The Vanderhaar Symposium was established in March 2006 in memory of Dr. Gerry Vanderhaar, who taught religion at CBU for 28 years. He died June 2005. Symposium organizers seek to continue Vanderhaar’s legacy by bringing a noted scholar and/or activist to the campus to address social and moral issues related to peace and justice and/or Catholic social teaching.
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, a long-time peace and social justice activist, launched the annual series as its first speaker. Also, during the symposium, a university student from the Mid-South area is chosen as the first recipient of the Dr. Gerard A. Vanderhaar Award. This award is presented to a student who best exemplifies the spirit and practice of active nonviolence, consistent with Vanderhaar’s life and work.
For twenty-eight years, Gerard A. Vanderhaar was a professor of religion at Christian Brothers University. During his tenure, Vanderhaar was instrumental in starting the Peace Studies Minor program; was involved in bringing the Gandhi Institute to CBU; and brought speakers and peace and justice events to the campus. A prolific writer, Vanderhaar authored six books and numerous articles including "Beyond Violence: In the Spirit of the Nonviolent Christ", the 1998 winner of the Pope Paul VI Book Award. Published posthumously,
his book, Personal Nonviolence: A Practical Spirituality for Peacemakers is available through Pax Christi USA.
In recognition of his and his wife’s work in promoting active nonviolence, Dr. and Mrs. Vanderhaar were co-recipients of the Dozier Award for Peace and Justices at CBU in 2003. Locally, Vanderhaar was a founder of and served on the Board of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. At the national and international level, he played a key role in the founding of Pax Christi, USA, which emerged as part of an international Catholic Peace Movement following World War II. He twice chaired the National Council of Pax Christi USA and served as the first editor of the Pax Christi newsletter.