Gregory’s University
Shawnee, Oklahoma

Benedictine monks reached central Oklahoma in 1875 and immediately laid the framework for a Catholic college. By the early 20th century, the college was moved to Shawnee and became known as the Catholic University of Oklahoma, then St. Gregory’s College. The designation as a university came in 1997 to acknowledge the institution’s modest growth and graduate programs. The university is the only Catholic college or university in Oklahoma, a “Bible Belt” state, that has a Catholic population of about four and one-half percent of its 3.7 million residents. It also is the oldest higher education institution in Oklahoma. Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen, O.S.B., the chancellor and former president of St. Gregory’s, told the National Catholic Register that the university is a “missionary institution… located on a frontier of the Church where Catholics are a minority and often-persecuted population.” But the university doesn’t shy away from a strong Catholic identity and is a prominent institution in the local community. St. Gregory’s has grown along with the city of Shawnee, which has a population today of 29,000 and is located 30 minutes east of Oklahoma City. The university has an undergraduate enrollment of 740 students, a majority of them at the 75-acre Shawnee campus surrounded by the 640-acre St. Gregory’s Abbey. There is also a College for Working Adults at Shawnee and at a center in Tulsa about 100 miles away.

quick facts
Founded: 1875 Type of institution: Small liberal arts college Setting: Suburban Undergraduate enrollment: 642 (2008–09 academic year) Total undergraduate cost: $21,798 (tuition, room and board for 2009–10) Undergraduate majors: Five (and numerous concentrations)

five key Points
1. Catholic environment reflecting Benedictine abbey influence. 2. Has programs for student evangelization and interaction with monks. 3. Offers flexible course programs. 4. Appeals to non-traditional students through the College for Working Adults. 5. A regional college that recruits primarily from Oklahoma and nearby states.

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St. Gregory’s University

From the Financial Aid Office
“St. Gregory’s University is committed to helping students achieve their educational and life goals. That commitment extends to making our one-of-a-kind experience accessible and affordable. Smartsized classes and a one-to-one learning environment create a high quality academic experience. Our intellectual tradition comes alive each day in the studentfocused curriculum. “SGU provides a high quality education at one of the lowest tuition rates for a Catholic institution in America. Our fees and living costs are well below the national average and are supplemented by a robust portfolio of grants and scholarships. Hospitality and generosity are two of the Benedictine values in evidence at SGU. In fact, more than 90 percent of our students received financial aid in the last academic year. “SGU’s financial aid professionals are available to answer any questions and show you how to make SGU’s quality educational experience affordable. Call 1888-STGREGS or e-mail for more information.” The university emphasizes its dedication to the Catholic, Benedictine tradition; its flexibility in academic programs; and its focus on a sense of community. The latter is reflected in what St. Gregory’s calls “A Community for Life,” an appreciation for the sacredness of life and the importance of human relationships. Students can major in several broad fields in humanities, theology, business, social science, natural science and health and 196

sports science. There also is a teacher education program. A unique aspect of the curriculum is a Design-A-Degree option, by which undergraduates can focus their studies on a particular concentration. In effect, this allows for nearly 50 concentrations. St. Gregory’s is committed to helping non-traditional students gain associate degrees in a number of fields, including medical technician, liberal arts programs and sacred music. The adult campus in Tulsa offers primarily business degrees at the associate, bachelor and master levels. There are 40 graduate students at the university. About 66 percent of the students are from Oklahoma, but they also come from 14 other states as well as 17 other countries. One unique highlight on the university campus is the 95-year-old Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, which was founded by a monk of the Abbey who developed a small art collection. The museum’s holdings include artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesoamerica, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and China, as well as religious art. There are not many universities that can beat the price of St. Gregory’s. Total tuition, room and board in 2009-10 was $21,798. The tuition rate has been well below the average for private institutions in Oklahoma, where higher education is offered at a relatively low cost compared to other states.

The university is separately incorporated but is a “corporate ministry” of St. Gregory’s Abbey. The primarily lay board of 31 members includes five Benedictines as well as Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. St. Gregory’s third lay president, Dr. Dave Wagie, took office in April 2007. Dr. Wagie has had an impressive career. In addition to being an active Catholic, he was a career army The Newman Guide

St. Gregory’s University

officer, retiring with the rank of brigadier general. He was provost at the U.S. Air Force Academy and has helped establish schools in the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Wagie holds a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Wagie succeeded Abbot Stasyszen, who had been university president for seven years and who promoted Ex corde Ecclesiae. Today he is head of St. Gregory’s Abbey and is chancellor of the university, focusing on the relationship between the two institutions as well as on the university’s Catholic identity.

Public Identity
St. Gregory’s strongly promotes its identity as a Catholic and Benedictine university. Certainly, the presence of the abbey as well as the involvement of the Benedictine monks has helped. Indeed, the university is viewed as the abbey’s “primary offering in service to the Church and to humanity,” according to Abbot Stasyszen. The university motto is Fides Lumen Praebeat or “May Faith Grant Light.” The community frequently refers to eight Benedictine traits: hospitality, community, reverence, attentiveness, service, balance, integrity and excellence. Balance is regarded as especially important; firmness in identity and purpose is encouraged without falling into extremism. There is an opening Mass at the beginning of the academic year. One former student told us, “A question arose whether non-Catholic students must attend this Mass, and the The Newman Guide

faculty insisted that the school must maintain its Catholic identity regardless of the varying faiths of the student body. They pointed out that non-Catholic students were choosing to attend a Catholic university.” The university makes recruiting Catholic students a priority. “Our goal is to increase the number of Catholic students on our campus so that our Catholic culture can be increasingly strengthened,” Abbott Stasyszen told the National Catholic Register in 2008. “One way that we are doing this in the coming year is significantly increasing our scholarship program which offers support to students simply for being Catholic.” The monastery and the large Abbey Church are visible signs of the university’s identity. The church was completed in 1945 and features intricate stained-glass windows that attracts tourists. Prayer services and Masses are open to the public. In May 2009, the university announced plans for a Rosary Garden on the campus, sponsored and landscaped by the student Knights of Columbus chapter. The garden will feature 50 trees on the perimeter, flagstone walkways and a statue of Mary in the center. We have found no evidence that inappropriate speakers or questionable extracurricular activities have taken place on campus. The 2009 commencement speaker was Dr. Michael Galligan-Stierle, vice president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Other recent speakers have included Linda Schaefer, a former CNN editor who documented the work of Mother Teresa; a local writer; and a local judge.


St. Gregory’s University

The Common Core is 56 credits earned through courses required of all students. It includes “Tradition and Conversation,” a foursemester sequence of seminars based upon the heritage of Western civilization. Four courses are required under the heading of “Faith and Reason,” encompassing introductions to theology, philosophy, scripture and ethics. Other traditional subjects in the liberal arts, such as mathematics, history, fine arts and writing, are included in the Common Core.

All students also take six to eight credits in professional development, focusing on computers and orientation to the world of employment. The university prides itself on its commitment to technology, calling itself “Wireless Laptop University” because of its campus-wide wireless network. The discipline with the largest enrollment is business, followed by natural sciences, education, social science, humanities and arts. Nothing was uncovered by our research that indicates problems with any of the disciplines.

Message from the President
Dear Parents and Prospective Students: For more than 125 years, St. Gregory’s has been “Universally Engaged and Uniquely Personal.” We are proud that our institution and heritage reflect the traditional hallmarks of a prestigious Catholic education—academic excellence and a focus on developing the student as a whole person. Our programs and campus environment help us to inculcate the Benedictine values of integrity, service, reverence, and community. We encourage the practice of listening and lifelong learning. Hospitality is an important component of our educational process and of daily living here at the university. We want everyone—students, parents, faculty, staff, monks, alumni and the local community—to be part of our wonderful St. Gregory’s family! We help our students to succeed personally, professionally and spiritually. Our curriculum prepares graduates for life—to be good citizens, parents, spouses, and professionals who serve their parishes, communities and improve our society. We are excited about the education we offer here, and we invite you to become a part of this learning community. Our talented and dedicated monks, faculty and staff invite you to explore your future with St. Gregory’s.


Dr. David Wagie


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St. Gregory’s University

Theology courses are reported to be orthodox. A former student says that the faithfulness of the theology department exemplifies the Catholic identity of the university. One theology professor frequently recommended in our interviews is Sister Marcianne Kappes, C.S.T.

Spiritual Life
Campus spiritual life revolves around the Abbey Church, where there are daily Masses. There also is Wednesday night Mass at St. Benedict’s Chapel in one of the three residence facilities, Duperou Hall. Eucharistic Adoration is held once a month. Confessions are heard weekly. In addition to the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit, there are Praise and Worship services, Founder’s Day prayer services and other special religious activities. During the times of these events, classes are canceled and all offices on campus are closed to allow students and faculty to attend. Interviewees repeatedly discussed with us the importance of the Buckley Outreach Team, which consists of approximately 10 students who volunteer to organize and perform retreats for Catholic junior high and high school students in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Retreats are sponsored as far away as North Little Rock, Arkansas, 300 miles from the university. Established in 1990 from a bequest by the parents of Academic Vice President Father Charles Buckley, O.S.B., the Buckley Team promotes evangelization in about 20 retreats The Newman Guide

in 50 parishes and serves 1,000 students each year. One faculty member told us, “The Buckley Team is the main attraction and program at SGU.” Additional Catholic activity comes from a Knights of Columbus council. Campus ministry is active. There is, for example, a special Lenten and Advent program known as “Food for Thought.” This program invites students, staff and faculty to enjoy a homemade bowl of soup while listening to meditations. The campus ministry recently began four cycles of courses on Catholic teachings, a catechetical program that is completely separate from the theology or other academic units. This program focuses on Church teachings and is open to anyone of any faith. The topics for the courses in the rotation include the Sacraments, the Eucharist, God, moral theology and works of mercy. There also are outreach activities including participating in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., each January, the Angel Tree program that provides Christmas presents to children of incarcerated parents and spring break mission trips. A Career Vocations and Volunteer Fair provides an opportunity for students to explore religious orders, vocations and lay mission and volunteer services. There is a student and monk community dinner that gives students further interaction with the monks and priests. Another related, unique program is the Observation Program for University Students (OPUS), where young men of the campus are able to observe monks in their daily lives. Although not many stu-


St. Gregory’s University

dents avail themselves of the opportunity, young men are able to live in the monastery and experience monastic life firsthand for a semester.

Residential Life
All full-time students unless exempt by virtue of age, marriage or being a local resident are required to live in an on-campus residential facility. There are three residence halls, one solely for women, one reserved for men and one that has both men and women but in separate sections. A strict visitation schedule exists, and there is no visitation by the opposite sex anytime after midnight. The university is a “dry” campus as well as drug-free one, and there are few disciplinary problems regarding either issue. One staff member said, “The dry campus allows students to enjoy their college experience without being surrounded by drunkenness.” Starting August 1, 2009, the campus was also declared tobacco-free; tobacco use is prohibited anywhere on campus, inside or outside the buildings, for health reasons. The campus is safe, and crimes that do occur are usually petty violations. We could find no evidence of violent crime over the last several years. But Shawnee’s crime rate is generally at or above the U.S. average in most categories. Overall, the city’s crime index is about 25 percent above the national figure.

Student Activities
There are 25 campus student organizations. These include four honor societies; one local fraternity and one local sorority with service components; the student newspaper, The Chant; and such diverse groups as Students in Free Enterprise, Hispanic Awareness Student Association and Habitat for Humanity. There also is a Student Government Association, which in January 2009 passed a resolution urging students to participate in pro-life activities. There are no organizations that are at variance with the Church. One university official told us that prohibiting them is a “quiet way” of enforcing Catholic teaching. Catholic-oriented groups include the Daughters of the Americas, the Knights of Columbus and the Pro-Life Team, which partners with the Shawnee chapter of Project Gabriel to help women with crisis pregnancies. The St. Gregory Cavaliers participate as one of the 12 members of the Sooner Athletic Conference under the auspices of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. There are four women’s and three men’s varsity sports including baseball, softball and men’s and women’s bastketball and soccer. The university also has an intramural program.

The Community
Shawnee is a small city that is somewhat of a suburb of Oklahoma City, about 35 miles away. Oklahoma City has a population of nearly 550,000 and has such major attractions


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St. Gregory’s University

as the Oklahoma City Museum of Arts, a zoo, a science center, a cowboy museum and various minor league sports teams. Will Rogers World Airport, a half-hour from Shawnee, is the gateway for students arriving at St. Gregory’s from some distance. Interstate 40 is a major highway that many others would use.

The Bottom Line
St. Gregory’s University is not well known nationally. However, what we have seen impresses us. The university benefits from its relationship with St. Gregory’s Abbey and its commitment to the Benedictine tradition.

There are a number of attractions here, including the Bendictine monks and the university’s flexible curriculum that allows students to effectively design their major and degree. St. Gregory’s has a commendable focus on working and adult students, clearly an important emphasis for the future. We also are impressed by the Buckley Outreach Team that evangelizes and supports young adults in three states. For all these reasons and more, students—especially those from the Great Plains—will want to consider St. Gregory’s.

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