Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 16, 2002
Catholic couple gifts Newman
Construction exec sets example with generous donation
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
A well-off Edmonton couple has decided to share their good fortune with Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's Seminary.
Jake Thygesen, a construction industry executive, and his wife Phyllis have pledged $2 million to the Catholic college to establish its first endowed "chair." Interest from the fund will be used to cover the future salary of the college's president.
The couple said they took the step because they believe in the value Newman and St. Joseph's dispense to society and also to encourage others to do the same.
"This gift is a symbol of the two-fold commitment to St. Joseph's Seminary, which forms and educates priests for Western Canada, and to Newman Theological College, which fosters morality and good Christian judgment among lay people - more needed than ever before in today's uncertain times," he said.
At a reception for them at the Petroleum Club Sept. 6, the couple urged others to endow chairs for Newman and St. Joseph's, institutions they think are "worth keeping alive."
"This shows that ordinary people such as we are can in fact support such endeavours as Newman and St. Joseph's if you plan it the right way," Thygesen said. "You don't have to be very wealthy to do it."
Thygesen, 72, joined Newman's governing board in 1985 and helped establish the college's fundraising foundation.
Born in Denmark, Thygesen immigrated to Canada in 1951 at age 22. A Lutheran by birth, he converted to Catholicism in 1955 when he married Phyllis. The couple has four children and 10 grandchildren. Thygesen has been involved in the construction industry for most of his adult life, beginning his career as a journeyman plumber. By the time he retired from the industry 35 years later, he was chairman of mechanical constructor Fuller and Knowles Inc.
The holder of numerous journeyman certificates, Thygesen has also served as president of both the Canadian Construction Association and the Alberta Construction Association. An advocate of formal education within the industry, Thygesen has been honoured for his support for apprenticeship scholarships.
He sees his endowment to Newman and St. Joseph's as a way to benefit his grandchildren who will receive the moral guidance the institutions offer. "These institutions are so important in our age where there are so many different things attacking the kind of society that some of us wish to have," he told 40 people at the reception. "We hope that this particular endowment, which hopefully is the first of many, will in fact allow new generations to go to the well and learn the things that are right and proper."
Thygesen says he doesn't have $2 million that he can write a cheque for, but has assets well in excess of that.
"We have a good size life insurance and we cut it into pieces and Newman in fact will be getting over a quarter million of that life insurance," he said. "But they'll have to wait, because we have to die (first) and we don't intend to die right away."
As well, the Thygesens, who attend Sunday Mass at St. Joseph's University College, have a notarized promise in their will to bequeath the college and seminary the remaining $1.7 million.
Collins, one of several Church and college dignitaries at the reception, called the Thygesens' gift a "wonderful act of generosity which will bear fruit very abundantly in the years that lie ahead." The endowed chair, he added, "will be a blessing for the formation of the future of our Church and our community."
Mike Thompson, chair of the board of directors of Newman and St. Joseph's, said the Thygesens gift will give the institutions a break from their constant struggle for funds. "This will help keep the seminary and college viable," he said. "Now we can continue in the business of forming priests and lay people."