Expanding the boundaries: why a noted scientist supports SVOTS

Ginny Nieuwsma

Rick and Jean Wagner hail from St. Paul, Minnesota. Rick completed his undergraduate education in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill and then earned a Ph.D. at Duke University. Jean attended Duke University in Biomedical Engineering, obtaining both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. After Rick finished a NIH post-doctoral Fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University, the Wagners moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Rick joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota and Jean went on to become an Information Technology project leader and manager for several companies. The Wagners attend St. Mary Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis.

Longtime donor to St. Vladimir’s Dr. Carston "Rick" Wagner has enjoyed a distinguished career as Professor and Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. As director of the Wagner Research Lab at the University, Dr. Wagner (who goes by his nickname Rick) enjoys his work with bright young graduate students.

In the field of medicinal chemistry, Rick and his team of graduate students study drug design and development. Over the years, their work has evolved so that it now focuses on anti-cancer and anti-viral research, and they’ve been discovering new ways to treat pain and to use the immune system to target and kill cancer cells. He also teaches pharmacy and graduate student classes at the University.

As a mentor and an academic, Dr. Wagner respects the formation of lives that takes place at St. Vladimir’s.  

“The Seminary is the preeminent scholarly center for modern Orthodox theological scholarship, education and theology in the world,” Rick says, “and lately they’ve been expanding the boundaries of pastoral training by providing opportunities for seminarian education outside of the Yonkers campus in hospitals, parishes, and even prison.

“St. Vladimir’s has also been strengthening their leadership, the faculty, and the financial and operational foundations of the school,” adds Dr. Wagner. “With these positive moves, it’s a critical time for those of us who love the Seminary to step up and push the fulfillment of the Seminary’s mission to new heights.”

Dr. Wagner and his wife Jean have been supporting St. Vladimir’s for 13 years, most recently as members of our community of committed monthly donors, the St. John Chrysostom Society. The Wagners converted to the Orthodox faith as students at Duke University, and at their home parish of St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis (OCA) they have been volunteers and supporters of Orthodox Prison Ministry-Minnesota and FOCUS-Min.

As lifelong learners, Rick and Jean appreciate the resources of the Seminary that benefit laypeople. In addition to reading SVS Press books, Dr. Wagner has attended several summer institutes at St. Vladimir’s and has benefitted from the liturgical instruction in the well-regarded Diaconal Vocations Program that meets on campus every summer.

“St Vladimir’s is a leader in the U.S. and internationally—other organizations look to the Seminary for theological and scholarly leadership,” notes Rick. “A world without St. Vladimir’s would be a world without the great writers and professors who have shaped the Church over the last 50 to 60 years. 

"And the impact of the Seminary reverberates far beyond the Yonkers, New York campus," adds Dr. Wagner. "Worldwide Orthodoxy has been greatly impacted by St. Vladimir’s. The Seminary is continuously pointing the Church around the world towards the vision of a united, engaged communion.”