Upon receiving a $10 million grant from Anthony and Christie de Nicola, Notre Dame is naming its Center for Ethics and Culture in their honor. The newly-christened de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture plans to use the grant to expand various programs, including the Sorin Fellows, the Notre Dame Fall Conference, the Notre Dame Vita Institute and the Mission Hiring program.
The core thread that runs through these initiatives, the most appealing to the de Nicola family, is the center’s mission to “share the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition through teaching, research and dialogue.”
The center, founded in 1999, provides funding and programming to nurture the culture of critical engagement rooted in Catholic faith at Notre Dame. The research, service projects, internships and conferences funded by the Sorin Fellowship range across disciplines and colleges, but all of them deepen “a robust understanding of human dignity, authentic human freedom and the common good.”
Other initiatives by the de Nicola Center are more directly theological, including an ongoing series of books published through the University of Notre Dame Press — entitled “Catholic Ideas for a Secular World” — or the hiring program that seeks out and funds faculty and graduate students whose work “draws upon, engages and promotes” Notre Dame’s Catholic mission.
The center also hosts an annual fall conference, an academic forum for interdisciplinary exchange that explores freedom, the human spirit, social responsibility and morality. Every summer, the center manages the Vita Institute, a weeklong training program devoted to educating pro-life leaders. Participants study issues with the pre-eminent, anti-abortion scholars across artistic, social, political and scientific fields; they also develop a greater understanding of the movement and how it can be applied to their varied vocations.
Christie de Nicola praised the Vita Institute and Sorin Fellows program in a statement by describing them as a reflection of “Notre Dame’s institutional commitment to building a culture of life both on campus and in the global public square.” Likewise, Anthony de Nicola, president and managing partner of the private investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, described Notre Dame and the center as “shining beacons of the complementarity of faith and reason.”
The de Nicolas are celebrated philanthropists who often work closely with Catholic and pro-life causes, including inner-city student scholarships, women’s shelters, community soup kitchens, help for HIV-AIDS victims and other ministries dedicated to protecting vulnerable members of society. As Christie explained, they see their faith as a call to action “in defense of the unborn child, the refugee, the poor, the disabled and the elderly.”
Their work is particularly concentrated in New York, where they live and serve on the boards of several socially conscious organizations, but they have long been connected with the University of Notre Dame. They were recognized for their service with Notre Dame’s Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools, and are parents of two Notre Dame alumni.
The de Nicolas say they are “proud to add [their] name to this center,” as it exists at the crucial intersection of Catholic moral and intellectual inquiry, education and action dedicated to recognizing and elevating human dignity.