In the 1950s Rev. John Molter, C.S.C. (1905-1960) created a campus botanical garden beside Christie Hall. Planted with his own hands, working together with students, the wild-flowers gathered representatives from every section of the state. A zoologist by training, Fr. Molter was a man of science, inspirational in both the lab and classroom. But in the most well-told story, Fr. Molter’s faith is balanced against scientific skepticism. Don V. Romanaggi, M.D., class of 1956, claims he once won a silver-certificate dollar off Fr. Molter by beating the odds and earning an A in his science course (histology!). Gaining not only the dollar, but also AP-credit later getting him exempted from tissue classes in medical school. (Science Hall where the future physician studied with Fr. Molter was renovated in 2010 and renamed for Dr. Romanaggi.)
The University’s first endowed chair was established in 1995 supported by a cross section of alumni, and science graduates in particular. Dr. Steven Kolmes, the first and reigning occupant of the Rev. John Molter, C.S.C., Chair in Science at the University of Portland, continues Fr. Molter’s legacy in the zoological sciences. Dr. Kolmes is Director of the Environmental Studies Program and Professor of Biology with interests in combining ethical and scientific analyses in environmental policy discussions, from salmon recovery to pesticide contamination. Fr. Molter’s life — dedicated to science, faith, environment, and students — has given UP a harvest handed down across generations.