Iowa professor starts Faith and Culture Center


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — A retired University of Iowa professor has teamed up with the university’s Newman Catholic Student Center to create the Nicholas P. & Helen M. Rossi Center for Faith and Culture.

Getting together after a talk March 3 at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City are, left: Claire Sevenich, Newman Center Fellow for Faith Formation-Special Events; Laurie Harris, Newman Center business manager; lecturer David Anders; Dr. Nick Rossi; and Father Jeff Belger, the Newman Center’s director.

Dr. Nicholas Rossi, Emeritus Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and his late wife, Helen, donated $50,000 to create enhanced opportunities for current and future Newman Center students to learn and discuss how faith and culture interface in their daily lives. Center for Faith and Culture-sponsored programs and institutes will allow students to hear talks from local faculty/professionals and nationally known speakers and experts in their fields about how they incorporate faith into areas of science, art, business, politics, athletics, etc. They will hear theologians relate theology to essential questions people have throughout their lives, no matter their career.

Taking inspiration from a similar faith and culture center at an east coast Newman Center, Dr. Rossi shared his idea with University of Iowa Newman Center staff in March 2017. Business Manager Laurie Harris remembers being overwhelmed by Dr. Rossi’s generosity and excited about the potential to raise awareness of faith and culture topics and increase the call to discipleship action.


She said Dr. Rossi was hesitant to attach his name to the center initially. “He was passionate and very humble, wanting to give the gift anonymously. Through persuasion from (former director) Father Ed Fitzpatrick, he changed his mind.” Harris added that those who know Dr. Rossi and his late wife are inspired by how they lived their Catholic faith. “Having their name associated with the Center for Faith and Culture inspires others to expand themselves intellectually, spiritually and artistically for their good and the good of all the universal church.”

The first speaker through the Center for Faith in Culture was David Anders, a University of Iowa alumnus, Catholic convert and EWTN radio host. The next speaker will be Dr. Hugo Ernesto from Argentina, on June 19, followed by Jay Richards, assistant research professor in the Busch School of Business and Economics at Catholic Universi-ty of America, on Oct. 23.

The Center for Faith and Culture also supports a Fellow for Faith Formation — Special Events position through a separate endowed fund previously established by Dr. Rossi and his late wife at The University of Iowa Foundation.

Claire Sevenich, a senior majoring in bio-medical engineering, is the current fellow. She is in charge of mobilizing activities for students to discuss and prepare for speakers.

After the speaker forums, she continues to meet with students to process and formulate how they can be strengthened in their faith relative to culture.

In these sessions, students are encouraged to think deeply about what it really means to know God in college, and to talk together about what it looks like for them to be a part of the church family and live out their faith dynamically in the culture.

Each month they will dive into a specific issue about the life of faith. “I’m very thankful to Dr. Rossi and the Newman Center for providing this opportunity to me and my fellow students. This fellowship provides me with the faith community involvement I was looking for during my college years,” Sevenich said

The Center for Faith and Culture is in the process of raising additional funds to reach its endowment goal of $125,000. To date, $35,000 has been raised by individual donors in addition to Dr. Rossi’s $50,000 contribution. These funds will be invested in perpetuity. Annually, 4 percent to 5 percent of the interest income will be used to pay speaker fees and expenses.

Donations to the Rossi Center for Faith & Culture can be made by check and mailed to the Newman Center, 104 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City, Iowa, 52245, or made securely online at

“Any stewardship gift of time, talent and treasure to this effort is welcomed and appreciated,” Dr. Rossi said.

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