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Contact: Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service, 318-869-5120 See Centenary Today article

Centenary to Showcase New Wright Math Building with Open House, Reception Oct. 14;
Facility Made Possible by Depression-era Coed's $2 Million Gift Because of Professor Who Changed Her Life

Irene Kuhn photo from 1937 Centenary yearbook, Yoncopin

SHREVEPORT, LA — On Thursday, Oct. 14, Centenary College will showcase its new Irene K. Wright Math Building, made possible by a 1930s student who credited her math professor with changing her life.

An open house and reception will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at the building, which is the former Baptist Center on the east side of the campus. It is located across Woodlawn Street from the Magale Library.

Visitors can tour the facility, which opened at the beginning of the fall semester. The building encompasses 7,296 square feet and has a reception area, classrooms, a computer lab, a conference room, full kitchen and five faculty offices upstairs. The downstairs area is currently vacant.

The facility is named in memory of Mrs. Wright, a 1938 graduate who would have dropped out of college had it not been for the efforts of a caring mathematics professor, Mr. Gerard Banks.

Mrs. Wright, then Irene Kuhn, had attended Centenary for two years when she found herself financially unable to attend in the midst of the Great Depression. Banks noticed her absence at registration, sought her out and arranged for a campus job for her -- at 35 cents an hour. Additionally, she filled a number of other jobs.

Math Professor Gerard Banks, C. 1945

Following graduation, she found it difficult to find offers other than as a telephone operator or secretary. In 1941, she landed a job as a bank secretary. For the next 38 years, she progressed in the banking industry, retiring as a vice president and trust officer.

Among papers found at the time of her death in 2001 was an envelope labeled "To Centenary College to be read only after my death" and within her will was a permanent endowment to Centenary totaling over $2 million." In her letter she wrote, in all capital letters, "THE IMPOSSIBLE CAN BE POSSIBLE," and she credited the caring professor with helping change the course of her life.

Centenary chose to use the gift to purchase the building and refurbish it and to fund five endowed professorships in mathematics, in memory of Mrs. Wright and her generous gift. Art work by Mrs. Wright adorns the walls of the newly refurbished building.

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