It Doesn’t Get Better Than This: Over 500 Years of Loras History Gathered Around One Table

By: Valorie Woerdehoff (’82 MA ’12)

Campaign Quarterly feature image july 2016

Pictured l-r: Robert Reuland, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry; the Rev. William Wilkie, Ph.D. (’50), professor emeritus of history; Jay Kopp (’59), professor emeritus of physics/ engineering; Kenneth Kraus, Ph.D. (’57), professor emeritus of chemistry; Gerald Eagleson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biology; Joseph Kapler, Ph.D. (’48), professor emeritus of biology; Virgil Blocker (’53), former director of purchasing; Msgr. Francis Friedl, Ph.D. (’39), former president; Msgr. James Barta, Ph.D., former president; Steven Mosiman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of mathematics/computer science; Gerald B. “Bud” Noonan (’51), former registrar; John Bamrick, Ph. D. (’53), professor emeritus of biology; and Frank Miller (’55), professor emeritus of physics.

On April 16, 2016 a 50-year ritual was once again performed. Thirteen retired members of the Loras faculty, staff and administration gathered in Asbury, Iowa in the cozy basement of Joseph “Joe” Kapler, Ph.D. (’48), professor emeritus of biology, for the most recent chapter of this endearing Loras story. The event began in the mid-1960s as lunch among faculty who were teaching in the sciences. and preferred to bring their lunch from home. The prep room for the lower lecture hall in the St. Joseph Hall of Science was used for this occasion after the building was constructed in 1963-1964, and the gathering has continued ever since. At one point, the event became a wild game feed, with the dishes the result of Joe’s hunting, all prepared by Joe and his wife Helen. Along with the meal, Joe also put together a slide show, each year featuring a different topic.

In recent years, the reunion has come to take place in Joe’s basement, and they convene around the 100-year-old dining table that was a wedding gift to Joe’s parents. The group has expanded to include former faculty from other disciplines, and retired staff and administration. Joe still manages all the details of this gathering, including taking care of the meal (now primarily catered). Sadly, these days, he hosts on the event without the help of Helen, who passed away in 2014. Most in the group are also Loras alumni, and together they represent well over 500 years of service to Loras College. As part of that service, former students would readily testify that each of them made, and continues to make, contributions “above-and-beyond” on behalf of current students and alumni. Their collective impact reaches far beyond the college community.

I was fortunate recently to sit down for a visit with Joe Kapler and Gerald B. “Bud” Noonan (’54) in the lower lecture hall prep room of the St. Joseph Hall of Science. Joining us was Joe’s son, David Kapler (’86). The old lunchroom was steeped with memories. Between them they shared stories of such Loras legends as “Shakes” Rowan (1909), professor of English; Fr. Warren Nye (’34), professor of biology; Frank Noonan (’42), professor of economics, business and accounting; Ed Cawley, Ph.D., professor of biology; Msgr. Robert Vogl (’44), professor of religion and theology; Francis “Frank” Lehner, professor of English; George Heitkamp, professor of physics; Msgr. Timothy Gannon, professor of psychology; the Rev. Karl Schroeder (’30), professor of English; Vincent Dowd, professor of physical education; “Doc” Kammer, athletic trainer, and Mike O’Dowd (’36), business manager.

I felt as if I was sitting in a sacred space. When they discussed the benefits of Loras, Joe said, “Loras is a special place. I liked the teaching atmosphere… the interaction between department members. The faculty want to teach undergrads, and you can get to know the students.” For both of them, Loras became, as Bud described it, “a second home.” As far as future reunions in Joe’s basement go, Joe said, “It means a great deal. I enjoy having them get together, and I intend to keep doing it as long as I’m able; as long as there are folks to come.”

Today’s faculty, staff and administration are working hard to ensure that the legacy these dedicated Loras icons established continues and grows. The Inspiring Lives & Leadership campaign has already produced successes and continues to support ongoing projects, including raising funds to help renovate the St. Joseph Hall of Science. One recent gift to the Science Hall came from the Wahlert Foundation to help renovate a classroom.

Alumnus David Holmberg (’72), a biology major, recently committed $800,000 through an estate provision to the David J. Holmberg Science Scholarship to assist female students in pursuing a STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Having established his scholarship with an initial gift of $200,000, David’s planned gift will bring his scholarship to $1 million and impact students for generations.

To discuss your philanthropic goals, whether it be renovating a classroom, supporting scholarships or meeting other needs, please contact Josh Boots (’04), associate vice president for institutional advancement, at 563-588-7329, or email joshua.boots@loras.edu.