Ignatian Gala 2009

Gonzaga University Honors Harry, Colleen Magnuson with Ignatian Spirit Award

By PETER TORMEY, News Service Director
April 17, 2009

Gonzaga University celebrated the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the University’s many generous benefactors on Thursday, April 16 with its second annual Ignatian Gala, during which the Ignatian Spirit Award was presented to legendary philanthropists Harry and Colleen Magnuson.

In 2002, the Magnusons established the Harry F. and Colleen B. Magnuson Family Scholarship for students from North Idaho with financial need. Twenty-eight students have benefited from the scholarships as six more scholarships were awarded this year.

Harry and Colleen secured Gonzaga’s debt and kept it from closing in the early 1970s. A native of Wallace, Idaho, Harry died in January of this year at age 85. The couple’s long affiliation with Gonzaga began in 1967 when Harry became a University Regent, then served as a 40-year member of Gonzaga’s first modern Board of Trustees -- including five years as its chair. Colleen and Harry were partners in all ways – from family to business and philanthropy throughout their 58 years of marriage. Survivors in addition to Colleen, a loving mother, philanthropist, and longtime friend of Gonzaga, include three sons, two daughters (Kathleen Magnuson Sheppard, current University Trustee) and nine grandchildren. Harry received many honors but one he especially cherished was an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Gonzaga in 1984. His longtime friend and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus called Magnuson a “giant” who left an incredible legacy of giving back to the community, the state and the region. In November 2008, Gonzaga dedicated the Harry and Colleen Magnuson Theatre in gratitude for the couple’s gift to renovate the theater. Harry and Colleen were longtime supporters of the arts and Colleen served on the Idaho Arts Commission with Andrus.

More than 425 Gonzaga benefactors, including parents, friends, alumni and current students, attended the black-tie gala for Gonzaga's signature event named for St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. In addition to the Ignatian Spirit Award presentation, Gonzaga University music faculty and students provided music for the event, and presentations were made by Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., and student emcee, Amanda Oeser, ’09 from Belmont, Calif.

The Ignatian Spirit Award recognizes members of the Gonzaga community who embody the spirit of St. Ignatius and are an inspiration in serving the common good through their exemplary service and benefaction to Gonzaga. Last year, the inaugural Ignatian Spirit Award was given to the University’s Jesuits. As the longest-standing benefactors and most loyal supporters of Gonzaga since it opened as a frontier boys school in 1887, Gonzaga’s Jesuits are living examples of the University mission as people who truly live for others and devote their lives’ passion, faith and purpose to GU and the Society of Jesus.

Nearly 12,000 alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations supported Gonzaga last year, contributing nearly $17 million for financial aid, scholarships and capital projects. Seventy percent of Gonzaga alumni have supported the University at some point, placing Gonzaga third in alumni giving compared with its 61 peer institutions. Benefactors offer crucial support to Gonzaga students; 95 percent of Gonzaga’s students receive some form of financial aid. This year, 271 private scholarships were awarded to benefit students and 1,400 Zags received endowed scholarship aid.

For more information, contact Laura Gatewood, Gonzaga's director of stewardship, at (509) 313-6381 or via e-mail at gatewood@gonzaga.edu.