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New Scholarship Honors George D. Wendel, Ph.D.

Had the late George D. Wendel, Ph.D., decided to earn his graduate degrees elsewhere, Saint Louis University and its surrounding city could have looked very different today.

Due largely to the political science professor’s passion for Jesuit education, public policy and SLU’s impact on the city, the University has remained in Midtown and continues to serve as one of the most influential entities in the region.

Now, thanks to one of Wendel’s former students, Robert Steck (A&S ‘79), the esteemed professor’s legacy will pave a new path for urban affairs to flourish through an endowed scholarship benefiting political science students at the College of Arts and Sciences.

A black and white portrait of George D. Wendel
George D. Wendel, Ph.D.

The Dr. George D. Wendel Scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students who are dedicated to political science studies and the advancement of urban service.

“Dr. Wendel was a very important mentor to me in many ways that extended far beyond academics,” Steck said. “He had such a positive influence on so many people over the course of his almost 50-year career at Saint Louis University, and it is truly an honor to play a part in leaving such an incredibly well-deserved legacy in his name.”

Anchoring a City and a Campus

A Chicago native, Wendel earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from SLU in the 1950s. In 1956, he joined Saint Louis University, and in 1968, founded the Center for Urban Programs at the University, serving as its director until 1992. 

It didn't take long for Wendel’s research and expertise to catapult him to become one of the foremost authorities on public policy and urban affairs in the United States. When Wendel spoke, people listened, including SLU’s then-President Paul C. Reinert, S.J., as well as the U.S. Department of Labor, the Brookings Institution, and the Danforth and Ford Foundations. His political acumen also reached television and radio audiences, who tuned in on election nights to listen to the renowned professor’s civics lessons as they unfolded on the air. 

His love for Saint Louis University and the Center for Urban Programs was matched only by his love for his students.” 

— Wendel Family

One of Wendel’s most significant areas of research centered on the city of St. Louis. In the 1960s, residents started the decades-long trajectory of moving to the suburbs, raising concerns of what a declining city population might mean for the region. The trend also swayed SLU’s lay advisers, who urged Reinert to move SLU out of the city. Reinert believed in the promise of urban renewal and was committed to keeping SLU in St. Louis. Wendel’s influence played a significant role in fulfilling Reinert’s vision.

Tapped to participate in the RAND Corporation’s “St. Louis: A City and Its Suburbs” report prepared for the National Science Foundation in 1973 and through his own research, Wendel concluded that “SLU was an anchor for the stability of the city,” according to his wife, Mary, who helped Dr. Wendel with his research. His findings affirmed Reinert’s decision: Keep SLU right where it was in the city and purchase land for a major campus expansion — in St. Louis.

A Love for St. Louis and SLU

As a “man for others” and throughout Wendel’s half-century connection with SLU, he lived a life of higher purpose for the greater good. He loved SLU, and as a years-long season ticket holder, Wendel never missed an opportunity to cheer the athletes or serve as scorekeeper for the men’s basketball team. Wendel passed away in 2000. Nearly 25 years later, his research and commitment to urban affairs and public policy continue to help shape a thriving urban Jesuit university and a prospering Midtown. And because of the new scholarship in his name, Wendel’s legacy will be carried on by students who will benefit from his foresight. 

“His love for Saint Louis University and the Center for Urban Programs was matched only by his love for his students,” Wendel’s family said in a statement. “It is humbling that he is being recognized for something that came so naturally to him: His commitment to his students, the Center for Urban Programs and the City of St. Louis.” 

Support the Dr. George D. Wendel, Ph.D., Scholarship

As a way to offer future SLU political science students the opportunity to realize their roles in carrying out the common good, Steck encourages Wendel’s former students to consider making a gift to the scholarship in his memory.

Make a Gift

To contribute to the Dr. George D. Wendel, Ph.D., Scholarship or for more information, please contact Meg Connolly, executive development director of alumni engagement, at 314-977-7121.