CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Feb. 24, 2016 — The Rev. J. Friedel believes in the value of higher education and the value of Southeast Missouri State University.
“I believe that the church and higher education are a fertile meeting ground for discussing the big issues in life,” Friedel says, recognizing that this as a time in many students’ lives in which they are contemplating who they are, what they want to be, what they want to do and where they want to be.
“I love when students engage in those issues,” he says.
Friedel served as director of Southeast’s Catholic Campus Ministry from 1993 to 2006. He also taught in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion for nine years. Students and colleagues developed a scholarship in his name in 2006 to honor his devotion to Southeast and his investment in seeing students succeed.
“It’s a phenomenal place,” says Friedel, who is extremely proud of the open and engaging atmosphere Southeast provides for faculty and students to discuss controversial issues and debate philosophical differences. “We could do all those things because we knew each other, we respected each other.”
For Friedel, the purpose of higher education is discussion and personal growth. His time at Southeast exemplified this commitment.
“I am very proud of that,” he says. “We were a model for how to engage in the conversation. I truly believe that SEMO is a place where all those ideas can come together, even if we disagree, even if we come up with different solutions.”
One of his favorite moments was walking to class with a former student who asked him what his class discussion was to be that day. Friedel says he appreciated the student’s acceptance of different ideas and cultures on the campus when Friedel told him Buddhism would be the topic that day.
“I thought this is how it should be,” he says. “I knew enough to give my students an introduction and a fair hearing about it. I wanted to give my students the ability to come out of class with a better understanding. The world needs some more of that.”
Friedel recently included a bequest to Southeast through his estate plan to continue benefiting his scholarship and to show his love for the students.
“For me, it’s about what I can do with the money that helps,” he says. “Because I’ve been in higher education for so long, I’d rather leave that as a legacy to my students.”
Friedel says he hopes the students who receive his scholarship will not only benefit financially, but also spiritually through their education. He hopes they understand the synergy of their Catholic life with their education and in their search for the truth while at Southeast. He said he hopes this connection will lead them to a stronger faith and service not just with the church but also in their personal and professional lives.
The Catholic Campus Ministry/Rev. J. Francis Friedel Scholarship is awarded to students who are practicing Catholics, have a history of leadership in church and school, or graduated from Christian Brothers San Miguel Schools. A letter of reference from a pastor or principal and an essay by the applicant are required. Recipients must maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep the scholarship.
Friedel is director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Missouri Southern State University, director of Vocations and Seminarians for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Joplin, Missouri, and St. Ann Parish in Carthage, Missouri.