Through the Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has generously pledged $8 million to Loyola University New Orleans to create a new home for the university's Jesuit Center.
Loyola's former library building, shuttered since 1999, will be resurrected as the Tom Benson Jesuit Center. Benson's investment in the university will go toward the renovation of the 36,000 square foot building, originally constructed in 1950, to house the Jesuit Center, which falls within Loyola's Office of Mission and Ministry, and a new chapel.
Situated in the academic heart of the campus, the Tom Benson Jesuit Center will be a living symbol of the university's mission and identity. "One of the principal goals in our strategic plan, Loyola 2012, is to enhance Jesuit values of the university. Nothing is more important than ensuring that our Jesuit identity remains strong as we move forward," said the Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., President of Loyola. "Mr. Benson's investment in and unwavering support of this university will make certain that our fundamental Jesuit tradition remains central to the daily life of Loyola's community."
Loyola's Jesuit Center seeks to share Jesuit values and traditions with the larger Loyola community by promoting teaching and research integrated with Ignatian spirituality in the Jesuit philosophy of educating the whole person. The center invites the Loyola community to deepen its faith commitment through its work and service. Loyola's Vice President for Mission and Ministry, the Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., oversees the Office of Mission and Ministry which is comprised of the Jesuit Center, University Ministry and the Center for Volunteer and Public Service.
The new Tom Benson Jesuit Center will be a dynamic and all-encompassing facility dedicated to making Loyola's Ignatian and Catholic tradition a robust and driving force in campus life, keeping the mission and identity of the university at the heart of the campus.
"Loyola University New Orleans has always played a large part in my life," said Benson. "The philosophy of the Loyola community and the Jesuit tradition is one grounded in providing a well-rounded education. The university takes pride in 'educating the whole person' and it is my hope that the Tom Benson Jesuit Center will continue that focus and provide our students a first-class facility in which they can reach their goals."
Benson, who attended Loyola University and received an honorary degree in 1987, has been a long-time supporter of the university and was the recipient of its highest honor, the Integritas Vitae Award, earlier this year. In 1999, his gift of $500,000 funded the first phase of construction of the Gregory R. Choppin Chemistry Wing in Monroe Hall. Benson also made a $2 million contribution in 2008 to create the Jesuit Social Research Institute.