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Release: Immediate

UI Foundation Receives $500,000 for the Figge Chair of Catholic Studies

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A major gift to the University of Iowa Foundation from the family of the late Davenport banker V. O. Figge, and his wife, Elizabeth, will help endow a chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Iowa School of Religion.

The gift of $500,000 from the V. O. Figge and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Charitable Foundation is the largest of several contributions given by the family over the years to the University of Iowa. The chair will be called the Figge Chair of Catholic Studies in memory of the couple and recognized Monday, May 11 at the annual Philip D. Adler Luncheon held on campus by the school.

University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman described the support as "pivotal toward reaching the $1.5 million endowment goal for the chair in Catholic Studies."

The Figge's son, Thomas K. Figge of Davenport, said his parents believed that higher education studies in Catholicism not only supported their church, but furthered an understanding of the global community and its diversity and dynamics.

UI religion professor John Boyle described the endowed chair as "timely" when religion is playing an increased role in national and international events, as well as in the growing role of ethics in discussions of medical care, biological research and other fields. Catholic social thought is also an important influence in developing countries in Central and South America.

Born in Ossian into a banking family, V. O. Figge built his own career first as a bank examiner and then, in the 1930s, by founding what became the Davenport Bank and Trust Company where he remained throughout his career. Under his leadership as chief executive officer, the Davenport bank became nationally known. The bank is now part of the Norwest Bank System.

Figge supported Quad Cities civic projects, and both he and his wife were involved in church affairs. In 1990, V. O. Figge was awarded the highest Vatican award possible for a lay person when he was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. After Mrs. Figge's death in 1988, Figge and other Kahl heirs donated the Kahl Building, built by her father Henry Kahl, to a project which became the Kahl Educational Center. The facility is used by a consortium of 12 colleges and universities, including the University of Iowa, for advanced and graduate level coursework. The couple had five children. Figge died in 1995.

The University of Iowa Foundation is the preferred channel of private support for all areas of the University of Iowa. Foundation staff members work with the university's administration, colleges and departments to set fund-raising priorities, expand the base of contributors, provide stewardship to multiply funds already raised, and conduct a variety of activities and fund-raising campaigns that advance the UI's institutional goals.