A final gift from one of its own will help St. Ambrose University and its students pursue lofty goals.
Before his death last year, Rev. Joseph E. Kokjohn, 80, left $1 million to the university where he had graduated and, later, served as an English professor, according to SAU. On Thursday, SAUofficials announced his gift will be used to create an endowment for ongoing peace and social justice education and activity.
"We really do want to be good stewards of these funds," said Paul Koch, SAU vice president of academic affairs. He said the endowment's uses will include bringing guest speakers and faculty specialized in those areas to SAU, as well as training, partnering students with nonprofit groups and other hands-on experience in social justice and peace.
Money from the endowment could be available for use as early as the next academic year, Mr. Koch said. But he noted that SAUplans to wait until the fund reaches $1.5 million before using it in earnest.
During a Thursday campus ceremony, Rev. Kokjohn's quiet commitment to helping others was recalled by one of his students, Rev. Brian Miclot.
Now an SAUteacher himself, Rev. Miclot told how Rev. Kokjohn gave money to a Quad-Cities Catholic workhouse to help feed and house the hungry and how he was able to get an elderly housing project built when no one else could. But Rev. Miclot said no one knew of Rev. Kokjohn's elderly housing success until it was almost time to break ground, and that he had learned only recently of Rev. Kokjohn's workhouse gifts.
Although silent on those matters, Rev. Kokjohn had a sense of humor, Rev. Miclot said.
"There was always laughter with Kokjohn," he said.
Catholic priests are not known for being millionaires, said David Kokjohn, Rev. Kokjohn's nephew. But his uncle was good with the gifts God provided, he said, and always set aside a small amount of the money he received as a priest.
SAUPresident Sister Joan Lescinski said she met with Rev. Kokjohn about a week before he died. She said they talked and then, because she was preparing to take a trip, she asked for his blessing.
She said he looked at her for a moment before saying, "Yes, if you will give me yours."
"It was a very special moment for me," she said. "I know this gift is a part of his continued blessing for all of us."