When 1981 graduate Steven Neiheisel and his son arrived in the rural Indian village of Singphur in January, the village women formed lines on each side of them. They sang and danced as they led the Americans uphill toward Prabat Kara, a Marianist school that educates about 720 of the village’s children, who are among the poorest and most marginalized people in India.
Once at the school, the Neiheisels were met by the Cardinal of Ranchi—one of three Catholic cardinals in India. They celebrated Mass in Hindi before the crowd of about 1,500 moved to the place that brought the Neiheisels to India in the first place—the school’s new science building.
Two years earlier, Neiheisel, a professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, met a Marianist brother and colleague who had started the school. Through the course of their conversation, Neiheisel found out the school lacked a formal science building and lab, meaning the students couldn’t earn the government-mandated science credit and, in turn, couldn’t go to college or even apply for civil service jobs. They were stuck in the village, unable to escape the poverty.
So Neiheisel and his wife, Margaret, a 1982 graduate, stepped in and funded the construction of the four-story building, which houses classrooms, science labs and an auditorium.
“I honed in on the science building because that combines my interest in Catholic education with Marge’s interest in science education,” says Nieheisel. “Marge and I have always taken very seriously the motto of men and women for others, and we try to live that both professionally—I as a teacher, she as a doctor—as well as privately in our charitable contributions.”
As they stood among the village residents, the cardinal blessed the building and Neiheisel cut the ribbon. Neiheisel Hall was officially open.