“Fifteen years ago, Richard Leahy had a memorable conversation on a lovely barrier island off Cape Cod – and it
wasn’t about the best restaurant or sailing club in the area.
The conversation was with Sister M. Damon Nolan, a missionary educator working in the poor South American nation of Bolivia.
She asked Leahy to help fund a college in a region of Bolivia with no higher education option for indigenous people,
no way to lift themselves out of dire poverty.
Leahy, a St. Paul native who now lives in Washington, D.C., agreed.
“We were a little bold,” he said with a laugh. “We never doubted we would get it done. But we weren’t sure how.”
That conversation sparked creation of a 32-building campus in the town of Carmen Pampa. The campus has a student population
of more than 700 today and is funded by the St. Paul-based Carmen Pampa Fund started by Leahy and wife, Ann.
Leahy’s work was recognized last week by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who declared Thursday “Richard Leahy Day.” Leahy,
a retired businessman, came to St. Paul for the occasion and for the college’s annual fundraiser.
The college doesn’t just graduate students, it graduates students with skills needed by their communities, said Leahy.
It offers majors in nursing, agronomy, veterinary sciences, education and eco-tourism.
“When we started, there was something like one doctor and 13 nurses for an area larger than New England,”‘ said Leahy.
“We’ve put maybe 300 nurses in the field.”
The college, in fact, was recognized in 2003 by a United Nations subcommittee as one of the most successful anti-poverty
Leahy attributes its success to dedicated leadership in Bolivia, to its many supporters, and to a requirement that students
spend one day a week helping construct their school.
While thrilled with the college’s success, Leahy was a bit nervous last week. “I don’t know how to act when you get a day
named after you,” he joked. Jean Hopfensperger – 612-673-4511”
— This Article from www.startribune.com is furnished by Jim O’Leary,
member of the Class of 1957_June 28, 2011.