Maryville Announces $1.6 Million Gift of Land, Property

Dick and Cheryl McKinley Dick and Cheryl McKinley


St. Louis – Maryville University has announced the generous gift of land and property from Dick and Cheryl McKinley of Augusta, Mo. The McKinleys’ donation includes 92 acres of rolling hills, along with two residences and a small cabin. Located off Highway 94 to the east of Augusta, the property is just below Montelle Winery on a steep hill known as Klondike. Valued over $1.6 million, the gift will greatly enhance the University’s academic programs, said Maryville President Mark Lombardi.

“We are very excited about the many learning opportunities this gift will provide for Maryville University students,” Lombardi said. “Our faculty members are already making plans to use the land across a number of disciplines, including biological, botanical and geological research, as well as astronomy studies.”

Offering an abundance of natural beauty, the property features a lake, a pond, sandstone ledges, both cultivated and wooded acreage and natural springs. It was purchased in the 1960s by Frank Schwaiger and his wife, Trudi Schwaiger, parents of Cheryl McKinley. The Schwaigers immigrated to St. Louis in the 1930s, when Mr. Schwaiger was hired as head brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch Brewery.  He was only 29 years old at the time.

To honor their heritage, the Schwaigers built the main house, designed primarily by Mrs. Schwaiger, an artisan and educator, in the style of a Bavarian chalet. Used for many years as a family vacation home, the surrounding property is adjacent to land now owned by St. Louis architect Frank Schwaiger, Mrs. McKinley’s brother, who has granted a walking easement to Maryville.

“I have happy memories of this place.” Mrs. McKinley said.  “My family worked hard during the week and as soon as possible we’d go out to the country to relax. By Sunday afternoon when we packed up to leave, we felt a complete sense of renewal.”

Since 1991, the property has been used as a retreat center for F.R.E.S.H. Renewal Center, a non-profit organization founded by the McKinleys. Cheryl has an advanced degree in theology from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and is a pastoral caregiver, while her husband Dick, a physician, is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.  F.R.E.S.H. stands for Fellowship Renewing Experience, Strength and Hope.  Its mission is to serve all spiritual seekers and at the center in Augusta, specialized in ministry to individuals and small groups.

The chalet will continue to be used as a retreat center for faculty, staff, students and alumni groups within the Maryville community, said Tom Eschen, vice president for Institutional Advancement.

“While students will find tremendous value in using the property as an outdoor classroom experience, we also hope to engage focus groups, planning committees, think tanks, alumni boards, and other small and large groups in activities designed to take advantage of such restful surroundings just 30 minutes from St. Louis,” Eschen said.

The McKinleys are pleased that the University plans to keep the property intact as it becomes integrated into the life of the Maryville community.

“When I decided it was time to let this part of my life go, finding the right persons to steward the land became important. We’ve received a lot of cooperation from Maryville,” Mrs. McKinley said. “I hope the University will begin to use it quickly and with great joy.”

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a four-year, private university located in west St. Louis County. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Masters-Midwest category, Maryville University students may choose from 50 academic programs, including degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Among recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. More than 15,000 Maryville alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.