MSU establishes new endowed faculty positions in Spirituality, Kinesiology

April 16, 2018

Two new endowed positions have been created at Michigan State University to focus on the holistic well-being of students through spirituality and psychological development.

The first is the Foglio Chair of Spirituality in the College of Arts & Letters, which honors Father Jake Foglio, an alumnus, former faculty member, longtime priest and mentor to countless MSU student-athletes and coaches.

The second is the Gwen Norrell Professorship in Youth Sport and Student-Athlete Well-Being in the College of Education, which is named for a now deceased faculty member who broke ground for women in athletics leadership in the Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

A view of IM Circle.

IM Circle, the home of the Department of Kinesiology.

The endowments were made possible through $600,000 in donor contributions and a reinvestment of $3 million in media revenues from the Big Ten Network.

“Father Jake Foglio and Dr. Gwen Norrell are renowned forces for good at Michigan State, and we are proud that their legacies will live on to enrich the lives of others for generations,” said MSU Interim President John Engler. “The academic mission is at the core of everything we do at Michigan State so it is fitting that these endowments will help attract and retain world-class scholars who will elevate and sustain the educational experience and academic excellence of the entire university.”

Father Jake Foglio

After graduating from MSU in 1951, Foglio worked for WKAR before serving in the United States Marine Corps. He graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1961. He has served St. John Student Parish, near MSU’s campus, since 1970. Father Jake joined the MSU Department of Family Medicine in 1986 to assist with medical behavioral science teaching and counseling and served as an assistant professor in the department until his retirement in 1997.

“As students move through the MSU curriculum, they have the opportunity to think about their values and explore how they might put them into practice to live a meaningful life,” said Christopher Long, dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “The spirituality chair will bring new research and scholarship to our commitment to help students understand more deeply what it means to be human and how to enact that humanity in whatever profession they undertake.”

For more than two years, the athletic department and the College of Arts & Letters worked with a committed group of donors to endow the Foglio chair position to make the practice of spirituality more available to all MSU students. MSU alumnus Kellie Dean helped secure more than $600,000 in gifts for the position, which created the endowment with an additional $1.5 million from revenues. There is an ongoing fundraising campaign to secure an additional $900,000 to support the spirituality chair position.

Gwendolyn Norrell

Norrell joined MSU’s faculty in 1945 and during her tenure was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the NCAA, serving as vice president during the 1983-84 and 84-85 academic years. She also was the first woman in history to serve as a faculty athletic representative in the Big Ten Conference when she was named to that position in 1979, serving until 1988.

Norrell served as a professor and assistant director of MSU’s Counseling Center until her retirement in 1988. Norrell passed away in 2004 and is remembered as a dedicated teacher, an insightful administrator and an individual who possessed the ability to promote change and unify individuals of diverse backgrounds and opinions.

The Norrell Professorship will enable the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Education to support a leading-edge scholar with a research focus in promoting the psychological well-being and adaptive development of young athletes. The professorship is fully funded with $1.5 million from revenues.

“Dr. Norrell was a strong proponent of student-athlete welfare,” said Robert Floden, dean of the College of Education. “This position will strengthen a hub of expertise and excellence to put us at the forefront of research, policy and practice to influence positive outcomes for students who participate in sports, and to provide instruction and mentoring for the next generation of coaches and educators.”

“Our coaches and student athletes have benefited from the advice and counsel of Father Jake for decades,” said Bill Beekman, interim MSU athletic director. “At the same time we recognize the value of youth programming led and developed by scholars like Gwen Norrell, which offers a critical foundation for safe and healthy participation in sport, whether that’s thorough K-12 schools or community programs.”

The two positions are the 81st and 82nd endowed faculty positions established during MSU’s Empower Extraordinary campaign toward a goal of creating 100 new endowed faculty positions. These positions were identified as a campaign priority to provide critical resources for recruiting and retaining leading faculty members.

The Empower Extraordinary campaign, which publicly launched in fall 2014 and is the most ambitious in MSU’s history, exceeded fundraising goals in areas such as student scholarships and has raised more than $1.6 billion to date. The campaign will continue through Dec. 31, 2018, with a focus on funding several key initiatives including additional endowed positions.

To learn more about MSU’s engagement and philanthropy efforts, visit

This post was originally written by MSU Advancement Communications and Communications and Brand Strategy.