The Catholic University of America and The Knights of Columbus

The Catholic University of America and The Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus and The Catholic University of America have a history of working together that dates back almost to the founding of the university. Today, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson serves on the Board of CUA's Trustees. Bishop William E. Lori is both the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at CUA.

The president of CUA, David M. O'Connell, C.M. wrote a [ column] for the Knights' magazine, Columbia, thanking the Knights for their assistance throughout the years on the 100th anniversary of the 1904 gift of $50,000, saying, "I cannot imagine what The Catholic University of America would have done if it were not for the Knights of Columbus."

He [ later] said, “It is difficult to speak about the progress of The Catholic University of America throughout its long history without, at the same time and in the same breath, mentioning the Knights of Columbus. So much of what CUA is today is the result of the generosity and support of the Knights of Columbus.”

“The Knights of Columbus enjoys a long and well-regarded relationship with Catholic University,” said Supreme Knight Anderson.

In the more than 100 years the Order has been involved with the University, there have been three Councils on campus: Keane Council, Shrine Council and CUA Council.


*1897 Apr. 25 Washington Council #224 is instituted, with 50 charter members and Bernard M. Bridget as founding Grand Knight, planting a seed in the DC area which, 102 years later, could boast over 70 councils and over 17,000 members.
*1898 June 5 Keane Council #353, the first council at CUA, is instituted with 66 charter members, and Lawrence O. Murray, Comptroller of the Currency, as Grand Knight. It "formed its nucleus in the Catholic University," in the words of Philip Garrigan, one of Keane's founders and vice-rector of the University, now in its eleventh year. It was named for Irish-born Bishop John J. Keane, first rector of the University (1889-1896), and later Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa. First meetings are in the Typographical Temple, then move to Grand Army Hall on October 12, 1898, then to the Maccabee Temple the following June.
*1898 The District of Columbia, not yet eligible to be a state jurisdiction, is a territory under the national office, with William H. Callahan (to be Keane Council's second Grand Knight) as territorial District Deputy for its councils. Callahan will later serve as third State Deputy (1901-1903).
*1899 Mar. 7 Father Garrigan addresses the National Council, as the Supreme Convention is called at this time, asking for establishment of a Knights of Columbus Chair of American History at the university, to counter the somewhat anti-Catholic bias of history-writing at the time. The convention enthusiastically accepts the proposal.
*1899 Apr. 23 Spalding Council #417 is instituted with 67 charter members. It was organized in St. Dominic's Parish, and named for Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, Bishop of Peoria and a leading essayist and promoter of Catholic University. (A bust of Bishop Spalding stands in Mullen Library at Catholic University.)


*1901 Mar. 5 Supreme Knight Hearn, who had apparently expected the $50,000 for the CUA history chair to be raised by this time, unhappily reports to the national convention that only $10,000 has been collected since the commitment was made two years earlier. With further appeals by him, the $50,000 goal will be achieved in another three years.
*1904 Apr. 13 Over 10,000 Knights present a $50,000 check for the Knights of Columbus Chair of American History at Catholic University to James Cardinal Gibbons, Chancellor of the University and a strong supporter of the Knights. The outdoor ceremony was held on the steps of the University's McMahon Hall. The magnificent and gigantic check (ten feet high and four feet wide) is beautifully executed on vellum in the style of an illuminated manuscript, and will later hang in the dining hall of the University Center West through the end of the century. It is one of the great icons of the Order. In the words of the historian, Christopher Kauffman, the check represents "the Order's first response to a call from the American Church," which demonstrates to any doubters (and the early Knights did encounter opposition within the Church) that the Order is thoroughly Catholic. The establishment of the Knights of Columbus Chair inaugurates the department of history of the University, but it will be another five years before the new history program adds other fields, with undergraduate courses in "general history" in 1909, and medieval history in 1914.
*1904 Dec. 12 Cardinal Gibbons appeals to the Knights for more financial aid for Catholic University to help meet operating costs after some investments have gone sour, and the Order gives nearly $25,000.
*1907 July 7 The financial situation of Catholic University has improved but is still shaky. Archbishop John J. Glennon of St. Louis, chairman of a committee to plan for a $500,000 endowment, appeals to the Knights, recognized by the committee as the only organization which could do it. On August 8 he addresses the national convention in Norfolk, which accepts the challenge. Every Knight is asked to contribute voluntarily $1 a year for a five-year period, and on December 6, 1913 the $500,000 goal is realized. In 1909 Washington Council is 38th in the nation to subscribe to the fund, and agrees to pay $1 per member for two and a half years.


*1912 June 9 Cardinal Gibbons celebrates a field Mass at the Columbus Monument, with hundreds of uniformed Fourth Degree Knights providing a guard of honor. At 4 p.m. there are solemn vespers at the Franciscan Monastery, followed by receptions at Catholic University and Trinity College, with an evening concert by the Marine Band at Convention Hall.
*1914 Leo A. Rover, who serves as Grand Knight of Washington Council in 1914-1915 will later recall how younger men at the time were joining in large numbers due to a close alliance with Catholic University, and the Columbus unveiling, at which time he himself had joined. (Rover, a decade and a half later, will be U.S. Attorney for DC. In the 1950s he will be appointed by the court to defend one of the men who attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman.)
*1914 Jan. 6 At Cardinal Gibbons's residence in Baltimore, a party headed by Supreme Knight James A. Flaherty presents $500,000 in securities, the results of the fund drive for Catholic University. The University and the Order have agreed that rather than an endowment as originally planned, the funds will be used to establish fellowships for M.A. or Ph.D. studies with the hope of producing teachers for both Catholic and secular colleges and universities. Originally there is to be one fellowship for every $10,000, but in later years the funds permit far fewer fellowships, which, in the words of the University's centennial history in 1990 "have remained the most attractive fellowships under the control of the university despite drastic reductions in their number due to the effects of inflation upon university charges for tuition, board, and room." The Chairman of the committee that handled the fund-raising, Edward H. Doyle, at the time of the presentation expressed the hope that the Order will donate another $100,000 that would pay for a dormitory for the 50 K. of C. Fellows. The University did complete its second dormitory building just in time to house them, and it become known as Graduate Hall, but it would be twice renamed in later years and is now known as Cardinal Hall. Fittingly, it is that very building that housed the magnificent $50,000 check, and on its upper floors the [ Catholic University Council #9542] will hold its meetings and have an office.
*1915 May Peter Guilday, a distinguished historian at Catholic University, and Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, are among the speakers at Washington Council. Fr. Guilday joins the council later in the year; Admiral Benson is a member of the Order, and the Fourth Degree assembly in Annapolis, instituted on June 1, 1919, will later bear his name.
*1917 Feb. 27 The first of a series of annual debates which the K. of C. Fellows of Catholic University agreed to undertake for a loving cup is held. The topic this year is: "Suffrage for the District of Columbia."
*1919 June With the success of its vocational courses in camps to prepare World War I veterans for civilian life, the Supreme Council Board of Directors establishes an Education Committee, which later establishes a national tuition-free evening school program for veterans. By November, when the War Department takes over the camp vocational courses from volunteer agencies, the Knights have nearly seven thousand students in twenty-five camps. Washington Council in this year elects as Grand Knight Frank O'Hara, head of the economics department at Catholic University, and he and other Knights teach in the Washington program, which focuses on high school subjects. He later becomes dean of the school, and liberal and professional courses are added and it organizes itself into schools and becomes Columbus University.


*1920 The Order contributes $60,000 toward the Catholic University gymnasium and drill hall (later to become the Crough Building housing the School of Architecture).
*1920 Sep. 23 The cornerstone of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception crypt church is laid by Cardinal Gibbons, a year before his death. More than 10,000 people are present, including a top-hatted Fourth Degree honor guard. Earlier in the year more than 6000 were present for the blessing of the site, which was donated by Catholic University, including 1,500 Knights and 600 Daughters of Isabella who came from New York by special train.
*1921 Catholic University "affiliates" the Knights of Columbus evening school for its college courses, and three years later also recognizes its secondary school courses, for the sake of "a large group of Catholic students who otherwise would go elsewhere to continue their studies," as the annual report of the rector states. The school is located at St. John's College on Vermont Avenue, with 1,500 students registered, and a faculty of 24, of whom twenty, as well as the Dean, Frank O'Hara, are from the University. A committee of University trustees sees it as "practically under University control, though not officially so."
*1922 Columbus University, into which the evening school had developed, obtains a charter. It is reported that the Order's Board of Directors is disassociating itself from the institution. Though there is appreciation among ecclesiastical officials of the service provided to those who can't regularly attend a university, there is also in the Catholic University administration a concern about the confusion that could result from the close relationship between CUA and Columbus University. There is a lessening of the role of the CUA teachers. O'Hara resigns as president of Columbus University and from its board (though continuing to teach) and a there is a reduction of the course offerings to accounting and law. Sometime in the years 1923-25, the five councils have a vote on whether to keep the school open, with three favoring and two against, so the school remains. Three decades later, in 1954, Columbus University would merge with the law program of CUA to become The Columbus School of Law of The Catholic University of America.
*1923-25 The fellowships established by the Order at Catholic University by the $500,000 gift in 1914, and the active interest shown by some members of the faculty in the Knights, make Catholic University a good place to look for members. In February 1925, Washington Council arranges a smoker at the University for faculty and students, as a result which a Knights of Columbus Club is organized which in turn will result in initiation of about fifty students into the Council annually during the next few years. Some will become officers of the Council.
*1927-29 Anthony Scullen serves as the third Grand Knight of Washington Council from the Catholic University faculty, where he will serve many years as dean of the School of Engineering and Architecture. He reorganizes the Knights of Columbus Club at the university, and there are a large number of applications from the students.


*1934-36 During the 1930s there appears to be a continuing good relationship between Washington Council and the universities, and a Catholic University Night and also a Georgetown Night take place more or less annually, with talks by faculty members, and entertainments by the students.


*1943-44 In commenting on the assembling of Washington Council's library, the chronicler suggests that "some future librarian should make an effort to form a collection of all the books published by the members of Washington Council, past and present, which would show their contribution to literature, history, and the sciences. It would be an impressive list, for the names are many." Indeed, the council has over the years had many distinguished faculty members from Catholic University among its members, as well as many members of Congress and other leading citizens.


*1950 Sep. 21 Patrick J. McCormick, rector of Catholic University, is consecrated bishop at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
*1954 The Columbus University, which had grown out of the Knights' post-World War I evening school, merges with the Law School of Catholic University after the American Bar Association in 1951 challenges law schools not affiliated with a university. The CUA law school was the first professional school of the University, established in 1898, but has at times led a meager and even precarious existence, and at other times had some accomplishments to show for itself. The new combined school will occupy the remodeled downtown building of the former Columbus University for over two decades, until 1966, when it moves to a new building on the campus.
*1957 The main structure of the National Shrine, on which work began in 1955, is completed, and the foundation laid for the bell tower when funds are nearly exhausted. Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle and Thomas Grady, Director of the Shrine, approach Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart with the message that it is "the unanimous wish of the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops that the opportunity to erect the Campanile should be presented to the Order." The 1957 Supreme Convention accepts the challenge to raise $1 million, with a $1.25 per capita tax over a five-year period, and so the Knights' Tower, as it is officially called, comes into being.


*1960 Mar. 24 Immaculate Conception Shrine Council #4944 is organized on the campus of Catholic University, with a membership consisting of faculty, alumni, and others related to the University. It is the second council to come out of the University, after Keane, which has for over sixty years been meeting at the downtown K. of C. Hall. Shrine Council, however, will meet on campus for over a dozen years, and then in a succession of seven different locations all in the Brookland area of Northeast DC, relatively near the campus, although over time any other relationship with the University or its people will decline to one of merely having a few alumni among its members.
*1965 Aug. The $1,000,000 Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarship trust is set up by the Knights, providing annually twelve undergraduate scholarships to Catholic University.
*1966 Mar. The annual K. of C. Invitational Scholarship Basketball Tournament started in 1954 is reactivated by the State Council after a hiatus of two years. This year the tournament is held at Catholic University, with security provided by members of Shrine Council. There are 62 volunteers for the various committees, which perform well. Teams come from Baltimore, Chicago, Trenton, and Philadelphia, being selected by the Athletic Director of St. Anselm's Priory School, who set up the three-day schedule. Local public schools will participate in later tournaments, which follow the same pattern. The weekend begins with an opening banquet Friday evening, with tours of the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court the next day, and then the games, followed by the awards ceremony. For another three years the tournament will at Catholic University, then at Georgetown and George Mason Universities. As in earlier years proceeds are given to Archbishop O'Boyle, and designated for the CYO. The tournament will be discontinued in 1977 because of changed circumstances: competing local tournaments and increasing charges for tournament sites, such as for paid union security guards that had to be used at some locations.


*1974 Feb. Cardinal O'Boyle is presented with plaque at a special communion breakfast at Catholic University arranged by Shrine Council under joint sponsored by Shrine, Spalding, and Keane Councils, and held in the dining hall where the magnificent 1904 check hangs. The Cardinal tells how he approached the Supreme Knight to build the Knights' Tower of the Shrine.
*1979 Pope John Paul II spends several days in Washington, meeting with the President, visiting the Organization of American States, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and the National Shrine, Catholic University (which he had visited many years before as a cardinal), and Trinity College, and concluding his week in the U.S. with a Mass on the National Mall, at which the Fourth Degree is privileged to provide an honor guard.


*1980 Mar. 25 St. Josaphat Council #7530 is instituted as the first Ukrainian Council in the U.S. (there are several in Canada), and the first DC council to be oriented toward a specific parish--that of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, opposite Catholic University.
*1987 Apr. 13, 1987 Catholic University of America Council #9542 is chartered as the District's second college council (after the now inactive [ Georgetown University Council] ). Following Keane and Shrine councils, it is the third council to be founded in connection with the University, and becomes one of four councils meeting in the Brookland area. The institution initiation is on April 14, but the Supreme office backdates the charter one day to coincide with the anniversary of the 1904 check presentation to the University.
*1988 Apr. 7 The Catholic University Council presents a special plaque to new Supreme Chaplain, Bishop Thomas V. Daily, a member of the University's Board, in a gala event attended by the Supreme Knight and Knights from DC and the neighboring jurisdictions. The magnificent ten-foot high $50,000 check the Knights gave the University in 1904 is temporarily moved from its permanent location and set up in the Caldwell Hall where the event takes place, to be seen by most present for the first time.
*1988 Sep. 8 The North American Campus of the Pope John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, funded by the Knights and established at the Dominican House of Studies, adjacent to the CUA campus, opens its first academic year.
*1989 Aug. Many DC Knights and their ladies attend the Supreme Convention in Baltimore, where the Order votes a $2,000,000 birthday gift to the U.S. hierarchy on their bicentennial, to be given to Catholic University and used to fund special projects jointly chosen by the University and the Order.
*1989 Sep. 10 The ringing mechanism of the bells of the National Shrine has been refurbished by the Knights, and the bells (bearing the names of the patron saints of all the Supreme Knights) are blessed, including a Virgil bell in honor of the current Supreme Knight. Following the ceremonies, Supreme Chaplain Bishop Daily dedicates the Holy Family Chapel in the downtown offices of the Order’s Vice President for Public Policy on Pennsylvania Avenue.


*1990 The chapel of the new U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops building on Fourth Street a block from the University, for which the Order donated $2,000,000, is dedicated.
*1990 Feb. 25 Georgetown University Council #7530 is reactivated and DC now has two active college councils. The council will develop a close relationship with neighboring Our Lady of Victory Parish.
*1993 Sep. Past Grand Knight Michael C. Dosch of the Catholic University Council serves as Chairman of the college councils version of a national convention--the annual College Council conference in New Haven.
*1994 Sep. Catholic University Council wins the trophy as the outstanding College Council in the Order. Its Grand Knight, Louis Crishock, will be named Knight of the Year and be elected State Warden.
*1994 Oct. 1 The Columbus School of Law, dedicates its magnificent new building. The Knights of Columbus are listed among the seven donors of "Leadership Gifts" of $500,000 or more. A plaque in the courtyard especially honors the Knights.
*1995 Aug. The Supreme Convention, meeting in Kansas City, pledges $5,000,000 toward the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center to be built across the street from Catholic University.


*2006 At the American Cardinals Dinner, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announces an $8,000,000 gift to the university to renovate Keane Hall and rename it McGivney Hall, after the Knights' founder, Michael J. McGivney. The building will house the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

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