Light and for his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
Newman Centers, which minister to Catholic students on the campuses of non-Catholic universities, are named in his honor. Pope Benedict beatified Newman in September 2010, an act that conferred the title of “Blessed” on him and is an official recognition of advancement to the third stage in a four-stage canonization process.
The National Institute for Newman Studies, which was founded by the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, the religious community to which Newman belonged, maintains ownership of the National Institute for Newman Studies in Oakland.