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Contact: Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service
318-869-5120 or 869-5709

Centenary Announces Gifts Totaling $3.8 Million for Three Eminent Scholars Chairs ($1.8 million) and a $2 Million Anonymous Gift

SHREVEPORT, LA -- Three families who are long-time supporters of Centenary College were honored today for their commitment to Centenary College in the form of endowments for Eminent Scholars Chairs.

Centenary President Kenneth L. Schwab announced three new Chairs, which will be endowed for $1 million each when matched with Louisiana Board of Regents funds. They are:

  • The R. Z. Biedenharn Chair in Communication,

  • The Bill and Sarah James Chair in Psychology, and

  • The Albert Sklar Chair in Geophysics.

    Family and friends of those for whom the Chairs are named have contributed $600,000 for each Chair. Centenary will next apply to the Regents for the $400,000 that it will match under its Eminent Scholars program. Once the match is completed, the Chairs are "endowed in perpetuity,"with the earnings from the endowment assuring the perpetual support of a professor and allowing the College to attract leaders in their field. The families were guests of honor at a joint luncheon meeting of the Centenary Board of Trustees and the President's Advisory Council.

    AThe wonderful support and vision of these families and their friends will benefit today's students and future generations of students," Schwab said. "These named Chairs will also honor the service and commitment of four people whose unselfish good works will never be forgotten."

    Schwab also announced a $2 million anonymous contribution, which will be used to match future gifts to the college's comprehensive campaign. The gift comes less than two months after Schwab announced a $10 million contribution, the largest in the history of Centenary. That fund was also established anonymously and will be used to match future contributions.

    About the Chairs:

    The R. Z. Biedenharn Eminent Scholars Chair in Communication

    The Chair, established with a gift from the Biedenharn Foundation, honors the late Coca Cola executive R. Zehntner Biedenharn, who was a 1931 graduate of Centenary and a long-time member of the Board of Trustees. He was the son of O.L. Biedenharn, a benefactor of Centenary during President Joe J. Mickle's tenure.

    Representing the family during the luncheon were Mrs. Sydney Biedenharn Walker along with her husband Randy Walker and their children Reina, Rachel and Ross Biedenharn Walker.

    The Bill and Sarah James Eminent Scholars Chair in Psychology

    The Chair memorializes the late Bill and Sarah James of Ruston, La., and was made possible by their sons Thomas D. James and G. W. James Jr., along with their families, and Mrs. LaVaga James, Mr.

    Mr. and Mrs. George Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Maxwell, Mr. and Mrs. John Ed Barnes, Mrs. Mary James Burkhalter, and Mrs. J. T. Folk Jr.

    Bill James was a 1929 graduate of Centenary and a long-time member of the Board of Trustees. He was a member of the Board of Directors of T.L. James & Co., where he began work in 1930. He became vice president in 1935, executive vice president in 1960 and president in 1968.

    Bill James was a long-time member of the Centenary Board of Trustees as was his father, T. L. James, who is memorialized at Centenary by the T. L. James Chair of Religion and the T. L. James Residence Hall, which opened in 1954.

    Sarah Bond James, Bill's first wife, was active in the Trinity Methodist Church of Ruston and also a steadfast supporter of Centenary.

    Representing family and friends on Thursday were Mrs. LaVaga James, widow of Bill James, along with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. James and Mr. and Mrs. G. W. James Jr.

    The Albert Sklar Chair in Geophysics

    The Chair was given in memory of the pioneer Shreveport oilman Albert Sklar by his wife Miriam. Mr. Sklar began serving on the Centenary Board of Trustees in 1964 and continued until his death in March 1996. He was instrumental in obtaining the Jean Despujols Collection at the Meadows Museum of Art for Centenary through his friendship with Algur H. Meadows.

    He was president of Sklar &; Phillips Oil Company. Although not a graduate of Centenary, he was named an Honorary Alumnus in 1978.

    President Schwab recognized Howard Sklar and Miriam Sklar, a member of the Board of Trustees, for their service to the College.

    Today's luncheon also included a performance by the internationally known Centenary College Choir directed by Dr. Will K. Andress. Immediately following the event, choir members flew to Washington, D.C. where they will perform at The White House tomorrow evening (Dec. 5). The choir will sing during a reception hosted by President and Mrs. Bill Clinton for 600 diplomats and special guests.

    The meeting also included the ringing of a 150-year-old bell that once marked the class intervals and 10 p.m. "lights out" time at the former Centenary campus in Jackson, La. It was rung by Leonard L. Riggs, Sr. of Longview, Texas, Class of 1928, and Dr. Leonard L. Riggs Jr. of Dallas, Texas, Class of 1964.

    The bell was last rung by Mr. Riggs Sr.'s father, the Rev. S. L. Riggs, a Methodist minister, who attended Centenary in Jackson before the campus moved to Shreveport in 1906. After the bell had been missing for many years and was recovered, the Rev. Mr. Riggs was called upon to ring the bell once again at the 1961 session of the Methodist Louisiana conference.

    The history of the college bell was presented by Dr. Bentley Sloane, a member of the Board of Trustees and trustee historian at Centenary.

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