MORAGA, CA (Oct. 1, 2003) - Saint Mary's College of California announced today that retiring Bishop John Cummins of the Oakland Diocese will play a key role in the school's newly formed John S. Cummins Catholic Institute for Thought, Culture and Action.

The College has named Bishop Cummins the Nathaniel and Marian Seefurth Chair of Catholic Thought. Cummins, who retires today after serving as Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland for 26 years, plans to begin working with the Institute in January 2004.

"I welcome the opportunity to become more closely affiliated with Saint Mary's College and look forward to continuing my work on issues of Catholic identity and the role of Catholic higher education in our society," said Bishop Cummins.

In announcing the appointment of Bishop Cummins, Saint Mary's College President Brother Craig Franz, F.S.C., noted Cummins' long association with the College. Cummins served as a Saint Mary's College Trustee from 1969 to 1979 and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the College in 1993.

"We are very pleased and honored that Bishop Cummins is joining our community," said Franz. "His deep concern for justice and devotion to higher learning will help us strengthen our intellectual and spiritual community and further our commitment to social service."

The John S. Cummins Catholic Institute for Thought, Culture and Action will promote Catholic education, programs and research at Saint Mary's College. Recognizing that service on behalf of social justice is central to the educational mission of a Catholic, Lasallian College, the Institute will collaborate with non-profit, philanthropic and social service organizations to create opportunities for co-curricular volunteer experiences and academic-based social action.

In addition, the Institute will serve as a liaison between campus organizations currently engaged in Catholic activities. It will promote scholarship by bringing Catholic intellectual experts to Saint Mary's to give lectures to students, faculty and staff as well as forge long-term partnerships between the school and other Catholic institutions and associations.

Cummins has a distinguished background in education. He spent his early career as Campus Minister at San Francisco State University and at Mills College, and as a faculty member at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. While serving as the first Chancellor of the Diocese of Oakland, he was instrumental in bringing three Catholic schools of theology to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. From 1981 to 1984 Cummins served as chairman of the board of the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington, D.C.

The Cummins Catholic Institute is funded by endowed gifts from benefactors and foundations and College operating funds.

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Saint Mary's College of California is one of the most distinguished colleges in the West. The College's reputation for excellence, innovation and responsiveness comes from its heritage as a Catholic, Lasallian Christian Brothers, Liberal Arts institution. This heritage creates a unique, personalized, student-centered learning community. An outstanding, committed faculty that values teaching and student interaction brings these traditions to life. Saint Mary's offers undergraduate and graduate programs integrating liberal arts and professional education. The College is located in the Moraga foothills, just 20 miles east of San Francisco.

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