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Bringing Native Americans to CUA

Bringing Native Americans to CUA

It’s a long way from the big sky of the Western plains to the campus of Catholic University, but Carl Westerkamp built a bridge between those two worlds. The philanthropist, who came to admire Native Americans when he vacationed in Montana as a young man, decided to help them financially with the money he earned in a lifetime of hard work.

Westerkamp passed away in 1988 but continues to live on through his generous donation to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 1874 for the protection and promotion of Catholic Indian missions in the United States. The Carl Westerkamp American Indian Scholarship is an endowed fund that supports higher education for Catholic Native Americans.

Last December, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions awarded CUA $420,000 for its Cardinal Terence Cooke/ Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions scholarship. This new gift from the Westerkamp endowed fund will be added to the $580,000 the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions gave CUA earlier, bringing the total amount of the Cardinal Cooke scholarship to $1 million.

“I am grateful to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and to its executive director, Monsignor Paul Lenz, for this generous grant and for the important graduate and undergraduate scholarship support it has provided to Catholic University in the past,” said Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., university president. “We share the bureau’s commitment to providing an excellent university education to deserving Native American students,” he added.

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer more scholarship money to Catholic University for the education of Catholic Native Americans,” Monsignor Lenz said. “We’ve looked forward to this and are delighted we were able to make it happen.” The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions’ board of directors includes Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore (the board’s president), Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.

Named in memory of Cardinal Cooke, a CUA alumnus and former university trustee who served on the board of directors of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions for 15 years, the scholarship is for qualified Catholic Native American graduate students in nursing who belong to a tribe or have a formal association with one. The fund has already provided full-tuition scholarships to a number of graduate students and the new funds guarantee that American Indian students will be helped for years to come.

“The School of Nursing is moving toward a more diverse student body, and we need nurses who understand various cultures,” says Nalini Jairath, dean of CUA’s School of Nursing. In fact, Jairath recently established an exchange program between nursing students at CUA and those at the University of New Mexico at Gallup, where there are many Native American students.

In 2003 the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions gave CUA another $1 million from the Westerkamp estate. This scholarship fund is earmarked for deserving Catholic Native American undergraduate students. – A.C.

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Revised: March 2006

All contents copyright © 2006.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.