Investment broker Charles Schwab recently donated $1 million to help establish a Catholic studies program at UCSB.

The money will be used to establish a program chair, which will be named after Father Virgil Cordano, a Franciscan priest at the Santa Barbara Mission.

Cordano said he has focused his life on bringing religions together and using education to understand other perspectives, something he hopes the Catholic studies program will do.

“I hope that any or every religion would have a chair in any university,” Cordano said.

Cordano is a long time friend of Schwab’s and has served on organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Santa Barbara Historical Society since 1945. The endowment is meant to honor Cordano for his service to the community.

“I feel humble,” Cordano said. “I’m glad because my main concern is what unites us and separates us.”

A Catholic studies program was first discussed two years ago in the hopes that such a program would help students with an understanding of Catholic history, Catholicism in the modern world and Roman Catholic heritage. The program has received $1.7 million in donations so far, and needs $5 million.

Religious Studies Dept. Chair Wade Clark Roof said the new program would bring in new conferences and special lectures in Catholicism. He said he also hopes that the program will foster students’ leadership skills in the community through volunteer work in community programs.

“Catholic studies will greatly enhance our university,” he said. “It will provide additional courses on Catholicism and philosophy, it will allow us to explore the Catholic heritage, arts and literature and it will add to the intellectual life of our campus.

Professor Roof also agrees with Cordano and wants all religions to come together and understand one another.

“It will foster greater dialogue among religions in today’s world,” Roof said.

-Wendy Brown