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Father Ragheed Ganni Endowed Scholarship Aids International Students Studying at UD

By Megan Wagner, MH ’16  

One of the many ways UD embraces religious liberty is through a partnership with the Catholic University of Erbil in Iraq, in which CUE students have the opportunity to study at UD. A newly endowed scholarship named for a martyred Chaldean Catholic priest in Iraq will help make studying at UD a more affordable option for these and other international students. 

Provost and President Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D., summarized the partnership with CUE by asking, “Why UD?” He answered simply, “We cherish religious liberty and study the very principles upon which it rests.” Students who benefit from the partnership and from the scholarship, he explained, will be able to experience the deep bond of faith in the community of UD students, faculty and staff, with the freedom to attend daily Mass and practice their Catholic faith openly, without fear. 

Excited by the CUE partnership, Charles and Linda Neubecker generously endowed the new scholarship after witnessing a similar partnership bear fruit in Ukraine. Charles Neubecker has been involved in the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, for 20 years, serving as both teacher and strategic planning adviser to the university. Watching UCU grow from one building to three campuses with 200 seminarians and several thousand students gave Neubecker great passion for Catholic higher education abroad. He wanted to give financially to students in a similar situation. This scholarship helps make studying at UD a more affordable option for CUE students.

“When I heard about this opportunity for Iraqi students, I thought there were similarities between UCU, UD and CUE, and I am thankful to play a small part in it,” said Neubecker at a recent endowment ceremony held on campus. 

The scholarship is named for Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic priest in Mosul, Iraq. On June 3, 2007, Father Ganni and three subdeacons were killed in front of their parish immediately following the celebration of Mass. Gunmen entered the church; one addressed Father Ganni, saying that the priest had been commanded to close the church. Father Ganni replied, “How can I close the house of God?” The gunmen then demanded that the four men convert to Islam. When the faithful Catholics said they would not convert, the gunmen shot and killed them. Father Ganni has been declared a Servant of God, the second step in the canonization process. 

“The example of his martyrdom serves as a witness and warning to us,” said Sanford, “and it is for this reason that this UD endowed scholarship was named in his memory.”

Dan Burns, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and interim associate dean of Constantin College, said of the CUE partnership, “This project is exactly what we as American Catholic academics ought to be supporting, and we at UD are in a better position than any other school in the country to help those folks over there accomplish what they are trying to do.”

Sanford quoted St. Augustine from the second book of On Free Choice of the Will: “Genuine liberty is being subject to the truth,” maintaining that this liberty permeates the UD campus. He also urged, “Let us continue to cherish, to study, to embrace religious liberty at the University of Dallas.” 

UD senior Amandhi Matthews, BS ’21, a biology major and first-generation international student from Sri Lanka, emphasized the importance of scholarships like this one. “Endowment scholarships have been the answer to my prayers,” she said. International students are not eligible for many forms of financial aid, and without endowed scholarships, Matthews would not have experienced the rich UD education she received. Having interned at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Matthews will pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame after graduation. 

“Being an international student, having financial security for my college education is one of the greatest gifts that I have received over the past four years,” said Matthews. She expressed her great excitement for other international students who will benefit from the Neubeckers’ generosity.

Burns similarly expressed his excitement about the partnership between UD and CUE, quoting American academic and columnist Walter Russell Mead: “Education is the most enlightened, most effective, and least condescending form of foreign aid.” Burns maintained that education is a powerful tool in the expansion of democracy; UD can support Iraqi Christians and play a part in shaping the future leaders of Iraq. 

“We will surely learn from the students from CUE,” he added.

Sanford, Burns and Matthews all expressed deep gratitude on behalf of the faculty and students for the Neubeckers’ generosity in establishing the Father Ragheed Ganni Endowed Scholarship, which will benefit future global leaders. 

To learn more about establishing a scholarship of your own, please contact Vice President of Advancement Kris Muñoz Vetter at kmunozvetter@udallas.edu or 972-721-5149.

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May 5, 2021

By Callie Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22 Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, canonized in 2015, were a French Roman Catholic couple and parents to five daughters, most notably St. Thérèse of Lisieux,...

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By Megan Wagner, MH ’16 One of the many ways UD embraces religious liberty is through a partnership with the Catholic University of Erbil in Iraq, in which CUE students have the opportunity to...

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By Madeleine LiMandri, BA '21 This month’s segments of Sisters Serving UD will feature two alumnae who said “yes” to God’s call to religious life. The February segments featured UD’s two...

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