For 100 years, Minnesota State University Moorhead was a college on the prairie without a philosophy department. That changed in 1962 with the arrival of philosopher and professor Charles Magel, who developed the department and offered classes on Hume, Kant and Plotinus’ Enneads.

“Not even Harvard could afford (or would allow) courses like those for undergraduates,” Magel wrote in a history of the department. Magel’s grandiose influence helped inspire the reference of MSUM as “Harvard of the Midwest.”

He was on the cutting edge decades before studying applied ethics was trendy, said Randy Cagle, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Charlie’s interest in applied ethics stems from his interest in animal rights.”

Pictured L to R: Laura Huth, vice president Alumni Foundation; Jenni Walthall, developer; President-elect Anne Blackhurst; Sam Wai ('76, finance & philosophy), treasurer of American Crystal Sugar, and friend and executor of the Magel estate; and President Edna Szymanski.

Magel died in March and left the university an $800,000 trust fund to establish the Charles R. Magel Endowment Fund. The endowment income will provide scholarships to U.S. citizens who are students at MSUM.

Magel was also a major supporter of MSUM’s Livingston Lord Library and was a pioneer in animal rights, a WWII Navy veteran, an avid gardener and a generous philanthropist.

Magel played a significant role in building a first-class library at MSUM. His 122-page analysis of the library crisis—“The Livingston Lord Library, Moorhead State College, Compared with the Libraries of 42 Other Colleges & Universities (September 1964)”—prompted a local TV station to hold a telethon to raise money for books. Magel also convinced the Minnesota Legislative Building Commission that more money was needed for books in general for the Minnesota State College system. From 1966-73, millions of dollars were allocated to academic libraries of the state college system for purchasing books.