Rev. George St. Angelo, beloved College Chaplain from 1955 to 1966, passed away on Sunday, March 4. St. Angelo influenced a generation of North Central alumni who were coming to terms with the issues of civil rights, social justice and service to communities outside their comfort zone. Among his many accomplishments as chaplain was inviting important speakers to campus, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Henry Kissinger. He frequently took students into Chicago to visit homeless shelters and missions and organized summer trips to Europe. St. Angelo is also known for his encouragement of students to go to Selma, AL, in 1965 to march in support of voting rights for African-Americans. It was a life-changing experience for many who attended.
“I was proud of the school—we did many important things at the time, and those kids carried with them a sense of community responsibility,” St. Angelo said reflecting on the event 40 years later.
Mike Bibler ’65 recalled how the trip to Selma was part of an “enlightenment” he gained from knowing St. Angelo, who arranged for students to tutor at a YMCA in Chicago. “Just going into the city opened my eyes to the African-American community,” Bibler said in a previous interview. “And then going to Selma opened my eyes to a style of life I didn’t know anything about.”
Outside of campus, St. Angelo and his wife Betty Gibson ’48 St. Angelo worked on civil rights issues at the local level, including Naperville’s fair housing council and human relations council. “As we celebrated the College’s 150th anniversary this year, it reminded Betty and me how fortunate we were to have met (at North Central),” wrote George in the couple’s 2011 Christmas letter.
The son of two North Central alumni, George St. Angelo ’21 and Lillian Salat ’20 St. Angelo, George and his younger brothers, the late Gordon ’50 and Douglas ’53, grew up watching their parents battle the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana and challenge sundown laws that prohibited African-Americans from public overnight accommodations. St. Angelo arrived to study at North Central as World War II was sweeping Europe. Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was part of the U.S. troops that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1945.
After World War II, he attended Evangelical Theological Seminary and entered the ministry in 1949. When he became North Central's first "college chaplain," he delivered many memorable sermons, took charge of the newly "required chapel" speaker program and directed student religious organizations. St. Angelo also took steps to loosen strict rules against social dancing on campus.
After leaving North Central, he founded Seminars International and conducted seminars on theology, politics and social issues as a part of international tours to Israel, Egypt, China and parts of Europe.
In 2006, the College named the ministry and services offices in the newly renovated Kiekhofer Hall the Rev. George St. Angelo ’43 Ministry and Service Suite.
In more recent years, St. Angelo was devoted Nazareth Academic Institute, a school dedicated to supporting organizations and individuals committed to achieving peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Holy Land. He traveled frequently to Israel until his health and declining eyesight prevented further trips.
“By any measure,” said President Harold Wilde, “George St. Angelo was one of the giants in the College’s history. His impact on a generation of graduates in the 1950s and 1960s is still being felt in missions of social justice around the world.”
The family will hold a private service this week. Before his death, St. Angelo and his family planned a public memorial service that is scheduled for Saturday, March 31, on the North Central campus.
Editor’s Note: The photos of the Rev. George St. Angelo include: his appearance at a panel discussion in January 2010 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to campus in 1960; his time as chaplain at North Central College; and in 2006, at the dedication of the renovated Koten Chapel and Kiekhofer Hall.