The Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence will make Webster University its new home after five years at Texas Tech University.
By Carlos Restrepo
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Polgar was recruited by Texas Tech in 2007 to lead the new SPICE chess institute. However, Polgar said the university there did not have the resources to sustain the fast-growing chess program.
“The program grew very fast,” said Polgar, who is a winner of four world chess championships and five Olympic gold medals. “We are very thankful for our partnership with Texas Tech. We had many great accomplishments there, but it was time to move on.”
Julian Schuster, provost of Webster University, said he has been playing chess for most of his life and has befriended several professional chess players throughout his career in academia. Schuster said a friend had told him that Polgar was planning on leaving Texas Tech, so he saw an opportunity for Webster.
“All my life I’ve thought chess is a great educational tool,” Schuster said. “I always have had an idea to form a chess club, but never sought the opportunity. When one my friends told me Susan Polgar was contemplating leaving Texas, I put two and two together and moved the initiative forward with the university.”
In addition to Polgar, 10 students from Texas Tech, who are part of the chess institute’s “A” team, will also relocate to Webster. At least six of them will receive full-ride scholarships to attend their new home campus, Schuster said.
Schuster said he is not sure of the total cost to the university for bringing the SPICE institute, Polgar and the 10 students to Webster. Schuster said he sees it as a good investment.
“Everyone — the New York Times, the other newspapers — ask me this question, ‘How much will it cost?’” Schuster said. “This is not important. What’s more important is how many direct and indirect benefits this will have for Webster University, Webster Groves, St. Louis, Missouri and even the United States. We are convinced that we will emerge as one of the best universities and we will become an attractive place for the best students to come and to join us. In that regard, it will put Webster Groves on the world map.”
Polgar said it may be difficult to adapt from being at a large university such as Texas Tech, with a population of about 32,000, to Webster University, which has an enrollment of about 4,500 students. However, Polgar said Webster’s campuses abroad and its global mission are a perfect fit for her program.
“Chess is an international game, and anyone can play it,” Polgar said. “We hope to attract students from other countries to come to Webster.”
Both Polgar and Schuster said the institute will serve not only students at the university, but also residents of Webster Groves and surrounding areas.
“We still have to iron-out the details, but there will be opportunities to make it accessible to anyone interested in chess,” Polgar said. “That’s the beauty of chess; it is available to everyone. It doesn’t matter how tall you are, how old you are, how fast you are, what background you come from, it’s available and accessible to everybody. And it will be that way at Webster, too.”
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– GM Susan Polgar