Benedictine College 2016 Opening Mass and Convocation will Feature Century of Science

Opening School Mass and Convocation will Feature Century of Science

Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fr. Nathan Haverland

Dr. Michael Boland

Those attending Benedictine College’s Opening School Mass and Academic Convocation on Tuesday, August 30, will note the underlying attention to the celebration of a Century of Science at the college. Benedictine is recognizing the sciences throughout the 2016-2017 school year, looking back 100 years to the first Bachelor of Science degrees offered in 1916 and forward to the new STEM facility the school will begin building this year.

The Opening School Mass will feature guest homilist Fr. Nathan Haverland, a Benedictine graduate from 2005 who once wanted to be an astronaut and did post-graduate studies in nuclear engineering. The Mass is set for 9:30 a.m. in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church, followed by the traditional Opening Academic Convocation at 11:00 a.m. in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium.

The Convocation features keynote speaker Dr. Michael Boland, a 1981 Benedictine grad who is now a brain surgeon in St. Louis and makes annual trips to Guatemala to perform surgery for the needy of that country.

“Our Century of Science will be visible throughout the year, with the renovation and expansion of the science and engineering building as well as through speakers, programming and even our honorees, like George Baumgartner, who was a longtime chemistry professor, and his wife, Barbara,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis.

The Baumgartners will receive the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict as part of the Convocation ceremonies this year. The couple served the Mount Academy, Mount St. Scholastica College, St. Benedict’s College and Benedictine College through decades of devotion to education in Atchison. The Convocation is also the conclusion of “Beanie Week” and freshmen will be welcomed into the college community. They will remove their beanies, which they have traditionally worn for the first week of school as a way to identify themselves to professors, staff and upperclassmen.

Haverland had always excelled in science and at one time seriously considered working toward being an astronaut. To that end, he was interested in physics and astronomy and there were only two schools in Kansas that offered both degree programs, Benedictine College and the University of Kansas. After a visit to KU, he knew it was not for him and he enrolled in Benedictine College, despite the fact that he had grown up without religion in his life.

That all changed at Benedictine, which requires students to take theology classes. Haverland began to learn about the Church. During his junior year, he took a Theology course that changed his life. He said it was the point at which he started falling in love with the Church. Later that year, he was baptized and confirmed and received his First Communion.

“I kind of took my first leap of faith, I guess, going to this small, Catholic college that I didn’t know anything about, knew nothing about the Church, knew nothing about the college, didn’t know a single soul there,” he told The Chieftan. He was baptized at Benedictine College as a junior. “It was very beautiful — it was the beginning of my life as a Catholic,” he said. “I still never would have imagined that I would be a priest at that point.”

By graduation in 2005, his dream of becoming an astronaut had passed and he had turned to nuclear engineering. He received a scholarship to the University of Michigan, one of the top nuclear engineering programs in the country. After a while, though, he realized nuclear engineering would not make him happy and he began looking at religious orders.

Haverland visited with Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and made the decision to enter Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He was ordained in 2013 and was able to offer his first Mass at St. Benedict’s Parish Church, where he had been confirmed just nine years before. Today, Fr. Nathan is the newly-appointed pastor at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Marysville, Kan.

Boland will address the gathering at the Convocation as the keynote speaker with a presentation titled “You Won’t Know all the Questions on the Test.” He graduated from Benedictine College in 1981 with degrees in Chemistry and Philosophy. He went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia. He is now a well-known neurosurgeon from St. Louis, Mo., who runs a monthly clinic at Shriners Hospital for Children, an 80-bed pediatric orthopedic hospital dealing predominantly with cranial and spinal birth defects. He recently joined the board of directors for Benedictine College.

When a colleague introduced him to Healing the Children (HTC), an international organization dedicated to providing medical care to children in need, he quickly joined them on a mission trip to Guatemala. Once in Guatemala he found that, while the full range of medical care might be available in Guatemala City, medical care outside the capitol is severely limited, and even in the city most public hospitals experience shortages of basic medicine and equipment.

Each year he now participates with the group as part of a 22-member team that goes to Guatemala and essentially sets up a mobile surgical hospital. The team usually arrives on a Saturday and begins setting up. They examine anywhere from 60 to 90 children on Sunday and then have 4 days of surgery, doing as many as 30 operations.  They break everything down and leave the following Saturday. It’s a stressful and exhausting experience, but Boland and the HTC team love it.

“God has a way of putting things in order even if you don’t think about it,” Boland said.  “Be open to God’s call.  Be open to opportunities…that will frequently find you.  You don’t always have to find them.” 

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.