Don J. Briel, PhD, was the founder of Catholic Studies. In addition to founding the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, Briel was instrumental in the founding of the Bishop Paul A. Zipfel Catholic Studies Program at the University of Mary, where he served as Blessed John Henry Newman Chair of Liberal Arts.
Before earning both a licentiate and doctorate in Theology at the University of Strasbourg, writing his dissertation on St. John Henry Newman and Isaac Williams, Briel studied literature at Trinity University in Dublin and completed his undergraduate studies in history at the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Briel began teaching at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1981, where he served as chair of the theology department from 1990 until 1999. He helped to found the Center for Catholic Studies in 1993 and served as its director until 2014. Upon his retirement from the University of Saint Thomas in 2014, Briel began his work with the University of Mary, helping to found and develop what is now the second largest Catholic Studies program in the nation, behind only the program he had guided at the University of Saint Thomas.
Dr. Briel passed away in his home, surrounded by family and friends, on February 15, 2018, having left an indelible mark on Catholic higher education.